If you weren’t one of the 14,000 or so in Chesapeake Arena tonight — because the game wasn’t on TV — you missed one of those nights where Kevin Durant had it going and basketball looked so, so pretty. Only a preseason game and Anthony Randolph was doing the majority of defending on him, but Durant’s game just looks so incredibly polished, with a few added wrinkles.
Namely being, he’s stronger. It’s obvious KD’s added some upper body mass, and is figuring out how to use it. Against Denver, he muscled his defenders, taking them into the post, isolating on them, finishing after contact and of course, just by straight cooking. He was unguardable before. But as he continues to develop, it just gets scarier and scarier.
Asked if he feels stronger on the floor, Durant just said, “I feel fat.” Fat? “I feel like I’ve got a big butt. But I feel better. With age I guess is helping me out a little bit so hopefully I keep it up throughout the season. I’m still skinny up here a little bit, but I feel bigger down low. Hopefully it’s going to help me get closer to the rim and get my position more and hold off guys.”
Durant’s 36 on 13-20 shooting in 22 minutes was enough to make an otherwise ho-hum preseason game quite fun, but it also helped OKC roll to a 109-81 win over the Nuggets and reaffirm that this team might just be alright in the weeks they’ll be without Russell Westbrook. Mainly because No. 35 is that special.
Other notes and quotes:
- Jeremy Lamb wore a shooting sleeve tonight, but really it was more of a missing sleeve. Get it? You get it. He went just 3-12 from the floor, BUT, a positive thing is he only attempted one 3. Lamb’s struggles mostly stemmed from being unable to finish in traffic (or get a call). A positive is that he was aggressive in attacking the rim and tried to assert himself offensively rather than drift. Just nothing fell through.
- Brooks on if he likes the shots Lamb is taking: “I think he hasn’t shot the ball well. But everybody on our team, it’s not just about shooting.” And the rest of the quote is about Lamb’s defense and stuff and Brooks not at all answering the question. Then he rounded back finally. “[Lamb’s] shots are going to fall. I believe he can make shots. They’re not falling right now but there’s no reason to not believe they will.”
- Lamb was asked what he thought of tonight’s game and his first response was, “What did I shoot?” Told it was 3-of-12, he then proceeded to talk about the team’s performance and how good the defense was. Eek.
- Lamb on where he thinks he’s at: “It felt OK. Gotta get back to the drawing board and trust the work I’ve put in. I shot 3-12, didn’t hit as many shots as I wanted. But it’s not all about hitting shots, so I’ve just got to get back to it and trust my work and live to see another day.”
- Nick Collison and Lamb ran a nice little two-man action with Lamb scoring on a backcut layup. After it, Collison just spent an entire dead ball with Lamb out near midcourt coaching him up on the two-man stuff.
- Lamb: “He was telling me different angles to take, ways to set him up, where to catch the ball, so yeah, he definitely helped me with that … Nick will definitely make me look good. He does all the dirty work. He’s got to fight the big guy to catch the pass, he’s got to fight the big guy setting screens, making great backdoor passes — so me, he’ll make me look good by doing all the dirty work and then just dropping it off. So he’s definitely good at that.”
- Good stat from Anthony Slater: Thunder players not named Kevin Durant are a combined 5-of-41 from three in the preseason (12 percent). Yikes.
- Brooks on that: “It’s definitely something we talk about as group. We want to be a good 3-point shooting team. We have good 3-point shooters, but we’re not going to press the panic button after three exhibition games. But the 3-point ball is powerful. It’s a great shot in today’s game and you have to be able to knock it in.”
- Brooks was asked if he thinks KD’s taking on more responsibility and adding pressure because of Westbrook being out: “I think that’s manufactured through the media. There’s no pressure. The pressure is to play as hard as you can and play for your team every night. If you do that, everything will work out.”
- Serge Ibaka’s face-up game is going to be a serious problem for opposing teams this season.
- Ibaka also had five assists tonight, which would’ve been a career high.
- Kendrick Perkins — who was not playing tonight — was hit with a technical foul from the bench with 3:12 left in a preseason game. In a 30-point preseason game.
- Likewise, Nate Robinson was ejected for a Flagrant 2 for taking a little swing at Steven Adams’ midsection.
- On Adams: I thought he was extremely solid again. His final line: five points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. And here’s the thing: He’s just a massive human playing basketball. His brute strength is impressive. Timofey Mozgov got absolutely man-handled by him for an entire half. His screens absorb defenders. And he’s only 19 years old and as someone on the Thunder staff told me tonight, he’s only getting stronger.
- Highlight of the game: Adams literally gave JaVale McGee a piggy-back ride. Like McGee was on his back for a full three seconds. Here’s what happened: Adams was running the floor with McGee trailing him and Adams threw on the brakes to kind of hold off McGee while Thabo (or Reggie Jackson, I don’t know who it was) attacked the rim. McGee ran up on Adams and instead of just running him over, he jumped on his back. This is a true story.
- Perry Jones III played kind of alright tonight. Like, he was helpful.
- Sam Presti’s mission at the deadline is to get KD a shooter (or two). Maybe Lamb and Sefolosha will get it going from deep, but give Durant a couple snipers to dish to and he’d average six assists a game, at least.
- Andre Roberson has a homing beacon for rebounds. In 17 minutes, he grabbed nine. And defensively, he looked extremely solid. Said KD: “He’s probably the best defensive rookie I’ve seen in a while.”
- Brooks said pregame that the backup center position is essentially still up for grabs.
- Speaking of, Thabeet started and played really well. Four points and four rebounds in 20 minutes and he did a good job of being tall.
- Wanda Pratt was in the house sitting courtside tonight. Sitting next to her? KD’s fiancee, Monica Wright.
- Russell Westbrook was in the Thunder locker room pregame wearing flip-flops and eating Ruffles out of a Ziploc baggy, talking with Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Hashtag, reporting. He was also on the Thunder bench wearing warmups tonight and took part in the starting intros, where he was dancing and even jumped a little for a side bump with KD.
- Talked with Nick Collison about his thoughts on how Breaking Bad ended. His review: big fan of it.
Next up: Against the Pelicans Thursday in Tulsa