With the Thunder up 24 on the Lakers going into the fourth quarter, it seemed the only real drama remaining tonight was whether Kevin Durant’s streak of games with at least 25 points was going to end at the same spot it did three seasons ago at 29.
But with what transpired in Los Angeles last Sunday, and the fact the Lakers were knocking down a fair number of 3s, the game didn’t exactly feel entirely safe. So while Durant started the fourth quarter in what seemed to be in search of his 25 points, it was really just to make sure these pesky Lakers were entirely put away.
Durant scored 12 of his 29 in the first six minutes of the fourth, ensuring plenty of time for Hasheem Thabeet and company to mop things up. Durant was finishing off what Russell Westbrook started, who erupted for 15 of his 29 in the third, stretching OKC’s 14-point halftime lead to 24 heading into the fourth. He did it with Durant on the bench, who was in foul trouble, breaking out a classic Russ stretch, hitting 3s, racing to the rim, and banking in 30-foot heat checks and then laughing about it for four minutes.
“The game was kind of getting out of whack and I just felt it was the right time for me to either pass the ball, rebound or score, do whatever it is to help us get over the hump and keep us going,” Westbrook said.
With last Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Lakers, one in which they allowed 114 points, with 42 going to Jodie Meeks, the Thunder clearly were intent to not just avenge that, but to also follow up the positive momentum built from Tuesday’s win over the Rockets. They’re trying to turn a positive page as the postseason nears, and no setbacks were going to be acceptable.
“I’m always pissed about losing a game,” Westbrook said. “So I’m pretty sure everybody else was pretty mad too.”
The change tonight was in OKC’s defense, which held the Lakers to just 39.4 percent, and Meeks to 19 points on just 6-15 shooting. Scott Brooks made a change, sitting Perry Jones from the starting five and going with the more defensive-minded Andre Roberson. The rookie made his impact right from the start, stripping Meeks on the opening play which led to a Westbrook runout dunk.
“He just happened to get lucky the first time,” Westbrook said. “We ain’t worried about what Jodie Meeks does. We’re just worried about Thunder defense.”
What seems obvious, is the Thunder are settling back in to being their normal selves. The defense has picked up, Westbrook and Durant’s chemistry is Walter White good, and most importantly, they’re handling business.
It’s easy to have fun during a blowout like this, but it was hard not to notice all the good times going on with the Thunder bench. After Westbrook’s banked 3, he laughed boisterously about it for a solid few minutes. Then Durant and him joked together at the scoretable during an entire timeout. Caron Butler hit a 3 in the second half, and turned to the bench doing a terrible impression of Westbrook’s 3-holsters, pointing and laughing at him. And in the locker room postgame, Butler was singing something as he came out of the shower, which busted Durant and Westbrook up. These guys are having fun again. Because it’s pretty simple: Winning is fun.
- Probably the most notable thing from this one is that Jeremy Lamb appears to have fallen out of the rotation. He played seven minutes, all in garbage time. And he didn’t seem all that thrilled about it with his postgame comments. He talked for 54 seconds, was asked six questions, and said a total of 17 words in his answers.
- Here’s the transcript: Q: “How you feeling right now? I know you’re not getting a lot of time, but how’s your shot and your game feeling?” A: “Feel alright.” Q: When they added Caron did they talk to you about it or tell you your minutes might dip?” A: “No, they ain’t say nothing.” Q: “Are you frustrated by it? Motivated by it? Encourage you do to anything differently?” A: “Um, it encourages me to work hard, yeah.” Q: “You feel like you’re doing that?” A: “Yeah.” Q: “Reggie went through a similar situation a couple years ago with Fisher. Have you talked to him about it or anything?” A: “No.”
- And that was it. His demeanor screamed that he wasn’t pleased. I don’t blame him either. He’s been firmly planted in the rotation all season long, playing exceptionally well in his role, and now he’s essentially been trimmed out. He hasn’t shot the ball all that well lately, but Brooks has always given a long leash to guys like Fisher when their shot isn’t dropping. And with Brooks shaking the starting five tonight, going with Andre Roberson, Lamb had to feel slighted that he didn’t get the call. He’s probably thinking, “I sat all last season and went down to the D-League for this?”
- Brooks on Lamb: “Right now he just has to be ready to play. We have a lot of good players and sacrifices have to be made all throughout the team. And right now he’s not playing as many minutes as he has in the past. He’s a player that we love and that we’re going to keep working with and he just has to stay ready. There are going to be opportunities down the road and he has to continue to do what he’s done all year and do his job when called on.”
- What kind of annoys me about Lamb’s time getting cut isn’t about his offense, as much as it’s about his quality in the pick-and-roll as a passer, and as a help rebounder. He makes plays. He’s not just a shooter. He can do a lot to help a team outside of spotting up for 3s.
- Caron Butler was productive in 29 minutes though. He hit 4-10 from the floor — 3-9 from 3 — and finished with 11 points and six rebounds. He takes a few iffy shots, but man, he’s getting some looks.
- Serge Ibaka, terrific. In 29 minutes, 15 points on 6-9, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. Had he played in the fourth, he would’ve picked up a triple-double. Completely owned the defensive paint.
- The Thunder took another 30 3s tonight, pushing them to almost 28 a game since the All-Star break. Is this a intentional effort to take more, or just something that’s happened? “With Caron, he’s a good target. He can hang at the 3-point line and shoot with a quick release. And he can shoot with a hand in his face. That’s what he’s done his whole career. Tonight, he took nine 3s and I thought they were all good and all had a chance to go in. The way we’re passing the ball, we’re a much better shooting team … I don’t look at going in to the game, we want to get 30. We just want to get good shots.”
- Fun fact: The Thunder are now 5-0 with Andre Roberson in the starting lineup.
- Mike D’Antoni on why OKC controlled the boards so well: “I mean, the same as last time. Probably because they are longer, taller, stronger, faster and better jumpers and we missed a lot more shots.” D’Antoni basically just took a lot of words to say, “The Thunder basketballed a lot better than us.”
- Kind of wild that on the night they picked up their 48th win, the Thunder started two rookies.
- Speaking of, Steven Adams did a really solid job on Pau Gasol. He only got 12 minutes, but they were solid all around, and he had a couple nice catches and finishes working out of the pick-and-roll and sneaking in off the weakside.
- My favorite Russell Westbrook 3-holsters are the completely half ass ones. Like when he makes one in a blowout and there’s no emotion to it whatsoever. I love those.
- Reggie Jackson in 22 minutes: Eight points, eight rebounds and six assists. Not too bad at all.
- Ibaka’s Perk pose on his straightaway 3 >>>
- Reggie Williams made his debut. And this concludes your Reggie Williams update.
- It’s been 67 days since Kevin Durant did not score at least 25 points. It’s been nine days since LeBron has scored at least 25 points. #MVPFacebookStatus
Next up: Sunday at home against the Mavs