A little more than a week ago, Scott Brooks had a talk with his team about playing better in the fourth quarter, about executing and closer better.
We still don’t know if that talk took, because it’s now been four full games since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played in a fourth quarter.
A second consecutive blowout of the Phoenix Suns allowed the Thunder’s extended bench to close out the final 12 minutes of the game, thus leaving most of the starting crew on the sidelines for the final 12 minutes.
It was easy to assume the Suns might play with a bit more conviction and urgency after the way the Thunder smoked them on Friday, and while they had more energy on the defensive end early, they were absolutely putrid offensively. They scored 69 points, shot 32.6 percent, from the floor turned it over 23 times, and until late in the fourth, didn’t have a single player in double-figures.
The Thunder had to do it tonight shorthanded too, as Kevin Martin was a late scratch because of flu-like symptoms. Obviously a major hit to an already sketchy Thunder bench, but Martin’s production was made up entirely by Thabo Sefolosha, who played his doppelganger even more than usual tonight.
After scolding the Suns for 18 Friday night, Thabo built on his recent offensive surge, dropping 20 on Phoenix this time, which featured a career-high five 3s. In 34 minutes of action, Thabo was a +38. That plus/minus is well deserved, because Thabo genuinely was the Thunder’s best player tonight. The point production and outside shooting an obvious bonus, but his defense was as disruptive as ever, as he basically blew up Phoenix sets virtually on his own.
The Thunder held a solid 17-point lead at halftime and Thabo set a perfect tone after the break, stealing a pass on the Suns’ first possession and finishing a dunk on the other end. At that moment, the game was basically over.
Without Martin, OKC’s bench wasn’t close to as productive as it has been the past few weeks and without the blowout, wouldn’t have produced much of anything. The second unit finished with 23 points, but late in the third quarter had two total. Again, this wasn’t a big concern for two big reasons: 1) The Thunder were ahead by like 50 and 2) that supplementary scoring was being provided, just not by guys that didn’t start. Points are points no matter where they come from.
It seems that the Thunder righted themselves a bit by getting back at home and sorting things out. After a sloppy, choppy stretch of play, that’s now four straight wins by 21 or more points, something only done by 10 other teams in NBA history. But it’s a very encouraging thing to see the Thunder take their recent home dominance on the road, blowing out a team that they’re far superior to in their building.
- Remember, the last time OKC played in Phoenix, Westbrook and Durant combined for 77 points, including 47 of 51 in the second half. Tonight, Durant and Westbrook combined for just 42 total points.
- Because I care about such silly things, sitting these fourth quarters is really tanking KD’s stats.
- Lindsey Hunter just looks so unsure and uncomfortable as a coach. Hands in his pockets, awkward smiles, no real assertive, demonstrative moments. He might make a good coach eventually, but you can tell he’s new at this.
- There was a miscommunication on the fastbreak between Thabo and Westbrook in the second quarter which resulted in a turnover. Westbrook was clearly upset about it, but not at Thabo. Westbrook immediately patted his chest, taking the responsibility for the play.
- Really a shame Jeremy Lamb has been out recently. Could’ve gotten some nice run the past few games.
- The Suns stink. They really do.
- KD deflected a pass off a fan’s face in the front row, and of course stopped to make sure she was OK before continuing on.
- Another very strong performance from Russell Westbrook. Steady and smart.
- Obligatory mention of how good the home whites look with black shoes.
- While Perk obviously didn’t explode tonight like he did Friday — instead of 17 points, he had a big fat zero in 26 minutes tonight — he was very good establishing the defensive interior. Two games against Perk, just eight total points in 49 minutes for Marcin Gortat.
- Serge Ibaka has been sorting himself out offensively lately. Another strong game from him. Twelve points and six boards, with a good number of midrange shots dropping.
- Seven rebounds in 20 minutes for Reggie Jackson. That dude is a machine on the glass.
- Eric Maynor once again looked far and away better than he has. He played almost the entire fourth quarter running point guard for OKC, scoring five points with two assists. Getting that knee brace has obviously helped him.
- Perry Jones III went just 1-6, but I liked the way he played, again. Him not turning down jumpers is a very good thing. He can make those spot-up looks. But he can be hesitant and unsure of himself. He looks comfortable and confident in taking them. I do wish he’d show off a bit more of his athleticism while out on the court. That should really be his mindset when he’s playing: Be athletic.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Kaaaaaaaay Deeeeee! Eying the rim with bad intent!”
Next up: At Utah on Tuesday.