Durant and Westbrook Carry Thunder Past the Cavs

THUNDER REACTION

GAME 7 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:  W (106-91)

The Oklahoma City Thunder earned their fourth straight victory with a 106-91 win over the Cleveland Cavs at the Chesapeake Arena Sunday. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 53 points while Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin scored in double figures as well.

1st QUARTER GAME NOTES

The Cavs jumped out to a quick start hitting eight of their first 10 shots. However, Oklahoma City’s defense stiffened and the Thunder went on a 20-4 run to end the period with a 27-21 lead. Russell Westbrook led OKC with seven points, but turned the ball over three times. Deion Waiters and Kyrie Irving combined for 13 points for Cleveland.

2nd QUARTER GAME NOTES

OKC extended their lead in the second quarter thanks mostly to Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin. The “big 3” combined for 16 points in the second, Westbrook leading the way with six. OKC’s defense held Waiters and Irving to just five after they scored 13 in the opening period.

3rd QUARTER GAME NOTES

Cleveland pulled to within six points after the third quarter thanks to Kyrie Irving’s 10 points and two assists. KD and Westbrook combined for 16 points including a half-court, buzzer beating three from Westbrook. OKC ended the quarter shooting 55% from the field for the first 36 minutes.

4th QUARTER GAME NOTES

Westbrook opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run after hitting a buzzer-beater three at the end of the third quarter. Westbrook, Martin and Durant combined for 19 points in the period as they put the Cavs away. Cleveland never stood a chance with Irving on the bench to start the fourth. The Thunder ran away down the stretch and earned its fifth victory while handing the Cavs their fifth loss.

 

SCOTT BROOKS ON: What other things think about defense.

“I don’t know what other teams are focusing on, but I know that we’re playing our best basketball when we’re thinking defensive thoughts.”

SCOTT BROOKS ON: Getting to know Kevin Martin.

“His last two teams were rebuilding teams and he was their scorer. The rest of the league looks at players like that and think that they don’t play defense. He’s come in and played defense. I think it’s solid. He’s making players work and he gets his hands on a lot of basketballs. His defense is much better than his reputation.”

SCOTT BROOKS ON: Perkins playing better.

“He didn’t play any basketball this summer. He had two surgeries that prevented him from playing and he played just occasionally during training camp. A lot of it was non-contact and by himself. He’s still getting the feel, but it’s not about stats with him. We need his toughness.”

 

MY RANDOM NOTES

 

  • I feel like Westbrook is trying this season to be more of a facilitator. He is making better passes and running the offense better, but he’s still turning the ball over too much. If he could ever figure out the turnover issue there’s no telling what he could do to this league.  

 

  • K-Mart is a straight scorer. Byron Scott said before the game that he helps OKC because he’s a better scorer than James Harden, who he (Scott) claims to be a better “overall” player. I think Martin is perfect for the Thunder. He creates offense off the ball, which is huge because Westbrook and KD have to have the ball in their hands for the offense to work.

 

  • I’m noticing a ton of head fakes from OKC this year, especially Thabo Sefolosha. He’s gotten more and more confident in his shot over the last few seasons, but he’s still smart enough to know a little pump-fake can lead to better shot-selection.

 

  • Scott Brooks has favored the small lineups so far this season. Against Cleveland, KD ran the four with Collison at the five and Perk at the five. Brooks’ first substitution of the second half came when K-Mart entered the game for Serge with about four minutes left in the third.

 

  • Kyrie Irving is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the league. He can score with any point guard in the league including Westbrook. He’s quietly becoming one of the NBA’s youngest superstars after winning Rookie of the Year last season and once Cleveland builds around him, they will be a force in the East.

 

  • I still can’t figure out where Deion Waiters went after the first quarter. He scored seven points in the first seven minutes, but was stranded for the rest of the game. Cleveland has a bright future with their young backcourt, but it is obvious Waiters still has a thing or two to learn.

 

PLAYERS OF THE NIGHT

-RUSEELL WESTBROOK: 27 Points / 10 Assists / 6 Rebounds (POG)

-KEVIN DURANT: 26 Points / 8 Rebounds / 2 Assists

-KEVIN MARTIN: 16 Points / 5 Rebounds / 6-9 Shooting

 

-KYRIE IRVING: 20 Points / 5 Assists / 4 Rebounds

-ALONZO GEE: 18 Points / 2 Steals

-DANIEL GIBSON: 16 Points / 5 Rebounds / 1 Steal

NEXT GAME: Nov. 12 at DETROIT (0-7) 

Martin Filling Shoes Harden Left Behind

Filling the shoes of James Harden in Oklahoma City is no easy task. However, through two games, Kevin Martin has proved that he’s up to the challenge.

