I don’t know if you want to call it a switch, or a button, or a lever, but the Thunder have something that they can kick on, particularly at home.
Five times this season the Thunder have trailed in Oklahoma City heading into the fourth quarter. And five times the Thunder have come back to win.
Down to the Timberwolves anywhere between three and nine points for virtually the entire game, the Thunder flipped it to start the fourth quarter, going on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes to take their first lead of the night, then expanded it to as much as 11 as they clicked the over to cruise control, coming in with a soft landing, 113-103.
Kevin Durant is his own shift key, igniting the fire with a 3, then Jeremy Lamb hit the go-ahead shot, a wing 3-pointer set up by Durant. And Reggie Jackson wrapped the burst up with a transition jumper to put OKC up three, and they never looked back.
“I love Loud City,” said Scott Brooks. “They keep us going. The crowd is great. We’ve got a great crowd that our players don’t want to let down. It’s as simple as that.”
It was kind of a strange game in that it went from looking entirely in doubt, to then looking like a tight finish, to then being somewhat casual, to then being about Durant going for a historic stat line. He finished with 32 points on 14-21 shooting with 10 rebounds, a career-high 12 assists, plus four steals and four blocks. Since the NBA started tracking blocks in 1973, no player has ever had a line like that. Only one has had that many points, a triple-double and blocks and steals — Michael Jordan. Durant was within a steal and a block of registering a triple-double coupled with a five-by-five, which while not unprecedented (done twice by Hakeem Olajuwon), was still disgusting.
Asked about his outrageous night, Durant’s response was expected: “It was cool. I wish I could’ve made a few more shots. I turned the ball over a few times and gave them some open breaks.”
Yeah, KD. You really sucked it up out there tonight.
Though while Durant’s game was downright obscene — his line looks like lottery numbers — it was really Jackson who took control and led the Thunder to victory. His fourth quarter: 11 points on 5-5 shooting, two rebounds and two assists in 11 minutes. He finished with 18 on 8-11 with five boards and four assists in 24 minutes, but the way he played down the stretch was notable for two big reasons: 1) because it was so damn good and 2) because Jackson was an offensive focal point, even with Russell Westbrook on the floor with him. The two guards kind of swapped roles, as Westbrook became an off-ball cutting/spot-up guard while Jackson initiated offense and ran the pick-and-roll.
Kevin Love really kind of said it best: “When Westbrook and him are playing well, on top of Durant, it’s a whole different dynamic to their team.” The dynamic Love is referencing is pretty straightforward: You’ve got three effing good offensive players that can get to the rim and score on the floor together, along with an excellent big in Serge Ibaka who provides a deadly pick-and-pop option. It puts so much pressure on opposing defenses and creates holes and gaps all over the floor. Try guarding a Jackson/Durant pick-and-roll on the weakside, with a counter screen-and-roll waiting with Westbrook/Ibaka on a the other side. Eventually, it’s just too much to handle, especially when guys are knocking down their looks.
The win does three things for OKC: 1) they’ve now avenged all previous losses; 2) they completed a 6-0 homestand which included wins over the Clippers, Spurs, Warriors and Wolves and 3) they still hold the NBA championship belt. After back-to-back losses to the Clippers and Warriors, there was some budding chatter about the Thunder beating teams they should, but not being able to take down the elites. Well, no more of that nonsense. Because though it’s still early, between the depth and top level talent on this roster, the Thunder keep answering questions.
But I have a new one: Could this be the most complete Thunder team yet?
- I have a confession: With about seven minutes left in the game, I realized the line KD was putting up and was trying to pull the research-Basketball-Reference-while-also-watching-a-game move.
- Jackson really got going in the second quarter, scoring three straight baskets right after Brooks sent Westbrook back to the table to check in. Asked if he noticed he was about to come out and therefore tried to turn it on, Jackson said, “I could sense it. I saw Russ at the table so logically, it wasn’t hard to decipher what was going to happen … I had a few plays, got switched on a big on a double-screen at the top, and just tried to take advantage of it while I was still in.”
- A few great stats from Thunder PR superstar John Read: The Thunder are 9-1 this season when the bench equals or outscores the opposing bench … this is the first time in the OKC era the Thunder have started 9-0 at home… Ibaka has recorded three or more blocks in eight consecutive games for the second time in his career and is one of only two players to have that kind of stretch since 2005.
- OKC’s bench tonight: Jackson (+20), Collison (+16), Fisher (+10), Lamb (+14).
- Reggie Lamb: 27 points on 12-19 shooting, 7 rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes. Someone tweeted me the idea that when they both play good, they’re Reggie Lamb, but when they play bad, they’re Jeremy Jackson. Also, I’m picturing a scenario where the Reggie Lamb thing catches on to a point where the league doesn’t know it’s two players, and “Reggie Lamb” wins Sixth Man of the Year.
- Jackson on the perceived sixth man role: “I embrace basketball. Any role you put on me, I’m just ready to go out there and compete. I don’t really think about it or get too caught up in it.”
- Jackson on if this is the best he’s played so far in his career: “I guess you could say that, possibly.”
- Kevin Martin on Jackson: “He’s a young guy who developed into a good player in this league. Reggie’s one of my favorite young guys in this league. He goes to work everyday, and he’s a great backup to Russ, but he’s definitely a starter in this league.”
- Two observations from Martin’s quote there: 1) He really likes to say “in this league and 2) shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
- Ibaka had a rough shooting night — just 7-17 and missed a bunch of good looks — but still had 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
- Love is a really tough cover, but Ibaka did a quality job on him, especially considering he’s had issues tracking big mean that stretch the floor. Durant spent some time on Love as well, but as a group, OKC held Love to 4-14 shooting, and just 1-11 after he started 3-3, all from 3.
- Westbrook was sort of meh, puffing up his line in garbage time with a couple of 3s, finishing with 19 points on 7-15 with five assists. But him gladly taking a backseat while Jackson operated had a lot to do with that.
- Only nine minutes for Steven Adams tonight.
- No Perry Jones again tonight. Is he falling out of the rotation?
- Kendrick Perkins was decent on Nikola Pekovic tonight, forcing him into a couple of tough misses, but I thought Collison by far did the best job of any Thunder big on him. Particularly on the defensive boards. There was one play where Collison sprinted from the 3-point line to slide under Pekovic for a box out securing the rebound. Incredible play.
- Ibaka thinks every call can be reviewed, at any moment in the game. On any 50/50 out of bounds call, he walks up to an official twirling his finger in the air, which has become the universally recognized challenge flag for basketball.
- The Thunder played the horrific punk rock version of “Oklahoma!” tonight, which to me is an absolute disgrace. If you’re going to play “Oklahoma!”, play “Oklahoma!“
- During Brooks’ pregame availability, a reporter’s phone rang (no, it wasn’t mine) and Scotty said, “In my locker room, that’s a fine.” Probably better than taking it away from the player and putting it in his desk drawer.
- You know the little community show-off video before games with that song “Best Day of My Life“? For whatever reason, pregame at his locker room, Fox Sports reporter Andrew Gilman and I were standing next to Jeremy Lamb, who was listening to a song that could be heard through his earbuds. And it was that pregame song, which we both found incredibly random. Gilman said something to Lamb like, “Good song, huh?” and it was obvious Lamb was embarrassed he had been caught.
- I was really hoping for a tribute video for Kevin Martin’s return that was just him stepping out of bounds on the sideline over and over again. Alas.
- Sometimes I think Joey Crawford makes bad calls on purpose out of pure arrogance.
Next up: At the Kings on Tuesday