Play the Thunder on New Year’s Eve, and you lose. It’s basically science at this point.
Oklahoma City improved to 5-0 on Dec. 31 with a fairly routine 114-96 win over the struggling Suns.
The Suns cut OKC’s lead to two with about nine minutes left, but Nick Collison had back-to-back buckets, Thabo hit a 3, Russell Westbrook hit a layup, KD dropped a couple free throws then hit a jumper and the sealer was a Westbrook steal that he laid back to Serge Ibaka for a dunk to put the Thunder up 11 with 4:50 left.
Two big storylines from this one, both kind of related to one another:
1) Westbrook actually, like for real, got hit in the face. Close to halftime, Westbrook took an elbow from Luis Scola and crumpled to the ground underneath his basket. He grabbed at the right side of his face, to which I thought naturally, he was pulling a Russ-grabs-his-face-after-missing-a-shot-in-traffic move. But nope. Westbrook pulled his hand away and revealed a line of blood pouring out from his eyebrow.
Westbrook went to the locker room, got some stitches and like he wouldn’t, returned to the floor with about six minutes left in the third. Before he got bludgeoned: seven points on 2-7 shooting. After: 17 points on 5-9, 12 coming in those last six minutes of the third.
“He fell on the ground I thought it was one of those things he thought he got fouled and was upset,” Durant said. “I was screaming at him telling him to get up and get back. I looked up and seen he was bleeding and you see blood and you don’t know what to do when you see it … but he came back with a lot of anger and it showed on both ends of the floor and pushed us over the top.”
2) Reggie Jackson continues to impress. With Westbrook out tended to his bloodied face, Jackson started the third quarter and was tremendous. The Thunder went on a 12-0 run to take complete control of the game and Jackson’s composure was terrific. He really seemed to take charge over Durant, Ibaka and Perk, yelling instructions, calling out sets and directing traffic. He looked in total control of the team. His final line: six points, six assists and four rebounds in 15 minutes.
Other than that, it was a pretty standard we’re-just-better-than-you Thunder win. That puts a nice little bow on 2012, a pretty stellar year for Oklahoma City basketball. Have a smart, safe and fun finish to 2012 everybody.
- Westbrook’s final line: 24 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and eight stitches. Near quadruple-double.
- KD started a little slow, but slow cooked his way to 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting.
- The Thunder finished with just five turnovers, the fewest in the OKC era. That ties an all-time franchise low.
- Awesome moment: KD and PJ Tucker were having quite the trash talking exchange in the first quarter, like for roughly two or three minutes straight. Tucker isolated on Durant and took a tough contested jumper over him, missing it. Next possession, Durant came back, isolated on Tucker and hit a tough contested jumper in his face. And immediately escalated the talking by barking something right at Tucker. It was way cool.
- KD on it: “Yeah, that’s my guy. We’ve got the Texas connection. We’ve been knowing each other for a while. Nothing other than trash talk. Nothing serious.”
- Question: How is it not a moving screen when an offensive player seals off his defender while his teammate drives to the rim? I’m glad it’s not a foul, but under the guise of the rule, it seems like it should be.
- Luis Scola’s hair looks like it would smell.
- Pretty pissed off at Scott Brooks for taking Nick Collison out with six minutes left and one rebound away from a second straight double-double. Collison hasn’t had consecutive double-doubles since 2008.
- Kevin Martin didn’t have it tonight. Just 2-12 for six points. And missed more open shots than I think I’ve ever seen him miss.
- There needs to be a stat called “extra possessions” for Collison. I guess that’s what an offensive rebound is, but there needs to be something that really summarizes how huge some of those 50-50 rebounds he gets and kicks out are.
- Pregame in the locker room, Perk asked Daniel Orton if he played with Marcin Gortat. Orton said yeah, one year in Orlando. So Perk asked him what he was like. I naturally assumed that meant as a player, but Orton responded, “As a person or player?” I found that hilarious. And to my surprise, Perk said, “As a person.” Which I found even funnier.
- Westbrook isn’t finishing with much authority. He’s clearly expecting to draw contact and draw a foul, rather than just naturally going about his attempt and letting the foul happen if it does.
- Russ really hates Goran Dragic. I have no idea why. But he does.
- Major oversight that I didn’t mention Perk’s airball, so I’m updating this: It was maybe the worst airball I’ve ever seen. I actually wondered if the refs were going to get the ball to send to Springfield to put in the Hall it was so bad.
- One negative to the new alternates: They seem to come untucked extremely easily.
- I spent the whole game worrying Marcin Gortat was going to put somebody’s eye out with his nose.
- Perk and Gortat had a moment together, laying on the ground, wrestling or something. You had to see it to believe it.
- KD and Reggie Jackson were trying out a new handshake tonight and completely botched it. It was awkward to watch.
- Big shoutout to DT reader Martin who is from England and was at the game tonight.
Next up: Home against the Nets Wednesday.