That’s a picture of Kevin Durant’s shoe tonight.
On a day when basketball feels so insignificant and the results seem to matter so little, there was still a game to play. And as someone that’s been dwelling on the horrific events in Connecticut all day, those couple hours at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight felt pretty good.
The paralyzing horror of today took a backseat for a couple hours inside The Peake where there was no CNN, no breaking news updates, no press conferences or police statements. Just basketball. Russell Westbrook dunked. KD scored. There was Kiss Cam, there were kids dancing, there was Rumble, there was high-fiving and there was a good basketball game going on. The Thunder won their 10th straight. And they played pretty well doing it, handling the overmatched Kings 113-103.
It got a little dicey late in the fourth after the Thunder’s second and third unit let a 24-point lead evaporate to 10 with about four minutes left. Isaiah Thomas morphed into the world’s most unstoppable scorer, the Thunder couldn’t get a good shot up and just like that Durant was slamming a towel down on the bench and taking his warmups off to check back in.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to put [the starters] back in,” Brooks sad. “It’s not like [the second unit] tried to play bad. We just had a bad stretch.”
But the starters were called upon, the Kings got it down to five momentarily, but Durant and Serge Ibaka slammed the door shut with a couple buckets and a few free throws. Nothing to see here, everyone move along. In all honesty, I kind of liked it because selfishly, it means six more points for Durant, a few more assists for Westbrook and a better line for Ibaka. Win, win, win… win, right? For someone that obsesses over stats and scoring titles and double-doubles, there’s a brightside.
The box score sure is pretty. Five guys in double-figures, 29 assists, almost 50 percent from the floor, 22-22 from the line — the Thunder played well. Outside of about four minutes of clean-up duty, it was exactly the kind of game you want to see from a superior team at home. Especially considering what happened Wednesday against the Hornets. The Thunder might’ve flirted with disaster for a moment tonight, but the energy, focus and effort to begin was all on point and there really never was doubt of the outcome.
I’ve said it before, but the way the Thunder have stabilized themselves after the Harden trade is just incredible. They’ve gone from having idiots like me wondering about their postseason potential to ripping off the best start in franchise history in almost 20 years. They’re atop the West and seem to have a real identity, swagger and confidence about them.
On the floor, there’s a palpable chemistry. Guys are constantly talking, encouraging and constructively correcting. The Thunder just interact so much differently than most teams. Even when someone is griping at someone else — like Perk did tonight in telling Kevin Martin to shoot the ball — it’s not a criticism. It’s never taken as a knock, only as something to be better.
I know it’s corny, but there is an obvious team atmosphere to these guys. Granted, that comes easier when you’re good and you’re winning, but even with their different statuses and roles, the togetherness they show throughout a game is impressive. During that big first half run when the Thunder were dropping shots, getting out in transition and taking over the game, it was incredibly clear: These guys are having fun.
And for a couple hours Friday night, on one of our darkest days, we did too.
- Durant on writing Newtown on his shoes: “I really can’t, I don’t have words to describe it man. I got a goddaughter that just started kindergarten, I got cousins that are in first and second grade. I got family members that young. To see kids that really couldn’t really do nothing for themselves, couldn’t protect themselves. And for their lives to be taken away and for their parents to go through stuff like that, it was just the least I could do. I wish I could do more. It just hit me really hard.”
- KD’s class and awareness isn’t surprising, but for whatever reason, that little gesture just knocked me over. He took Newtown with him out on the floor tonight. It was a perfect illustration that basketball matters, but it doesn’t matter.
- The Thunder are now 19-4, the best start to a season in the Oklahoma City era and the best in franchise history since 1993-94 where the Sonics started 21-3.
- So much for Reggie Jackson’s follow-up act. Granted, it was in garbage time, but the unit led by him completely pooed the lead away and forced the starters to check back in. Jackson had three turnovers in two minutes, and the team completely quit defending.
- Tommy Tutone was the halftime entertainment. Big shocker: He sang Jenny 867-5309. He had no band. It was just him and a mic at halfcourt. It was painfully awkward.
- James Johnson really should not have picked No. 52. It just makes him look more terrible.
- The difference in coaching a bad team, versus a good one: Keith Smart barely sat down and was up calling out plays and instructions the entire game. Scott Brooks barely stood up.
- In the second quarter, Nick Collison created three extra possessions for the Thunder. And then on the third, he paid off his offensive rebound with a little hook in the lane.
- It came after a whistle, but Russell Westbrook’s double-pump reverse jam was totally sick.
- The Kings did a ton of jersey grabbin’ in the lane tonight.
- I still love Jimmer and forever will.
- New rule for Westbrook: No finger rolls, ever. Only tomahawk dunks. If you’re gonna miss, at least do it in style.
- I have no statistic to back this up, but I feel players shoot 25 percent better when Collison passes to them.
- Always kind of cracks me up how the PA guy gets so into announcing the starting five — NUMBER THIRTY-FIVE KEV-VIN DOO-RANT — and then when it comes to Scott Brooks it’s just, “Your head coach of the Thunder, Scott Brooks.” I think he should be super into that part too.
- Ref Tony Brown really, really likes being a ref. He tossed out three technicals, including one to KD.
- Observation: Aaron Brooks has a duck face. Or am I wrong?
- The Thunder owned the glass tonight, 43-29. Seven offensive rebounds for the Kings, 14 for the Thunder.
- Boy, the Kings are a mess. It honestly looks like everyone on that team hates each other. The look on Thomas Robinson’s face was pretty much, “Why here, God? Why here?”
Next up: The Spurs in OKC on Monday.