The biggest concern for the Thunder coming into the first week of the season was how long it would take Martin to mesh with his new team and his new role. Since the opening tip against San Antonio, Martin has been nothing short of consistent.

“When K-Mart comes in he just makes things happen,” Scott Brooks said after the Thunder’s win over Portland Friday. “It’s his ability to move without the ball. He’s not a one-dimensional scorer at all. He can score, he can get to the line and he can shoot three’s. He sets up his man as well as anybody on our team.”

Martin scored 15 points in Oklahoma City’s loss to the Spurs on Thursday and dropped 19 in their win over Portland Friday. Over the first two games he shot 6-9 from long range and 9-21 from the field overall. He has seven assists and just one turnover in over 60 minutes and has looked comfortable while playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“We’re very comfortable together,” Martin said. “We have such different skill sets. I can move without the ball and they (Durant and Westbrook) love to have the ball in their hands. That’s when I can come in and find a corner or just read how the defense is playing them. We have a great connection right now.”

It’s one thing to change teams and it’s another to change roles. Martin has been a starter for most of his career and has never had to take on the role of sixth man. He seems to be embracing the challenge for the Thunder and has had to do it while learning on the run.

“We’ve given him a speedy course on how we like to do things and he’s picking it up on the fly,” Brooks said. “He knows how to play and he does a lot of good things that we can use offensively and defensively.”

“When you score for a team that doesn’t have a lot of success, the natural thing to think is that he’s not a good defender,” Brooks said. “But he’s done defensive things that we like and he’s only going to get better with our group.”

Martin has embraced the role of coming off the bench so far this season, but he claims that the team has made the transition from starter to sixth man a smooth change.

“They’re making it easy for me,” Martin said. “You have to have a punch coming off the bench and that’s our biggest strength right now. We’ve got to keep gelling as a group and help get the first group of guys some rest when they come off the court. That’s our role off the bench.”

Martin may not have the skill set that Harden possesses offensively or defensively. However, one thing Martin does have is basketball intelligence and sometimes that can be more important than raw talent.

Aldrich Ready To Step Up For Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Thunder started their second week of practice on Monday and head coach Scott Brooks is focusing on the void left by Kendrick Perkins’ offseason groin surgery.

Perkins played injured for most of the end of the regular season and the playoffs. After the Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the Finals, Perkins quickly went under the knife in hopes of returning 100 percent for the opener this season. However, no center has much of a chance of staying in shape post-surgery, which means Cole Aldrich will be asked to play a more meaningful role.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how they perform in the exhibition season,” Brooks said after practice Monday. “It’s an important role for us. Our big guys are the defensive anchors, they create ball movement and they set screens. That’s what we’re asking Cole and the others to do right now.”

The Thunder traded for Aldrich’s draft rights after the New Orleans Hornets drafted him 11th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. Since then, Aldrich has spent most of his time on the D-League roster and at the end of Oklahoma City’s bench. He made his playoff debut last year and now looks to take on a more prominent role for the regular season.

“I don’t feel any pressure myself,” Aldrich said after Monday’s practice. “I come in every day and work hard and I’ve gotten a lot better. That’s all you can do.”

The Thunder let go of Nazr Mohammed in the offseason, leaving a spot open at the backup center position. Aldrich is expected to fill the minutes Mohammed left behind, but with most of his experience coming in garbage time, he still has a lot to learn.

“The biggest thing defensively is the pick-and-roll,” Aldrich explained. “Everybody runs them and about 70 percent of all possessions has a pick-and-roll. If you can master that you’re going to be a lot more effective.”

Aldrich said that defending players like Russell Westbrook in practice makes his job in games much easier. Defending the pick-and-roll is pivotal in the NBA. Last season Oklahoma City figured out a way to defend the offense against San Antonio and it ultimately led to their trip to the Finals. Aldrich will be asked to learn the position and the defense quickly, something his teammates aren’t worried about.

“Cole’s been very aggressive,” Daequan Cook said. “His main role is to set screens, roll, rebound and run the floor and he’s been doing a great job and he continues to get better every day. It’s not my spot to say, but I’m ready to see what happens.”