It’s called the LaMarcus Aldridge Rule, but maybe it should be called the Kevin Durant Rule. Because it seems to always go his way.
With the Thunder holding on to a two-point lead against the Nets, 108-106, with 1:52 left, Durant drove hard to his right and tossed a floating layup at the backboard. Kris Humphries pinned the ball against the glass, simultaneously it appeared. Ball to Brooklyn, down two with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Instead, a whistle blows, two points to the Thunder. Goaltending on Humphries.
This time the play was reviewable because, of course, the play last season against the Blazers where Aldridge blocked Durant’s shot against the backboard except OKC got two points. The league admitted error on the play, but not before the Thunder forced overtime and won the game. Even with the review this time around though, the call still went KD’s way, OKC got a big two points and then finished off the Nets for a big 117-111 win to go to 15-4.
It was one of those survival games for the Thunder. They had a 16-point second half lead, but some dodgy lineup choices allowed the Nets a big spurt to close to within four heading to the fourth. Here’s what happened: The Nets went small, playing Gerald Wallace at power forward. Scott Brooks took Durant out of the game, put Serge Ibaka in to replace him and the Thunder had two bigs on the floor against Brooklyn.
The Nets spread the floor, ran high pick-and-pop action with Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams, and basically abused Ibaka’s tendency to follow the ball. Stackhouse drilled a couple 3s, then Wallace did the same. Just like that, Brooklyn was back in the game and things were staged for a fourth quarter struggle. Really, had the Thunder lost, those final six minutes of the third were going to be the thing we all were going to point at.
The Thunder went small themselves to began the final frame and started the quarter +6, extending a four-point lead to 10. Problem was, that group couldn’t rebound. KD wasn’t bailing OKC out on the boards and the Nets were living off second chances. So Brooks went back to his bigs putting Perk and Ibaka in with 4:37 left, removing Kevin Martin. The Nets stayed small. It seemed like a risky choice. But Perk proved Brooks right.
OKC got stops, finally got a few rebounds and relied upon the high screen-and-roll action from Durant and Westbrook to get them home. One play really summed up how Brooks’ move worked: Deron Williams was punishing OKC and with 2:49 left and OKC clinging to a 108-104 lead, Perk got caught in a mismatch with Williams.
Williams of course has one of the deadliest handles in the league and seemed to be a lock to cut this thing to two or even one. Williams tested his cross twice, Perk didn’t bite and so Williams drove hard to his left with Perk staying with him step-for-step. Williams stepped back for a baseline jumper, but Perk was with him the whole way, getting a hand on the shot and collecting the rebound.
Perk is just an intelligent player who understands time and space. He knows when to double, when to help, when to stick and when to switch. The Nets smallball lineup didn’t hurt OKC the last four minutes largely because they couldn’t exploit Ibaka’s ballwatching. Why? Because Perk took Wallace and Ibaka got Humphries.
It worked out. The Thunder got the stops they needed, Durant and Westbrook scored, Thabo Sefolosha came up with a huge backbreaking offensive rebound and layup and the Thunder escaped with certainly their best road win of the season, and maybe the best overall period.
It wasn’t exactly pretty and there were those moments where you’re yelling things you don’t mean in frustration, but the fact of the matter is, a win tonight was going to be outstanding any way it came.
The Thunder had won five straight coming in, but not really against any notable opponents. The Nets are notable. And it was on the road. I honestly think we should be past the point of needing validation the Thunder are very good, but if you were looking for a little more evidence, there it was.
- OK, so what happened with Ibaka during that Nets run in the third? Basically, he just got lost in help defense. He followed the ball and forgot his man. It was almost an exact repeat of the Finals with Shane Battier. Ibaka is a shotblocker, and that’s what he thinks his value is on the defensive end. So with Williams and Stackhouse driving in the paint, naturally Ibaka sagged off and was timing up their layup attempt. Except whoops, Gerald Wallace is all alone on the 3-point line.
- Offensive rebounding stat: Nets 16, Thunder two. Except in this case, 2> 16. Because Thabo’s was bigger than all 16 of the Nets’ combined.
- Naturally, Deron Williams completely broke out of a shooting slump tonight. He entered the game shooting under 40 percent. He hit 10-of-20 tonight, included 5-of-9 from 3.
- Brooklyn fans ooh’d and ahh’d all night. Any little crossover they were acting like it was the best ankle breaker you’ve ever seen. I’m not complaining about it. I kind of liked the involvement.
- I think I might start calling Nick Collison, Johnny Basketball. Why? I have no idea. Seems like it fits.
- It’s a sad state of affairs when Andray Blatche kills you on the offensive glass.
- Via Howard Beck: “New favorite thing: Every time Ibaka disagrees with call, he says, ‘Come on, Boss!’ to refs.”
- Grant Long really needs to quit saying “dunk it!” when a Thunder player is driving at the rim. It kind of ruins the whole dunk experience.
- KD almost Mosgov’d Blatche. So close.
- Now 10 straight games over 100.
- Highly disappointing that most Thunder players went with white shoes to go with the alternate uniforms tonight.
- When he doesn’t get to the elbow, Westbrook really should consider eliminating the pull up jumper in transition. I honestly don’t mind the stop-and-pop when he’s around the free throw line. But the one from 18 is no good. It’s essentially a turnover.
- The Thunder shot 60.6 percent. And almost lost. How? Because they only took 66 shots to Brooklyn’s 91.
- The Nets definitely lived and died with the 3 tonight. They hit 14, but attempted 34.
- Don’t you love those random first quarters where Thabo is just filling it up?
- Ibaka’s lack of awareness on that possession with about 1:20 left was infuriating. He caught the ball with about 10 on the shot clock, didn’t seem to realize it was winding down, then once he did, instead of making a play himself, he passed it to Perk 22 feet from the basket.
- Only four shots for Kevin Martin tonight, all in the first half.
- Best 14 minutes Eric Maynor has played all season. He was aggressive, created and made plays. He was playing so well I was honestly a little disappointed Brooks brought Westbrook back so early.
- KD with 32 on 16 shots. He’s pretty good.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “The Nets are down to their last match and there’s an awfully strong wind blowing.”
Next up: The Lakers at home Friday.