With 7:39 left in the first quarter, after a Jodie Meeks 3, the Lakers led 13-7. Scott Brooks called a timeout. After it, the Thunder went on a 115-84 run.
And that’s your ballgame.
If you came to Chesapeake Energy Arena excited to see plenty of Perry Jones, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeremy Lamb, Chris Kaman and Ryan Kelly in crunchtime, well then this was the game for you. The Lakers were competitive for about half of the first quarter, attempting to run the Thunder and create easy scoring opportunities. Trying to outgun and outrun the Thunder is a bad plan, but Mike D’Antoni could see the writing on the wall — with no point guard, there was no way the Lakers could hang with OKC in a halfcourt game.
The end result of tonight’s game was expected. Unless the Lakers were able to scorch from the perimeter, this was basically an inevitability. The question was, how would we arrive at this conclusion? Would it be a massive line from Russell Westbrook? Would Kevin Durant dominate? Would Reggie Jackson have his way? Would Kendrick Perkins outscore Kobe Bryant?
The answer to all of those amazingly ended up being yes. Westbrook flirted with yet another triple-double, coming up short with 19 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists despite sitting the entire fourth quarter. Durant finished with 31 in 31 minutes on 10-13 shooting with eight boards and five assists which is a line so pretty it makes me want to type it again. Durant finished with 31 in 31 minutes on 10-13 shooting with eight boards and five assists. Reggie Jackson had his eighth straight double-figure scoring games finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists. And Perk had six points to Kobe’s four. That last stat is actually real and I definitely did not make it up. No, really.
There’s of course caveats and qualifiers all over this one, but something is to be said for doing what you’re supposed to do. The Lakers are hurting, and not very good to start with, while the Thunder are insane at home and always a bad matchup anyway.
But there is this: The Thunder have won their last five home games by an average margin of 17.6 points. They’re hitting that similar kind of stride like last season where teams couldn’t touch them in Oklahoma City. There have been some questions as to if they’re peaking too early or how much better they can be, and while sure, I guess you can wonder about those things, that’s the type of questions you ask when you’re watching and covering a team that makes it look so simple. There aren’t any great storylines to discuss outside “Hey, this team is super good.”
It even seems like Scott Brooks is reaching at this point.
“Well, we’re off to a good start and like I tell the guys, it’s just a good start,” Brooks said. “We want to keep getting better, we want to make sure that we keep improving throughout the season. I know our record is really good, 18-4, but we still have things we can work on. We turn the ball over a little too much. Tonight, we did a fairly good job, but our 14 turnovers gave up 21 points. If we do have a turnover, we have to get back on defense. There are things we still have to work on.”
Which in the Thunder’s current situation, you’ve got to be picky. There still are ways to get better and when you have the kinds of aspirations and goals they do, you can’t be satisfied. Another game, another impressive performance. Dust off the hands, and move ’em.
- Andre Roberson got another start in place of Thabo Sefolosha, this time against Kobe Bryant. Said Roberson: “I don’t back down from nobody. I accepted the challenge.” He played 22 minutes and while I wouldn’t say he did anything noticeably impressive, his activity was obvious and he certain made things difficult on Bryant. While Kobe was playing point guard and only took six shots, he had 13 assists, but Roberson helped force him into seven turnovers. Great experience for the rookie.
- With the Lakers so light in their backcourt, Kobe was set to have the assignment on Westbrook. And then he switched off him and on to Roberson after about three minutes and barely guarded Russ again.
- Westbrook’s been taking a weird number of 3s this season, and tossed up four more tonight, with three coming in the first four minutes. About that he said, “If somebody goes under, I’ll shoot it. Gotta make ’em honest. Obviously they’d rather me do that than drive to the basket, but if they keep doing that, they’re gonna learn.”
- My favorite post-game tradition is KD going over to Derek Fisher’s locker while Fish is still in the shower and sneaking some of his cologne. Durant does it almost every game. Cracks me up.
- The Thunder’s ball movement was as good as its been with a season-high 34 assists.
