Sensing it slipping away quickly in the third quarter, new Suns coach Lindsey Hunter tried to make an adjustment.
He put six players on the floor. Unfortunately, that’s not allowed.
But that’s the kind of night it was for the Suns. I think this says it all: At two different points in the second half I looked up the career highs for both Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha.
Think about that.
In three quarters, Perk finished with 17 points (8-9 shooting), nine rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Thabo went for 18 on 7-11 shooting, including 4-6 from 3. Add in Kevin Durant’s expected quality (21 points, 5-11), Russell Westbrook playing a balanced game (17-5-6) and Kevin Martin’s bench work (16 points) and the Thunder had everything they needed to put together a virtuoso offensive performance. A season-high 127 points on 57.5 percent shooting.
“It goes without saying, but we were clicking offensively,” Scott Brooks said.
The story really though, was Perk. It’s not every day he scores 17 points. Perk’s offensive explosion — and trust me, it was an explosion — is what got our attention tonight, but it overshadowed the fact that he held one of the Suns’ best offensive options, Marcin Gortat, to just two points in 26 minutes.
“There’s no question that everybody feels good that they get opportunities to score, but [Perk] doesn’t go home thinking he had a bad game if he only scored four or five points,” Brooks said. “We don’t allow him to think that way. He’s one of our emotional leaders.”
Though really, it kind of was a tale of two halves for the Thunder. Not that the first 24 minutes was bad, but it wasn’t exactly the most focused. The score was 55-50 at the break, but the Suns were hanging around enough to cause OKC concern. The second was a whole different story. The Thunder went on a 21-0 run in the third, blowing the doors off the game and using it to outscore Phoenix 72-46 in the second half.
“I think this is the first game Scotty got on us at halftime in a long time about our effort,” Perk said. “We came in here and he got on us about our effort on the defensive end and told us it’s not a pickup game and that we got to go out and defend, and that’s what we did.”
Similar to Wednesday’s game against the Warriors in that the Thunder shared the ball beautifully but without a dominant setup man. The Thunder piled up 29 assists (same as Wednesday), but the most any person had was six. Six players had three or more dimes, nine logged at least one.
It was basically the exact opposite of how the Thunder beat the Suns in Phoenix the last time. In that one, Durant and Westbrook combined for 47 of OKC’s 51 second half points. This time was all about balance. I wouldn’t go so far to say this is a new Thunder approach or anything because when the going gets close, it’s going to be Westbrook and Durant time, but it does illustrate that the Thunder can be ridiculously dominant when things click and gel.
The Thunder have to turn around and play this Suns team again in 48 hours, but they clearly enjoyed their first homestand in a month. OKC won by an average of 119.3 to 95.0. There’s just an obvious swagger that this team has playing in Oklahoma City. They’re looser, more intense, more focused and so much more explosive. It seems like they have more confidence in not just themselves, but their teammates.
It’s been a very good week for the Thunder and they’re obviously playing extremely well with a few games to go until the All-Star break. They basically just one-upped themselves each game of this homestand. A brilliant performance against the Mavs topped by Wednesday’s punking of Golden State followed by tonight’s demolition of the Suns. Has to feel good, right?
“We can be a lot better. We can be a lot better,” Durant said. “I think sometimes we overpass. We pass up open shots. We can be a lot better. We can’t be too happy about this. We have to just keep moving on. We play these guys in 48 hours, so we got to be better.”
Never satisfied, even after a ridiculous offensive explosion. So typical.
- KD’s poster: When Durant reached the 3-point line, everyone in the arena could see it coming. There was that awesome little murmur building as he went into his two-step stride.
- So classic that Perk would’ve been 8-8 had he not gotten rimchecked on a dunk attempt.
- This is becoming A Thing: Perk has played really solid basketball the past three weeks. Like really good.
- Perk’s 17 is the most he’s scored as part of the Thunder. Previous high was 16.
- Serge Ibaka set a new career-high with four assists on Wednesday against the Warriors. He had four again tonight. Weird.
- Nick Collison was a -1 in a 31-point win. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE IN ANYMORE.
- Eric Maynor took the ball to the paint with about three minutes left and scored on a floater (goaltend call). It was the most explosion, quickness and decisiveness I’ve seen out of him since last season. Maybe it has something to do with him finally shedding his knee brace. This is the second game he’s played without it. I asked him postgame and he said physically this is the best he’s felt since his injury. “That brace was real heavy, so I felt good.”
- A play in the third I really did not like at all: With about 1:30 left and Perk cooking (I realize how dumb that sounds, yes), Westbrook decided to isolate and post on Dragic. He really should’ve fed Perk, but he also had KD jumping up and down on the wing. Just didn’t like that moment of tunnel vision.
- That said, Westbrook played a very efficient, solid game. He’d only attempted three shots with about two minutes to go until halftime, which isn’t typical.
- The Thunder had five players in double-figures and every guy on the roster scored. That’s known as the Nick Gallo Special.
- I don’t know if you guys could see it on TV, but the way Perk backpeddled down the floor after his putback dunk in the first half was MAGICAL. It was like a backwards prance.
- Only eight turnovers. And 14-21 from 3. Two very good stats.
- Perry Jones III shows the least emotion I’ve ever seen out of any player. He basically makes the same face throughout the entire game. Bad call, that face. Great dunk, that face. Missed shot, that face. It’s amazing.
- I’m pretty sure when Jermaine O’Neal gets a new headband, a trainer just cuts the waistband off a pair of sweatpants for him.
- In the Backdoor Cut Passing Power Rankings, Nick Collison is definitely top 10.
- Martin’s last 3 in the fourth was so high, on TV it completely went out of the screen and dropped back in just in time to splash through the net.
- I continue to be captivated by Daniel Orton’s perfect running posture.
- I have a hard time always enjoying halftime shows because I spend 80 percent of it fearing for their life.
- Michael Beasley’s hair is doing nothing to help his guy-that-likes-weed reputation.
- Jared Dudley looks so fat, but he’s really not fat at all. There needs to be a name for this.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @ThunderBDsays: “They have horses in Argentina and Scola just got on his giddy up and ran.”
Next up: At the Suns on Sunday.