That’s seven straight. Fifteen out of sixteen. Twenty wins, and four losses.
Heavens, this team is good.
And here’s the thing about tonight’s game against the Nuggets: The Thunder went on the road and beat a quality team and looked like they barely broke a sweat doing it. Outside of Nate-Rob Naterobbing in the fourth quarter with 10 straight points to cut OKC’s lead to six with 7:20 left, the Thunder kind of coasted in the fourth quarter.
With Robinson starting to get hot, Scott Brooks wisely called a timeout, drew up a quality play out of it — cc, Deadspin — which resulted in an easy two points off a baby hook from Kevin Durant. Back to an eight-point lead, and momentum snuffed out for the Nuggets.
From there, Derek Fisher had an and-1, Durant scored on a Dirk-shot, Russell Westbrook nailed a 3 and Jeremy Lamb splashed one from deep. Thunder up 18 with 4:28 left, and it was just about Andre Roberson time.
The way the Thunder are winning and playing, they’re making it hard on people like me. What’s there to say outside of “these guys are good and they won”? These games feel uneventful because they feel so business-like. The Thunder are just handling games the way they should — like they’re the better team. The Nuggets are good — and really good in Denver — but it was obvious a few minutes into the second half that they were going to need something spectacular to hang with OKC. Take away Robinson’s mini-run and the Thunder were headed for a 20-point road blowout.
What the Thunder are doing especially well during this stretch is defending the heck out of teams. They’ve had some lapses, but mostly, scoring on OKC is just a chore right now. The Nuggets, 10th in offense, were held to 41.4 percent shooting and 94.7 points per 100 possessions, nine under their season average. The Thunder can be as explosive as any team offensively, but they weren’t all that great tonight, struggling on the perimeter (5-22 from 3) with an offensive efficiency of 1o2.1. But they defended, and eventually, Durant, Westbrook and the bench did the work to put the Nuggets away.
This seemed like a game that could bite the Thunder. The Nuggets are a good team and they were still smarting from the last game against OKC. Going on the road in the NBA is hard, but the Thunder didn’t have much resistance tonight against a solid Western Conference team in its building. That’s kind of a call-sign for an elite team. When you play with subtle dominance. You beat a team convincingly without it looking that way.
In conclusion, these guys are good and they won.
- Serge Ibaka scored the Thunder’s first 11 points on 5-5 shooting. The first non-Ibaka points came almost seven minutes in when Durant finally hit a shot.
- Nice bounce-back by Ibaka, who had his worst game of the season against the Magic. He picked up his 11th double-double with 17 and 10.
- Durant had 30 (26 after three quarters), and it didn’t even seem like he played all that well. He went 11-of-23 from the floor, which is still 47.8 percent, but he missed some clean looks which means he won’t be able to sleep tonight as he replays all of them in his head.
- Westbrook: 21 points (on 9-16 shooting), 13 rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers. Forget the turnovers though ( because a few of them weren’t really on him), Westbrook played a terrific game. He’s just a maniac on the court right now. And I mean that in a good way. Early, he was setting up Ibaka (three of Ibaka’s first five buckets were assisted by Westbrook), then he started helping on the defensive boards when it was apparent the Nuggets were giving OKC problems. Then he got his own offense going a little.
- On Westbrook’s turnovers, Denver statkeepers were pretty rough on Westbrook tonight. On those eight giveaways, you could hand at least three of them to Ibaka for dropping or fumbling good passes.
- Reggie Lamb didn’t show up tonight. First time in a while that Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb didn’t play that well. Jackson broke a string of nine straight double-digit scoring games, and Lamb went for nine points on 4-9 shooting. Neither played poorly by any stretch — quite the contrary for Lamb, who was great on the boards (six in 22 minutes) and had three assists — but it just wasn’t that explosive of a night as a duo.
- Still, the Thunder’s bench outplayed Denver’s, which is a strength of their team. In total, 32 points to Denver’s 25.
- Kendrick Perkins picked up two quick fouls to start the game and only played two minutes in the first half. With the poor matchup with J.J. Hickson, it appeared to be a blessing in disguise for OKC. But Perk played most of the third quarter and did some decent things as the Thunder gave up the lead, then rebuilt it with him on the floor.
- Jackson lost a shoe on a drive midway through the fourth quarter and had to check out of the game. I don’t know if he had to have his shoe surgically put back on or what, but he couldn’t get back on the floor as Scott Brooks played Derek Fisher through crunchtime.
- Speaking to that, twice I was about to tweet something about Fisher still being in. First time, he hit a 3. Select all, backspace. Then he hit an and-1 runner. Select all, backspace. He shouldn’t have been in, but he bulldogged on the defensive end and made a few plays. Gotta give him credit.
- Westbrook flirted triple-double… in the first half. He had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists in the first 24 minutes. Still couldn’t get there. That’s six straight games he’s been all over one and just missed it.
- Russ seemed downright agitated tonight. Something about playing in Denver does that to him. When he checked out at the end of the game he was doing that thing where someone is trying to talk to him and he just sits there blinking his eyes really fast while shaking his head. That’s Russcode for “shutup don’t talk to me.”
- Favorite part of the game was when Brian Davis described Ibaka’s late block against the Magic as “game-saving.” Umm…
- Brooks went 11 deep in the first half, getting Perry Jones a few second quarter minutes.
- Ibaka had maybe the dumbest 15 seconds of the season for a Thunder player. With OKC up 15 and about 1:20 left, he secured an offensive rebound off a long miss. Instead of kicking out to run a little clock, he fired up an open jumper with 23 on the shot clock. Then 10 seconds later, he was fouling Hickson for an and-1.
- That play by Nick Collison where he spun around and slapped the ball out of Darrell Arthur’s hand without looking proved once and for all that Collison is a basketball witchdoctor.
- Collison, a +18 in 21 minutes. Next highest Thunder plus/minus? Jeremy Lamb, a +8.
- Last game against the Nuggets, Brian Shaw let Evan Fournier check KD one-on-one in the post. this time, he let Randy Foye do it. Huh? I was told on Twitter that Shaw doesn’t believe in doubling, but all the Thunder did was run a simple high screen and roll to get a switch, and go at Foye over and over on the block. It wasn’t necessarily automatic points for OKC, but what it did do was allow them to run easy offense.
- Jordan Hamilton was ejected for taking a semi-swing at Steven Adams. Of course, Adams either didn’t feel it, or just completely ignored it. It’s not that Adams is even doing anything that outrageous to incite these guys. The play tonight, he just gave Hamilton a little bump. And for whatever reason, it set him off.
- For a second straight game, Westbrook had an easy defensive rebound and accidentally threw it out of bounds. Scorekeeper counted it as a rebound and a turnover. Probably correct, but harsh.
- That lefty falling away floating banker from Lamb was tasty.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Just like Disneyland. Splash Mountain, baby.” He’s clearly been working on that one.
Next up: Home against the Bulls on Thursday