If one sequence could summarize this game, it came with seven minutes left. The Jazz had whittled Oklahoma City’s 18-point lead to seven. Russell Westbrook picked Earl Watson’s pocket and took off screaming toward his basket. He tried to drop it off to Kevin Durant for a dunk, but the pass was bad and Watson went the other way with it.
Two seconds later, Westbrook was stealing it back from Watson.
He fired it down the floor to Perk who dished to KD and just like that, game basically over.
It was Just One Of Those Westbrook Nights in OKC — 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, seven steals and eight turnovers. He was erratic at times, brilliantly breathtaking at others. His energy galvanized the Thunder and though some of it was misguided, you can’t ever question the effort. Whatever it is that guy has inside of him, that competitive never-quit spirit, it’s downright inspiring.
“I always got something in the tank. I could run all night,” Westbrook said. “If you say you’re tired, then you’ll be tired. But if you just keep going, you’ll be aight. That’s just how I think of it. I think being tired is just a mind thing.”
Mind thing? I think it’s more just a Russ thing.
Said Scott Brooks about Westbrook’s play: “Russell had probably the most inspired basketball play you could come up.”
Westbrook’s rollicking statline is something to behold but really, the player of the game might’ve actually been Kendrick Perkins though. Everyone has their feelings on Perk, but there shouldn’t be any denying his positive impact on this game. His line isn’t overly impressive — 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks — but his impact was obvious. Take a simple stat like points in the paint. That’s something the Jazz live on. They had just 38 tonight.
Most of that was because their best interior player, Al Jefferson, went 7-of-18 from the floor for 16 points. But more than that, it was where Jefferson was shooting from. Perk completely forced Jefferson away from the paint. Of his 18 attempts, only four came in the painted area. And not a single make came inside the paint.
“Just trying to do my job, man,” Perk said of his role. “It’s not a team I’m going to be coming out and getting 10-plus points a night, I know that. So I just try and find other ways to get involved in the game. Whether it’s picking up full court with Russ or whatever it may be, to locking up the best post player that they got on their team. I just try and come out and have an affect on the game.
“Just check my win percentage since I’ve been here.”
Clearly, one good game doesn’t mean anything, but it is true that Perk has been coming back from two offseason surgeries. He didn’t get a training camp, didn’t get a preseason. It seems like that’s been a convenient excuse for a while, but it is the truth. This is basically the fifth week he’s been back, the exact amount of time Perk said it would take him to get close to full strength. I wouldn’t hold my breath that he’s turning some kind of a corner, but I do think this game was a good reminder of the impact Perk can have on the defensive end against an interior focused team.
This win against the Jazz puts the Thunder at 13-4 this season, making this the winningest November in OKC franchise history. Think about that: After the trade that had everyone freaking, the Thunder just ripped off the most wins in the first month of a season.
“We’re moving forward, we’re forward,” said Kevin Durant. “I think our chemistry is getting better with Kevin Martin and that second group. The first group, we’ve been together for a while so we know how each other plays, but we were worried about our second group and how our chemistry was going to work, and guys are sacrificing for each other. That’s what we need.”
- Reporter to Westbrook: “[Seven steals].” Westbrook: “Eight turnovers too, shit. That’s alright. I’d rather have it that way than in a loss.”
- KD on Perk: “People tend to forget about [those injuries] … He’s getting better every single day. He’s playing hard for us and sacrificing for us.”
- Literally right after I googled Enes Kanter to see where he was drafted and made a comment to another writer about him being a bust, he ripped off 14 fourth quarter points, finishing with 18 overall. I’ll shoulder that blame.
- Solid evidence Westbrook doesn’t care about stats: Needing two assists for a triple-double, he dished to Perk who had a decent look at a layup but made a good extra pass to Ibaka for a dunk. Westbrook immediately ran to Perk and gave him a huge slap on the butt. Then again, I got the feeling a few of those late turnovers were a result of Westbrook trying pretty hard to find a few extra assists.
- Jeremy Lamb: 33 points and 10 rebounds tonight in Tulsa. But it came on 33 shots (13-33).
- Serge Ibaka’s defense has been really good. And not just because of the blocks (seven tonight). He’s legitimately playing real defense outside of that. Paul Millsap is a pretty tough cover and Ibaka stayed down on his pump-fakes (mostly), kept him off the boards and played really sound D.
- When Westbrook misses an easy wide open layup, are you really all that surprised? I know I’m not. Which is weird for a player as good as him.
- Eric Maynor is just making so very little of an impact with his time on the floor. In a game the Thunder won by 12 points, he was a -15. It’s pretty clear to me Maynor is pressing a bit. He knows he’s not playing great and he’s trying really hard in his limited minutes to make a difference. I still believe in Maynor. He’s been too good in the past to give up on yet.
- I asked Scott Brooks pregame if the backup point spot could potentially still be up for grabs: “I think we’re always looking for ways to get our team better. Get units playing better and overall team playing better. I can’t say all positions, but there are minutes to be had. Not saying that Eric has played great. He can play better, like other guys on our team we’re trying to get to play better. But I think overall our team is doing pretty good. But those minutes are always going to be up for grabs. But right now, Eric’s the backup.”
- Perk had his tip game going on tonight.
- Random thought I had tonight: Before the Jeff Green-Perk trade, as everybody knows, the Thunder had some conversations with the Cavs about Anderson Varejao. The Cavs wanted James Harden instead of Jeff Green and obviously, the Thunder said no. At the time, it was the right move. Hindsight being what it is, do you wish we could rewind and revisit that deal?
- I don’t know if Ibaka’s running lefty hook off the dribble was lucky or not, but either way, it made me want to stand up and take my shirt off.
- Kevin Martin seemed to be in attack mode a little more tonight. He wasn’t looking to just spot up or move the ball right when he got it. He put it on the floor, went to the paint and tried to find his own offense a bit more. Aggressiveness from him is good. He’s not going to take bad shots. So the more aggressive, the better.
- Not much of an ovation for former Thunder great Earl Watson when he checked in for the first time. In fact, I don’t even know if anyone actually remembered that Earl Watson was on this team at one point. And not only that, started over Russell Westbrook for a while. Ah, those were the days.
- KD scored 25 on 13 shots. No big.
- Thabeet is obviously a strong shot blocker, but it seems to me he does it almost exclusively with his size. I don’t think his instincts are all that great and he’s really slow getting off the floor.
- Game ops went with a lot more organ stuff tonight, to which I approve very much. To me, the organ is just classic NBA. Takes me back to an early 90s game between the Bulls and Pistons on NBC.
- If your only knowledge of Kendrick Perkins was just the Thunder’s intro video, you’d think he was maybe the best player of all time.
- Speaking of intro videos, Nick Collison had a fastbreak dunk to himself but instead dished to Thabo for one. Also known as Thunder intro video porn. I literally could feel the TEAM with that play.
- BREAKING: Wanda was in the building tonight.
- The Jazz had 21 offensive boards, but it didn’t really feel like 21. Probably because they only got seven second chance points.
- Ty Corbin’s voice sounds like Kermit the Frog if he’s been chain smoker for 40 years.
- Scott Brooks on the Spurs fine: “To be honest I haven’t even thought about that. It’s months away. Right now I’m just focusing on what we do. Tonight’s going to be the only thing on my mind. I don’t pay much attention to it … We do what’s best for our team. That’s where my thoughts are at every day. At practice, games everything. I play who I think is going to give us the best chance of winning … The league, you have to respect their decisions. They’ve always done a great job and that’s not something I’ve paid much attention to.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @ThunderBDSays: “Gang activity in the low post!”
Next up: At New Orleans Saturday.