It was pretty obvious what the end result of Wednesday night’s game would eventually be. With no Kevin Love, no Nikola Pekovic, and no Corey Brewer, and the Thunder at home, it was really only a question of how we arrived at our destination.
But as the Wolves kept scrapping and kept hanging in the game, it was getting to the point of “heh heh come on now Thunder.”
Things turned the moment Gorgui Dieng momentarily appeared to lose his mind by goaltending Derek Fisher’s 3 at the third quarter buzzer, giving OKC an 80-77 lead, which segued into Jeremy Lamb starting the fourth with a 3, which turned into a 13-4 run that basically put the game away.
The moderately intriguing thing about it: KD only score two of his 26 in the fourth quarter, meaning most of the final frame scoring was done by others.
“They’re NBA players too,” Durant said. “It’s not like I’ve been scoring every point before. We play off each other. Reggie, Lambo can score, Fish, guys can hit big shots and we got stops … we play a team game here.”
Durant set the tone for that with his passing early, feeling double and triple teams and making easy choices out of them to set up seven buckets. And while he still largely got his, because that’s what he does, Reggie Jackson played easily his best since the Spurs game, putting up 20 on 9-14 shooting plus nine assists to only one turnover.
“I think Reggie did a great job finding guys and making the right plays,” KD said. “He was definitely aggressive in trying to get to the rim and shooting the thing as well. He played well tonight, and our offense, we kind of fed off of him.”
Since San Antonio, where he scored 27 with eight assists on 12-17 shooting, Jackson had shot just 35.1 percent (39-94) in seven games, and in six had fewer than 15 points. He was due to play well, because he’s too good to carry on, but he just looked so much smoother and more confident. With Westbrook coming back in the next few weeks, Jackson certainly needs to start getting his rhythm and confidence back. There’s no doubt he’s more comfortable in his bench role and playing alongside Westbrook, but you don’t want the guy feeling bad about his fill-in duty in a few weeks.
Again, this game quickly became a given the minute Love was a late scratch. And that knowledge played against the Thunder some as the Wolves didn’t back off, playing hard and with a bit of fight up until that fourth quarter run. Plus, without Love, the game lost some of it’s excitement, because Luc Richard Mbah a Moute going toe-to-toe with KD doesn’t have the same kind of hook to it. Then again, while this game definitely had a boring feel to it, I think we’ve all got to realize that with what we saw the last month with Durant, we’ve been stupidly spoiled. Those games were just crazy fun. Like Monday, this was another methodical, workmanlike performance that while lacking fireworks, was as effective.
There’s also this: The Thunder have now played more games this season (26) without Russell Westbrook than with him (25). In games without him, they’re 19-7. In games with him, 21-4. And remember, at one point they were just 7-6 without him. But now they’ve taken 12 of 13 and reclaimed the West’s best record. Sets up nicely for him to come back.
- That Dieng goaltend really was something else. I can’t even begin to try and comprehend what he was thinking. He tipped it in, but it was ruled a goaltend. It looked like Dereck Whittenberg to Lorenzo Charles at the buzzer. All it was missing was Scott Brooks running around looking for someone to hug.
- Derek Fisher is making everything right now. Even shots he misses, he makes. It’s getting pretty hard to audibly groan every time he puts one up. He went for 13 tonight hitting 3-5 from 3, and providing OKC’s second unit its best production.
- It kind of made me laugh postgame, because everyone talked about “the big shot Fish hit at the end of the third.” Yeah, great play Fish. Huge shot you made there. Super clutch. Awesome shot man.
- KD on the goaltend: “I’ve never seen that before, but that guy’s a rookie so I’m sure he’s gonna learn from it.”
- Serge Ibaka, solid: 14 points on 7-12 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks.
- Kendrick Perkins, also solid: six points, 12 rebounds and four LOLs.
- My current favorite Thunder tradition: When Perk loses the ball on the way up only to get inevitably stuffed, he looks at the ref on the way back down asking for a foul. I can’t believe you didn’t get that call either, Perk!
- Durant busted out a pretty neat galloping dribble. My favorite play of the game.
- KD hit only his second left corner 3 of the season, making him just 2-4 from there on the season. I find that mildly incredible, considering all the places he drills shots from. But what it does mean, is no more red on his shotchart.
- Scott Brooks on that: “I’m sure the right corner is not a lot (note: it’s 3-8), most teams, if not all 29 teams are going to stay at home on KD on most all dribble penetration plays. And most of the defenses don’t give up corner 3s, because it’s close to a 40 percent shot. So that’s probably the reason why.”
- Tough game for Jeremy Sefolosha. Combined, Thabo and Lamb went 6-22, and 2-12 from 3. Thabo was actively turning down WIDE open 3s. Because he wasn’t just missing. He was misssssssssssing. Like barely catching iron. Both did come through with big 3s in the fourth quarter though, so good job.
- That 3 KD hit before halftime, you could see him actually hunting it. He was crossing, re-crossing, using a screen, backing off — just looking for that sliver of space necessary to get a shot off.
- KD didn’t like the original ball. He came over, touched it, then ended up putting it on the ball rack and handed the scorekeeper another one. I didn’t get a chance to ask him what that was about, but with the new Adam Silver balls now in circulation, I’m guessing it was too slick or something.
- In the fourth quarter, Durant threw an oop too high for even Perry Jones to get to. That’s like God making a burrito that’s even too hot for himself to eat.
- Only 11 free throw attempts for the Thunder tonight, and only one for KD. Not anything to read into there, just that that’s kind odd.
- Via NBA.com: “Kevin Durant has now tallied 25+ points and 4+ assists in 16 straight games. Ties MJ for the longest such streak in the last 40 seasons.”
- The Robbie Hummel-Nick Collison jump ball was as amazing as it sounds.
- Late fourth, KD once again not thrilled with Jackson completely looking him off. Yelled “Yo give me the ball!” and Jackson awkwardly ignored him. Jackson ended up setting Thabo up for 3, but KD definitely didn’t appreciate the fact he called for the ball for a solid 10 seconds and never got it.
- Here’s the question: Did Jackson do the right thing? The fact he got Thabo a wide open 3 — that he actually made — suggests yes. But at the same time, there’s just a way that Jackson handles this situation every time that makes everyone cringe. He doesn’t actually look at KD, he just holds a hand up like he’s saying “I got it, I got it.” I get the feeling that Jackson is trying juuuuuuust a bit too much to be mister floor general, rather than understanding that almost every time, feeding No. 35 is the right play. If Westbrook were in that spot, first off, he gives the ball to KD. But if he decides to look him off, it’s cool with me for two reasons: 1) he’s earned that right and 2) he would’ve done it in a far less awkward manner.
- Two important thoughts here: 1) Chase Budinger looks like Dewey Crowe’s butthole cousin and 2) Ricky Rubio looks like his parents are a meerkat and a koala.
Next up: Friday in Orlando