- The catalyst for that was Westbrook who had 12 more tonight. In his first 15 games, he had only one double-digit assist game. That’s now three of four games in double-digit assists, with the other having nine. Whether he’s feeling better physically or just finding his rhythm in the offense, he’s assisting while not letting down in his scoring.
- Kobe took his point guarding duties maybe a little too seriously tonight. Just six shots?
- Kobe committed an ultra dumb foul 50 feet from the basket with 11 seconds in the first half to give KD two free throws. And there were people giving him daps for it on Twitter using the play to illustrate how he’s a competitor and such. What other player in the league gets kudos for giving up two free throws on a stupid foul 50 feet from the basket? Anybody?
- After the play, Durant and Kobe kind of exchanged chuckles. Said Durant of it: “I knew he was going to do that. I knew he was going to challenge me. A guy like Kobe, if I don’t accept the challenge, I’m going to hear about it for a while. I just wanted to accept it. I wish he didn’t foul me because I was going to try and go at him at the end of the quarter there, but he’s the ultimate competitor and I’m just so happy he’s back on the court.”
- Scott Brooks dug deep into his bench tonight, playing 11 guys in the first half. He subbed in Perry Jones early, possibly suggesting that Jones would get Derek Fisher’s minutes because of the Lakers’ lack of guards. Then Fisher subbed in and I wondered if maybe Nick Collison was getting the night off. Then Collison subbed in.
- Jones got 19 minutes and was again very solid. He had nine points on 4-9 shooting with five rebounds and an assist and finished a few high-flying oops. Guy needs to play.
- Westbrook bumped knees/took a knee to his thigh in the second quarter and limped around the court some. The collective breath-holding from Thunder fans sucked all the air out of the arena. Westbrook’s totally screwed up OKC fans mentally with the way he played on a torn meniscus — and played well! — last postseason. Brooks said it was a knee to the thigh and nothing else. Westbrook looked fine the rest of the game and showed no signs of anything postgame, so he’s fine. I think. I hope. I hope and think.
- Steven Adams runs the floor so well, and though he doesn’t always get the ball in those situations, he’s clearing space and creating driving lanes with his freakishly large body.
- Adams has a bunch of skills, but he’s really good at inciting technicals on other players without even realizing it. It’s like his presence alone pisses off guys and then Adams just ignores them and it makes them even madder.
- Jeremy Lamb appears to be a huge fan of taking the Momentum 3, which is the one where the fans have started murmuring and going into that low buzz as he’s catching it. Every team needs the Momentum 3 guy.
- That moment where Perk sprinted as fast as he could back on defense. The best.
- I think we’ve seen the official career lowlight for Hasheem Thabeet: he was blocked at the rim by Ryan Kelly tonight.
- Roberson said postgame his focus is entirely on the defensive end and whoa boy, it showed. He went 1-4 from the floor which included hitting the side of the backboard on a corner 3.
- Rambo tonight (I don’t remember who came up with that for Lamb and Jackson, but it’s excellent): 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 53 minutes.
- Hey, the Thunder played really well in their gross blue alternates. Now can everyone stop asking what their record is in them?
- Another double-double for Serge Ibaka (19 points and 10 rebounds). That’s now 10 already this season.
- One more time: Kevin Durant had 31 points in 31 minutes on 10-13 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists.
- Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook combined: 69 points on 25-45 shooting, 26 rebounds, 18 assists and seven steals. Pret-tay good.
- In the locker room after the game, Perry Jones was clowning on Ibaka who was wearing a black fedora with a big black jacket, calling him “The Undertaker.” I don’t know if that sounds very funny here, but it was very funny in there.
- Stat we need: Screen assists. Or PCFP (Points Created From Pick). Everyone assumed I want this stat just to illustrate some kind of added worth for Perk, which isn’t the case, but Perk did open up two easy looks for both KD and Westbrook to start the second half. I’m sure SportVU has all the ability to track this stuff and it would be nice to know who’s setting the most screens per possession, who’s setting the most effective ones and which teams are using them most.
- Someone asked me a good question on Twitter: Do the Lakers have any player other than Kobe or Pau that would be in OKC’s rotation? Maybe Jordan Hill?
Next up: Home against the Magic on Sunday