Really, there were only two pertinent questions coming in to tonight’s game:
1) How much would the Thunder beat the Kings by and 2) would Kevin Durant be able to get his 25 points in three quarters?
Answers: By 13 and yes.
Durant got 29 in fact, and did it on a decent 9-of-11 shooting, with six assists. And the Thunder put the cap on their fifth straight playoff appearance by suffocating the hapless Kings, holding them to just 36.5 percent shooting and 81 total points, 30 of them coming in a garbage time-tastic fourth quarter. So much of the current conversation around the Thunder has been about defense, and while this effort was obviously fantastic, you don’t want to get too caught up in it. The Kings were missing their engine, Isaiah Thomas, and also, aren’t remotely good outside of that anyway.
“We were locked in defensively,” Scott Brooks said. “That’s what we need to continue to do. Offensively we were moving the basketball. We were getting our shots that we wanted going into the game. The ball was really moving, 26 assists tonight. The defense was outstanding for the first three quarters.”
Still: It’s hard not to take away positive things when you hold an NBA opponent — regardless of who it is — to 51 points through three quarters. But what we all want to see from this Thunder team is not isolated events of high level defense, but consistent, night to night performances… and against good teams.
Again, there really wasn’t too much doubt about the end result of this game — though the Thunder have been prone to stub their toes sometimes — but there was a question as to what kind of performance it would be. Durant’s unfiltered efficiency isn’t surprising, nor is Russell Westbrook’s explosive 18 on 7-12 with six assists, but overall, it felt like the Thunder played pretty well.
And trust me: You can play bad and win by 20. I’ve seen this team do it more than once. The first half was a bit sloppy at times, but the third quarter was near perfect — 12-16, 28 points, 11 assists and almost every bucket coming at the rim. Most of it was via Durant, who scored 13 in the third, almost as if he had this feeling, this sense that maybe, possibly, he wouldn’t have the fourth quarter to keep his scoring streak going.
But you know what was damn impressive about it? Durant still didn’t force a thing. He got his 13 on 5-5 shooting and managed to dish out five assists in the quarter as well. His ability to force the issue without forcing the issue at all is like a superpower. Superman can fly. Kevin Durant scores points that you don’t notice.
Postgame, the players that talked were asked about this one being a springboard to better things as we all fished for interesting angles, but the truth is, the Thunder beat down a bad team. They handled their business, they did their jobs and they put a win in the good column.
Oh, and they also locked up another playoff berth (officially last night, but whatever). That seems important, too.
- The Thunder’s garbage time unit is doing a good job at making solid blowouts look closer than they actually were. I was getting worried for a minute that I was going to have to pull out a big select all backspace on the 400 words I’d already written about four minutes into the fourth.
- Durant has to be the most positive supporter of any garbage time unit in the league. And I’m not just saying superstar division. He dances at every make, claps constantly and is always yelling out defensive calls. It’s incredible.
- It’s pretty remarkable that five years ago we were all meeting the Thunder at the airport to celebrate a playoff berth, and now, it’s a footnote in a forgettable game.
- Durant only had one rebound tonight. I mean, is he even trying? What’s wrong with this guy?
- After letting the Kings back in the game, Westbrook picked up a technical for spiking the ball at least 20 feet into the air with it landing in the second row. A few minutes later, Westbrook just walked by the scoretable and with the arena dead silent during free throws let out an incredibly loud f-word. It was fun.
- No Reggie Jackson, who sat with a mid back sprain, something he tweaked yesterday in practice. Scott Brooks said he was day-to-day.
- With Jackson sitting, Steven Adams is now the only Thunder player to have appeared in every game this season.
- What’s incredible about this streak is KD’s doing it with only 75 percent of a game a lot of the time. He’s had so many three quarter games. And really there hasn’t been a time where I thought, “Man, he’s gunning for it.”
- Jeremy Lamb with 32 minutes tonight, mostly because of Jackson’s absence. He knocked down shots, but the talk postgame was about the other stuff he did — defense, steals, assists. Lamb had 13 on 5-11 shooting, but added two steals, five assists and five rebounds. I continue to believe he’s someone the Thunder can use a great deal in the postseason.
- Durant on Lamb being a potential playoff X-factor: “We’re going to need everybody in this locker room. We just need everybody to stay ready.”
- Mike Malone after Travis Outlaw called for an iffy foul Kevin Durant: “That’s an MVP call.”
- Andre Roberson did some positive things tonight, even on the offensive end. He’s a really good cutter and while not a great finisher, he’s improving. He’s ready for the catch and always is active. There’s something to be said for that kind of movement offensively. It creates space and makes the defense move and react.
- I feel like we don’t talk about Quincy Acy’s beard enough.
- Another thing about Acy: He kept going for the Garnett after-the-whistle goaltend move, but he was pulling himself up on the net to do it. Can he not jump high enough or something?
- Caron Butler made an extra pass tonight. Probably never going to do that again. Hope you saw it.
- Best moment of the game: Serge Ibaka pulled in a rebound and was looking to get rid of it to a teammate immediately, so he turned around and gave it to Hasheem Thabeet. I was hoping Thabeet would bring it up and run offense, but alas.
- Steven Adams was back to his fouling ways tonight. Picked up two in the first two minutes and then two more early in the third.
- The halftime show was like the Duggar family on unicyles or something. It was weird.
- When is Joe Bonamassa finally coming to Oklahoma City? I feel like I’ve been hearing that promo for two years now.
- Nick Collison had a pretty good block. Ray McCallum tried to cross him three times, Collison stuck with him and ended up rejecting the shot into the third row. Andrew Gilman had a perfect tweet to summarize it: “McCallum dribbled, dribbled, crossed over, dribbled, shot. Then Collison blocked it. The = to Indy Jones shooting the guy with the sword.”
- In the locker room after the game, KD tossed Ibakasome lotion, to which Ibaka dropped. KD then gave Ibaka a little jab saying “Stone hands.”
Next up: Home against the Jazz on Sunday