Thunder Respond To Being Pushed To The Brink With Best Postseason Performance So Far

Thunder Respond To Being Pushed To The Brink With Best Postseason Performance So Far

I’ve noticed this all through the regular season. It’s the reason the Thunder gave up so many 20+-point leads during the regular season, and is the reason the Thunder experienced a 3-2 deficit in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. There is so much hype surrounding this current Thunder squad that they have a tendency to buy into it themselves at times. It’s understandable. You hear over and over again how good your team is, how good the individual players making up the squad are, and how the GM is building a solid winner, and you can’t help but let some of it go to your head. Buying into hype isn’t always a bad thing. You have to have a certain level of confidence when you hit the court, or a loss is as good as guaranteed. The problem is that you can buy into the hype too much, and start taking things like NBA Championships as a lock before you actually obtain it. This is why the Thunder don’t always play up to their potential. Sometimes they act as if an NBA Championship is a mere formality, treating it as though it’s a guarantee at season’s end.

All three major Thunder contributors are pictured here. Westbrook dropped 25 points for the game, Reggie Jackson was good for 16 off of the Thunder bench, and Kevin Durant's 36-point, 10-rebound double-double marked his best peformance of the series to this point.

All three major Thunder contributors are pictured here. Russell Westbrook dropped 25 points for the game, Reggie Jackson was good for 16 off of the Thunder bench, and Kevin Durant’s 36-point, 10-rebound double-double marked his best performance of the series to this point.

The thing about the NBA is that, especially in today’s NBA, nothing comes easy. Sure, back in the older days, some things were pretty much a formality. Red Auerbach’s Celtics teams winning NBA Championships throughout the late-50s & mid-60s became a formality. And a few decades later, Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams in the 90s were pretty much a lock for a title, much to the chagrin of legends John Stockton and Karl Malone. But even though the Heat have taken the last two titles, I’m not sure if you can call them a lock this year. One key injury could completely derail that team.

Zach Randoplh tries to back down Kendrick Perkins. Perkins' defense was a major contributor in Randolph only scoring 16 for the game.

Zach Randolph tries to back down Kendrick Perkins. Perkins’ defense was a major contributor in Randolph only scoring 16 for the game.

Last night’s Thunder performance was “night-and-day different” from the last 4 outings. They were spacing the floor much better on offense, there was great ball movement, much better shot selection, and they played like a team with something to prove.  One thing I’ve noticed about this Thunder team is that they sometimes need a good, solid hit to the mouth before they start taking things seriously. It’s a lot like when I did amateur boxing. I was always one of those guys who didn’t really get moving until I took a good one to the chin. Then I was like, “Oh yeah. I’m in a fight right now. I’d better pick it up.”

All of the major Grizzlies contributors are in frame here. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points total, while Tony Allen dropped 13 bench points, and James Johnson contributed 15 additional bench points.

All of the major Grizzlies contributors are in frame here. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points total, while Tony Allen dropped 13 bench points, and James Johnson contributed 15 additional bench points.

And pick it up is exactly what Kevin Durant did in the face of a disparaging headline from The Oklahoman that referred to him as “Mr. Unreliable”. From my standpoint, I don’t see why The Oklahoman issued an apology. As it came to this series, they weren’t wrong. Some people took it as an attack on Durant’s character or entire body of work in the NBA. I actually find it sad that The Oklahoman had to clarify that the headline was only in reference to his performance in the Grizzlies series, which even Durant failed to disagree with, saying:

Johnson decides fouling Durant just isn't worth it.

Johnson decides fouling Durant just isn’t worth it.

“That’s what they’re supposed to write. I didn’t come through for the team.”

Honestly, I love the looks on their faces. They play better when they have something to prove.

Honestly, I love the looks on their faces. They play better when they have something to prove.

And if the headline is what it took to wake him up, then so be it. I personally think Durant plays better when he has a chip on his shoulder anyway. Most players do. Give fantastic NBA players something to prove, and they’ll more often than not, do just that.

Point Guard vs. Center? You know Westbrook isn't afraid of the challenge.

