After checking out with a triple-double in hand with 4:01 left in the third quarter, Kevin Durant walked to midcourt to high-five his teammates. And he said it all.
“This is a rout.”
With the Hornets shorthanded — and mostly terrible anyway — the Thunder used a 34-15 third quarter to put the game to bed early. In less than three quarters, Durant put up 18 points (on 5-8 shooting), 11 rebounds and 10 assists, his third triple-double of the season (and career), and second in the last four games. In less than three quarters, Russell Westbrook put up 29 points, three rebounds and three assists. In way less than three quarters, Serge Ibaka put up 18 points (on 9-11 shooting), with seven rebounds and three blocks.
Even the fourth quarter was a steamroll as the Thunder’s second and third unit outscored the Hornets 23-14. The second half OKC outscored the Hornets 57-29.
“We also have to put things in perspective,” Scott Brooks said. “They were down their two best players. They played last night. Other than that, I thought our effort was good for 48 minutes.”
Durant’s performance was just quiet domination. A I’m-just-toying-with-you-right-now kind of domination. He could’ve gone for 40, he could’ve piled up 15 assists. He was having his way with the Hornets and doing it any way he wanted it. That’s now two triple-doubles in the last four games for him.
“When you have a triple-double, people think about just the guy that gets it,” Durant said. “Your teammates make so many great plays to put you in a position to do that. It’s not just me. My teammates made me look good tonight.”
We all could see this writing on the wall though. The Hornets without Eric Gordon or Anthony Davis, them being the Hornets, this being in OKC — it was coming. What we all were most intrigued by was how things would changed in Derek Fisher’s return, whether or not he would supplant Reggie Jackson, whose minutes would go where, who came in first — whatever. But of course, Scott Brooks continued to play it coy, and brought Fisher and Jackson in together to start the second quarter. Touche, Scotty. Touche.
(Though, if you’re the read-into-it type, Jackson came off the bench first in the third quarter and Fisher came in to start the fourth.)
It seemed more coincidental than anything else, but Jackson did notch a new career-high tonight with 14 points. Trying to prove something? Trying to make a statement? Trying to hold on to his job?
“I just want to prove that I belong here,” Jackson said. “Just trying to be great every day. Just prove to myself that I belong here and just working and showing how hard I work. But besides that, nothing really changed.”
To get an answer on how this thing is going to work, we’ll have to wait and see a bit more. Jackson certainly outplayed Fisher in every way tonight, but Brooks seemed to stress pregame that both are the backup point guard. And with them subbing in together, he was obviously trying to make that clear. While in, there wasn’t a real defined point guard and that’s something Brooks said the team believes in — positionless basketball. Jackson and Fisher sort of played off each other, interchanging between the point and off-guard spots.
“I think we’ve played pickup quite a few times over the last two summers together. We’re just being ballplayers,” Jackson said of him and Fisher playing together. “He has a great feel for the offense, getting back to knowing exactly what we’re doing. I don’t think he’s really forgotten. Just whoever gets it, trying to make the right decision. Actually, I’ve been working on not calling as many plays and just playing ball and making reads.”
Where this goes, what happens next is to be seen. But it does seem pretty clear that Jackson does indeed belong. Whether or not he’s built enough trust in Brooks to belong in big games, to belong in the postseason, we’ll have to wait and see.
- The rotation was definitely different. Durant was actually the first sub with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter, as Kevin Martin checked in for him. I don’t know if that’s the future plan, or if that was just to integrate things tonight.
- This is the 12th fourth quarter KD and Westbrook have sat this season. And no, I don’t have a stat on where that ranks league-wide.
- I asked KD if it’s more fun to score 40, or put up a triple-double: “Triple-double, I think. All your teammates are involved in it. I’m a team guy and I enjoy seeing my guys make shots, or getting a dunk or making a driving layup like that. I just get excited.”
- KD on if this is a new him: “That would be cool. But I’m just going to go out there and do my job.”
- The Hornets trying that zone in the third quarter… talk about your all-time backfires.
- KD had a triple-double in 27 minutes. That’s CRAZY.
- For the first time in his career, Russell Westbrook shot 50 percent in a month. He finished 98-195 (50.2 percent).
- As a team tonight, the Thunder shot 55-44-96.
- Fisher went 0-4 (all 3s) in 21 minutes. But man, did he play some great Veteran Leadership out there.
- That pass to Ibaka for the dunk. Whoa. Crossover into a laser beam off the dribble. That’s sick.
- Perk’s favorite thing to do on the court is that initial moment when the offense is setting up and he gets to bump the crap out of the opposing center.
- Speaking of, Perk was very good in 23 minutes tonight. He didn’t score and had only four rebounds, but he notched four blocks and was extremely active and energetic.
- I think Fisher maintains somewhat of a solid defensive reputation just based on his stance alone. It looks pretty good. Low squat, arms spread wide, intense face — looks good.
- Al-Farouq Aminu’s hair.
- After holding the Bulls to 29.1 percent, OKC followed that up by holding the Hornets to 35.1.
- You think Perk feels an obligation to be nice to Austin Rivers since he likes Doc so much?
- This is the part where I talk about how I liked what Perry Jones III did. Except for the part where he tipped in a Hornet miss. That wasn’t good.
- Hasheem Thabeet almost ended OKC’s season in the second quarter. As he stood up to do his 3-point celebration where he spreads his arms wide, Westbrook popped off the bench to go check in. Horrible timing because Thabeet’s arm caught Westbrook square in the throat. Amazingly, Westbrook didn’t grab his face though. Guess he knew he wasn’t getting that call.
- For being such a technical, solid player, Kevin Martin sure travels a lot.
- Serge Ibaka had a mini-mohawk of sorts.
- Thabeet came running out tonight with Ronnie Brewer’s headband on, then took it off as layups started and gave it back.
- Oh yeah, Brewer. He played, but only garbage time in the fourth quarter. Not much to take away there. Brooks said pregame he didn’t anticipate Brewer playing much early because he wanted to acclimate him.
Next up: At Denver Friday.