I don’t know what it was about tonight’s game. Maybe it was the terrible first quarter where the Thunder and Wolves each scored just 16 points. Maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere in the area. Maybe it was the fact the Wolves were without Kevin Love.
But despite winning by 22 and bouncing back nicely from a disappointing loss to the Wizards on Monday, there was a very matter-of-fact-ho-hum-feeling about this win. Most likely, it was just the tone set in the first quarter and the methodical way the Thunder built the lead. No explosive runs (heh), no highlight plays, no major momentum shifts. Just a steady wear-down of an overmatched, wounded opponent.
“Some nights are going to be like that,” Scott Brooks said. “We’re going to be running in mud, our shots aren’t going to fall. But our defense was really consistent throughout the game and I thought sooner or later if we continued to defend, we’d create some opportunities.”
Said KD about the ugly 16-16 first quarter: “We’ll take that every day. We’ll take that every day. We’re not worried about our offense. We always say we give ourselves a chance to win if our offense isn’t clicking, then we’ll play defense.”
Considering though what happened in Washington where we saw the Thunder lose a game sort of like this, it was an extremely welcome sight to see them not lose. It might not have been an incredibly entertaining game, but Monday’s loss was a polite reminder not to take wins for granted. And even with the Wolves hurting without Kevin Love and Captain Thunder Killer J.J. Barea, beating an NBA team isn’t always a given.
Maybe as important as the Thunder bouncing back, was Russell Westbrook doing the same. He wasn’t great in the loss to Washington going a miserable 4-17 from the floor. Tonight against the Wolves he was under control, took almost all smart shots, paced the game well and knocked down shots. He was 7-of-14 from the field, had seven assists, eight rebounds, 23 points and a lone turnover in 30 minutes. It was a real treat to see Westbrook play a game with such perfect tempo and a reminder that yes, he can do that. When the 3-ball is dropping to go with it all, it’s just all over for you.
“He does it all,” KD said of Westbrook. “His performance is nothing new. He is doing the same things over and over again. It comes as no surprise to me.”
Also nice: Kevin Martin made some shots. Well, four of them, to be exact. All 3-pointers. He went 0-5 from 2-point land, but 4-7 from 3. It’s no big secret that he’s struggling a bit and when he knocked down his first 3 — a wide open look that sort of crawled its way into the basket — Martin looked into the sky, clapped his hands together and let a very relieved, “Oh my gosh” as he backpeddled down the floor.
“It sucks when you go through stretches like this, but it happens. Hopefully it’s gone, but you never know,” Martin said.
That’s the thing with scorers sometimes. They just need to see it go in a few times. Basketball is a funny game, even for the best in the world. When you know you should be making shots and you’re not, you guide the ball a little more, try to feather it in, try to shoot it too perfectly. Seeing it just go in helps a whole lot.
This was just a brief stop home before the Thunder take off for a solid number of road games. It’s three on the West Coast, back home for one, then five more out West. Losing to the Wizards obviously put a very sour taste in everyone’s mouths, but the Thunder had to let it go. You can’t let the Wizards beat you twice. And despite a slow, ugly start, the Thunder did one thing a whole lot better tonight than compared to Monday: won.
- It’s not hard to see what’s to love about DeAndre Liggins. His hustle and effort is absolutely relentless, but he bottles it well. He’s not aimlessly flying all over the defensive end trying to steal every pass. He guards his man, helps when he needs to, has active hands and never stops working.
- Brooks on Liggins: “He does a couple of things that you really enjoy watching. He plays with heart, he plays with toughness. That’s what he does. That’s how he practices. He does not change the way he plays. Every day in practice he guards the guys like it’s Game 7, the last second of the game. And that’s what we like about him … He’s getting some minutes. They’re not always going to be there, they’re not always going to be consistent.”
- If Andrei Kirilenko pump-faked, the Thunder fell for it. It could’ve been from halfcourt and a Thunder defended was jumping.
- Wise tweet from @haralabob: “OKC has an unhealthy obsession for feeding their terribly inefficient C’s.” I like to call that “When making the right play goes wrong.
- The Perk-Pek scuffle in the first quarter was tense. Pekovic is not someone to be trifled with. He’s legit. Terrifyingly legit.
- As the clock ticked down to finish the game, KD walked to midcourt to shake hands and a couple kids were shouting his name in the seats behind him. KD heard it, looked up, saw them and tossed them his towel.
- Full disclosure: I’ve got a major basketball crush on Ricky Rubio. I’m absolutely in love with the guy.
- Perk was not happy tonight. He got in early foul trouble and when he picked up his fourth early in the third, Brooks subbed him and as Perk walked to the bench, he entirely ignored a high-five attempt from Hasheem Thabeet.
- KD after the game made a point to say early in his comments, “I think Perk set the tone for us tonight with his defense on Pekovic early on.” Sly bit of leadership from Durant there. He obviously could tell Perk wasn’t thrilled with his game and made it a point to single him out even though he very clearly didn’t play a great game. That’s a slick leader-y thing from KD.
- Brooks picked up a technical foul late in the third quarter. And KD immediately walked over to high five him. KD’s turning into a bad influence I guess.
- When the Thunder are blowing someone out and it’s garbage time, the bench basically turns into a dance party. It’s amazing.
- The Wolves, who like to break, finished with just eight fastbreak points, while OKC had 23.
- Westbrook airballed a wide open 3 tonight. Most shocking thing about it though: He didn’t hold his face and not get back on defense.
- Peter Rabbit was the halftime show. Kind of weird to break out the big guns for a Wednesday night game against the Wolves.
- Former Oklahoma State wrestler and UFC legend Randy Couture in the house tonight.
- Fun pregame locker room story: I don’t know the context of why this happened, but basically Serge Ibaka very demonstratively told Eric Maynor not to cross an imaginary line about halfway through the locker room. He even went as far to pretend draw it for Maynor. Ibaka kept yelling, “See what happens if you come across! Just see!” I wish I knew what that was about.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @channeke5: “Sylvester Stallone is not aging gracefully, but comically.”
Next up: At the Lakers on Friday.