First possession, not even 15 seconds into the game, Serge Ibaka postered Greg Stiemsma.
And the game was effectively over right there.
Some other stuff happened in between that and the final buzzer, like Russell Westbrook scoring 24 on 10-17 shooting with seven assists, Kevin Durant dropping an effortless 27 on 10-18 with five assists, and Ibaka flirting with a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks in just 30 minutes.
But this game was really over before Ibaka crammed all over Stiemsma, because Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith were all out for the Pelicans. Primarily without Davis, what limited chance the Pelicans had to hang with the Thunder was gone, but then again, sometimes the Thunder fall asleep. Then Brian Roberts rolled his ankle in the second quarter and Tyreke Evans tweaked a knee in the third and things got completely away from the battered Pelicans.
For the Thunder, it was an expected result, but also a good one. It narrows the magic number for the two-seed to just one, with the ability to lock that down with a Clipper loss on Saturday or a win in Indiana on Sunday. With that out of the way, the Thunder can rest players and make sure they’re as prepared as they can be for the postseason. That’s really the only takeaway to be had here. This game was more of a formality than anything else, just one that was on the schedule and had to be played despite us all knowing the forthcoming result.
Pregame, a reporter joked with Scott Brooks after his media availability that they better win by 20. To which Brooks responded incredulously, “You know how hard it is to win by 20 in this league?” Well, it looked pretty easy tonight.
It’s Friday, and the Thunder just destroyed the Pelicans. So let’s get on to the rest of this.
- Even with this being a pretty unremarkable game, there were some remarkable plays. That’s kind of typical of the Thunder, though. Even when the game is boring, it’s still entertaining.
- Ibaka’s chase down on Rivers was just filthy. At half court, you could see Ibaka just focus entirely on sprinting at the rim and you knew what was coming. Rivers should’ve just stopped and pulled up from 3. I think I’m serious.
- Austin Rivers on Ibaka: “Their defense is all on him. Without Ibaka, this is a whole different team.”
- KD on Ibaka: “He’s the best defensive guys in the league I think, for his position.”
- Durant picked up his 15th technical of the season, putting him one away from suspension. And because it got asked again 500 times, no, technicals do not carry over to the postseason. It’s a clean slate.
- Since Brooks isn’t too keen on it, so maybe KD is taking it in his own hands to get a little time off before the postseason. Hence, the technicals. Just a theory.
- First quarter, Westbrook (12), Ibaka (10) and Durant (six) scored 28 of OKC’s 30 points. Thabo Sefolosha has a fastbreak dunk for the other two.
- Speaking of, yes it was the Pelicans, but man, you can see the difference Thabo makes. He’s just an active player, and he length and effort on the defensive end set a great tone. Andre Roberson was OK at times, but Thabo does a lot of helpful things.
- Thabo on Ibaka: “It’s incredible, but at the same time we don’t want it to turn into a curse where we let guys go to the basket hoping that Serge will be there to block shots.”
- Third quarter the Thunder were headed for blowout city, so Westbrook busted out a fancy fast break dunk that he missed, then Durant threw a terrible lob to Ibaka. Scott Brooks was mad, so in response, he subbed in Nick Collison to reinstall some fundamentals into the game.
- KD heard some quality MVP chants when he was at the line in the third quarter.
- KD was asked about LeBron’s comments saying he’s pretty much the MVP: “As a player you love to have that respect from your peers, him being one of the greatest players to play. Very honored for guys to speak about me like that. Coach Rivers, Doc Rivers, I heard what he said about me last game and now LeBron. Just to have that respect from the guys you play against is more important than having respect from y’all right here.”
- Late in the fourth quarter, Durant grabbed the whiteboard and was sitting next to Scott Brooks, drawing up something. That Jeremy Lamb corner 3? That was KD’s play. Here’s one vote for KD taking over the offensive playcalling in crunchtime.
- Brooks on KD’s play: “That was a great play, but he forgot to add one other player on the board. He only had four on the board. He’s getting better. Last year he had only three.”
- Durant on his play: “Yeah that was all me right there. I’m trying to work on my future.” On Brooks saying he only had four players though, he said: “Nah that’s bullsh–.”
- KD was asked if he could see himself being a coach: “I hope so. We’ll see. I always hear the guys that can play a little bit aren’t smart enough to be coaches, but I’m learning. I’m learning from a lot of different guys. Trying to put myself in different shoes. We’ll see. I like to see guys get better, I enjoy watching the progress of the team.”
- With about four minutes left, Hasheem Thabeet checked in the game for Caron Butler, which left the Thunder with Steven Adams and Thabeet on the court together. It was amazing.
- Reggie Jackson, a quietly excellent night: 11 points, eight assists, four rebounds in 24 minutes. He’s playing some really good basketball right now.
- Just 11 turnovers tonight. Last three games, the Thunder have turned it over only 25 total times. That’s ridiculous, for them.
- Of all the highlights tonight, Perk running the floor and catching a fast break bounce pass from Westbrook and finishing on the other side of the basket was definitely the best.
- I can’t decide if Luke Babbitt looks like a 70s folk singer, or your weird eight-year-old cousin that’s way too into fireworks.
- Rivers smashed his head into a teammate’s knee so hard that he started stumbling the wrong way to his bench. And he stayed in the game. Concussion protocols, huh?
- The state of the New Orleans Pelicans: David Wesley, the team’s color commentator, had a fat dip in his lip the entire first half. Something to take the edge off, you know?
- The best way I could describe Williams’ pregame media availability was “required.” I don’t know I’ve ever seen a coach so won down by another disappointing season. Williams did have one interesting thing, where he said Durant is what Len Bias would’ve been.
- Of all the NBA referees, Ed Malloy is the most likely to practice his calls in front of a mirror in his underwear, right?
- Notable thing about tonight’s win: The Thunder clinched homecourt in the Finals against any Eastern opponent.
Next up: At the Pacers on Sunday