It’s two games.
1. Kevin Durant
This MVP thing is stressing me out. I think I’m going to stop thinking about it for a while.
Another note: I’ve mentioned the stat a couple of times of assisted versus unassisted for KD with and without Westbrook. In the small sample size of two games, Durant has had 25 buckets, with 10 assisted and 15 of them unassisted. Durant’s usage rate since Westbrook returned is a robust 33.8, slightly down from where it was when he was playing solo.
2. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook’s first, first two games back this season:
- Against the Suns: 21 points on 5-16, seven assists, four turnovers
- Against the Mavs: 22 points on 10-20, four assists, five turnovers
Westbrook’s first two back this week, he went 4-12 for 16 points, two assists and four turnovers against the Heat, then 3-13 for 13 points, six assists and three turnovers. The biggest difference in the returns, though: He played 33 minutes in each of the first two games, and 24 an 25 in the last two.
Per 36, Westbrook’s numbers look OK the last two: 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, close to his season averages. Obviously the shooting percentage is terrible (28 percent), but that’ll come as his rhythm returns.
It’s obvious the minute restriction has made it awkward for Westbrook to find a flow on the court. Just when he gets started going with something, he has to come out. Like Sunday, he started doing some stuff with Durant in the pick-and-roll, but had to sit the final two minutes of the half.
He looks great, with his explosive acceleration and relentless style. He hasn’t gotten into much of his midrange game yet — just five of his 25 attempts have been from 10-19 feet — and hasn’t shot well in the restricted area (just 5-12). And he’s taken too many long 2s and 3s (2-7 from 20-29 feet).
3. Serge Ibaka
Just want to repeat the same point I made in yesterday’s recap about Ibaka having difficulty staying involved in fourth quarters. Again, here’s what Brooks said when asked about it:
“I disagree with that. Maybe tonight. He’s been terrific in fourth quarters. He didn’t get a shot. One of the things I believe in all our guys is making the right plays. Kevin had 10 assists, Russell had six, we had 26 as a team. That’s just part of basketball. You’re not going to always get shots, but you’ve just got to continue to work and don’t discount any of the game and be ready when you do get them. Serge has been very good and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Ibaka’s attempts per game per quarter: 4.4, 2.4, 3.9, 1.8. His usage rate by quarter: 20.2, 17.7, 19.0, 13.2. In the fourth quarter this season, Ibaka has scored a total of 123 points, which means just 14.5 percent of his total output is in the fourth. And he’s actually shooting his highest percentage from the field in the fourth (56.8 percent).
It’s natural basketball that when the game gets close, you value possessions more than ever and those smooth, early game pick-and-pops with Ibaka get trimmed as Durant (and now Westbrook) assume control.
But as in Sunday’s game, Ibaka is 10-16 with 20 points after three quarters. And he finishes with 20 points on 10-16. (Now, it’s worth mentioning: Offense had little to do with the Thunder’s failure against the Clippers on Sunday. It was the other side.) It’s not like Westbrook has rounded into his form quite yet. Brooks says it just “oh sometimes you don’t get a shot” but would Westbrook ever not get a shot in the fourth? Or Durant? Ibaka can’t create his own; he needs a setup. And that means, gasp, running actual offense to get him a look. Something the Thunder have often resisted.
4. Nick Collison
At some point the rest of the season, I want an MVP chant for Nick Collison at the free throw line. I’d do it myself, but that’s a tad bit unprofessional. So I’m counting on you good people. Someone answer the call.
5. Thabo Sefolosha
Thabo still can be an extremely disruptive defensive player and is a great weapon to use on three positions. And he hit two 3s on Sunday!
6. Derek Fisher
It’s really not a fluke anymore. Fisher is just playing good basketball. Some of the 3s he’s hitting are contested, and almost lucky in seems, but his defense has been good and he certainly has been a great influence on the team.
None of the above was sarcasm.
7. Reggie Jackson
The defense is a problem. He just doesn’t stop his man. He gets caught napping off the ball, and he allows dribble penetration. Playing defense as a point guard isn’t easy because you’re fighting through a ton of screens and facing a ball handler every possession. But Jackson is noticeably a liability on that end right now.
The other thing: He took some terrible shots on Sunday. I think he’s probably going to have some trouble adjusting back to his role, because he’s caught in the no-man’s land of Westbrook’s minute restriction too. Jackson’s playing the starter minutes, but coming off the bench.
Brooks used Jackson and Westbrook together often against both the Heat and Clippers. If you’re wondering: They’ve played 258 minutes together this season, and the Thunder are a +22.4 per 100 possessions.
8. Perry Jones III
Jones is likely to be the odd man out in the rotation with Westbrook’s return, but he did OK against LeBron and the Heat. If anything, he showed he’s capable of being used on LeBron when Durant needs a break or gets in foul trouble. It’s not that Jones did exceedingly well, as much as he didn’t get exceedingly embarrassed.
9. Jeremy Lamb
In two games last week: six points on 2-11 shooting, two assists, three rebounds and just 37 total minutes.
10. Steven Adams
Just 16 minutes for Adams in Sunday’s start and while he was active, he did have obvious issue with battling for offensive rebounds and then getting back in transition. DeAndre Jordan beat him down the floor a few times on his own, just because Adams was caught up under his own basket trying for an offensive rebound.
11. Kendrick Perkins
Perk has always said to “check his winning percentage” as his top comeback to detractors. Well… 43-11 with him, 0-3 without him.
12. Hasheem Thabeet
Inactive: Andre Roberson