When walking by a TV in the locker room pregame showing the Nuggets last game, one Thunder player glanced over, saw some less than stellar Denver defense and said, “If we don’t get 40 layups tonight, we messed up.”
I don’t know if they got there, but after the opening 12 minutes the Thunder had tied their first quarter season-high with 41 points. By halftime they had a new season-high for the first half with 72. And they coasted in with Kevin Durant sitting the entire fourth quarter, handling Denver with ease, 117-96.
The four most notable things from this mostly unremarkable game:
1) Durant got his 25 points, finishing with 27 on 10-21 shooting with eight assists. He shredded Denver’s defense from the opening tip, putting up 22 at halftime. There was only mild stress about his 25-point streak as he got hung on 24 for a good portion of the third with a likely fourth quarter sit coming. But a few free throws did the job and he made it 35 straight, five away from MJ.
2) Reggie Jackson picked up his second career double-double, and in consecutive games. The last one was points and rebounds, with this one coming with a career-high 11 assists. Jackson hit 4-6 from the field and was 3-3 from 3 to finish with 16 points.
“Just playing aggressive, playing basketball like I’m in the park,” Jackson said. “Trying to believe in myself and understand I’ve put in a lot of work and just play instinctively. I think I’ve been thinking too much. Kinda hit a slump this season, so trying to get back to playing instinctive, stay aggressive and taking what the defense gives me.”
The difference right now for Jackson, at least from my perspective, is that he’s playing at a much better pace. He’s not forcing anything, and just making the simple passes and the simple plays. I think he got in trouble the last few weeks because he could see how good he is and started trying to impact the game a little too directly. Instead of letting it come to him naturally and trusting in his very tremendous teammates, he got a bit carried away. But he’s back in a rhythm and that’s when he’s at his best.
3) Caron Butler had his best game in a Thunder uniform going for 23 points on 10-19 shooting. He hit his first three shots, then missed a handful, then made a flurry in garbage time. The guy gets his shots up. It’s hard to get all that excited about this game tonight, because the bulk of the production wasn’t exactly important and there wasn’t any crunchtime to be had.
But Butler did do some positive things, particularly in the low post where he seems to be most effective. In smaller lineups he can create mismatches and that’s an area of focus the Thunder might need to key more on. I think they’ve used Butler, either by design or accident, as a spot-up shooter. That’s not really his game. He can be effective there, but he tends to be more successful playing inside out. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well so far, but both Scott Brooks and Durant stressed they’ve encouraged him to make sure he keeps shooting. And he’s obviously taken them very seriously about that.
4) The Thunder blew the Nuggets out with Russell Westbrook sitting. This game felt moderately dangerous, especially with Westbrook resting. Ty Lawson is a handful and Jackson’s defense is suspect. Lawson had 25 on just 11 shots plus seven assists, but overall the defensive job was solid. After the Nuggets put up 58 in the first half, they only got 15 in the third and 38 total in the second half.
With the Mavericks waiting — a team, as you probably remember, smoked OKC without Westbrook last week — having Westbrook for that game and handling business in this one is a job well done. And that’s about that.
- Considering the Thunder were coming off an emotional, difficult game against the Raptors, that’s bonus points for this one. Granted, they had two days off, but to put that one behind you and crush the Nuggets was solid work.
- Brooks: “We didn’t leave the passion in Canada.” Nice one, Scotty!
- Steven Adams was in double-figures for the first time since Jan. 4. He finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six steals? What? Yep, checks out. Six steals.
- Ibaka is a rare power forward that when he has a guard switched on him, instead of backing him down, he shoots over the top of him.
- On his ankle-breaker KD said, “Felt good. Felt like I was back at the park.”
- KD had five turnovers, with two coming on silly run-out passes. I thought if there was anything to nitpick about Durant’s game, it was him overpassing a bit at times. But that’s me just being ridiculous.
- Pregame, I’m eating the standard media meal in the dining area, and in walks Danilo Gallinari to have a plate. Breaking: He was having none of the apple bread pudding tonight.
- Nick Collison hit a corner 3. From the right corner, he’s 2-4. From the left, he’s 1-9. Stay right, Nick.
- Timofey Mozgov might have the best I-just-woke-up-for-a-nap hair in the NBA.
- KD stood up ready for his postgame availability and there was a little hesitation from the media horde, to which Durant said, “Come on, I got a plane to catch.” Pretttttttttty sure they aren’t leaving without you KD.
- Jeremy Lamb got 20 minutes tonight, but he also went 1-8 with two points. Not helping his own case much.
- Took him 19 minutes this time, but Andre Roberson fouled out again. He’s got a case of the Steven Adams right now.
- Westbrook sat tonight and will play tomorrow against the Mavs.
- Scott Brooks says the games Westbrook will sit have been pre-planned. But he said, “I love the mystery I’m causing, the anxiety I’m causing.”
- The Thunder’s PA guy went to a new level tonight, mispronouncing one of his own player’s names calling Andre Roberson “Andre Robertson.” What’s next? Calvin Dupont?
- Brooks on Thabo and Perk: “They’re definitely getting closer … I don’t know exactly when, but it is getting closer.”
- Brian Davis Line of the Night, via @keri_young: “How bout the world’s oldest man, Derek Fisher trying the fast break move.”
Next up: At the Mavs on Tuesday