Point Guard vs. Center? You know Westbrook isn’t afraid of the challenge.

Hell, Durant put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double playing with that chip on his shoulder. If disparaging headlines gets Durant to play this well, maybe the next headline should read, “KD Pushes Down Little Old Ladies Just Trying To Cross The Street. Is The NBA Stardom Going To His Head?” Heck, he might go off for 50 points after reading that one. The headline wasn’t even about Russell Westbrook, but it seemed to help his play too, as he took a step back in the 1st quarter to let Durant make his case. That ended up netting Durant 14 points in that one 12-minute period. (Interesting note: The Thunder are 5-0 in the postseason when Durant scores 14 or more in the 1st quarter.) But even in taking that step back, Westbrook still finished his night with 25 points. Reggie Jackson’s 16 points off of the bench were a major help as well.

Beno Udrih tries to run with Jackson.

Beno Udrih tries to run with Jackson.

And in a good coaching move, Scott Brooks opted to start Caron Butler over Thabo Sefolosha. In fact, Sefolosha never saw the floor. Yet, the defense was as good as I’ve seen all series long, and Butler’s presence gave this Thunder starting 5 a 4th scoring option. This lineup change alone is most likely how the Thunder were getting such good floor spacing last night, because all three perimeter players were 3-point threats. You can’t pack the paint in that scenario. And speaking of paint performances, hats off to Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams for the way they frustrated the Grizzlies’ paint offense last night. Ibaka’s 4 blocks were actually outnumbered by Adams’ 5 from off of the Thunder bench. You give Adams a couple more years of development, and I think he ends up filling in the missing piece to a Thunder title run.

It wasn't even Steven Adams' house. He told Tony Allen to get that mess out of here anyway.

It wasn’t even Steven Adams’ house. He told Tony Allen to get that mess out of here anyway.

And the Grizzlies’ offense in the paint found themselves increasingly frustrated at the Ibaka/Adams block party that was taking place last night. Marc Gasol was held to 17 points, while Zach Randolph managed 16. Neither had a double-double to speak of, which is rather unusual when you talk about that big man duo. Tony Allen and James Johnson were able to combine for 28 points off of the Grizzlies bench to no avail (Johnson: 15, Allen: 13).

Westbrook takes the wide-open shot.

Westbrook takes the wide-open shot.

I said in the series preview not to be surprised if this went to 7 games. This series has gone almost exactly as I envisioned it, with the only difference being that I had the winners of Games 5 and 6 switched. Oddly, last night was the first Game 6 loss by the Grizzlies in franchise playoff history (They are now 4-1 all-time.). That’s the most likely reason you heard a few Thunder fans lose faith in the squad’s ability to extend the series. Plus, this 2-game losing streak at the Grindhouse comes off of the heels of a 15-game Grindhouse winning streak. Now, even though the series just turned into a winner-take-all matchup, I feel like it’s the Grizzlies’ back against the wall after they just got handed the most lopsided defeat of the series. Game 7 comes to us from The Peake tomorrow night at 7pm CST. So far, it looks like TNT has acquired the rights to broadcast. I’ll let you know if anything changes TV-wise. One thing that is certain, however, is that the matchup will definitely be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal. You know you don’t want to miss this one.

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Michael Jordan’s Streak Falls, But So Do The Thunder As Suns Fight For Playoff Lives.

Michael Jordan’s Streak Falls, But So Do The Thunder As Suns Fight For Playoff Lives.
PJ Tucker squares off with Kevin Durant. Durant's 38-point, 11-rebound performance wasn't enough to secure the victory. Tucker finished with 22 points.

PJ Tucker squares off with Kevin Durant. Durant’s 38-point, 11-rebound performance wasn’t enough to secure the victory. Tucker finished with 22 points.

Kevin Durant’s streak of 25+-point games is officially at 41, eclipsing Michael Jordan’s streak, and posting the longest such streak of the last 50 years.

Marcus Morris throws down 2 of his 10 points.

Marcus Morris throws down 2 of his 10 points.

That stated, it didn’t help them secure the win against a scrappy Suns team who were on the outside looking in as one of the 5 teams battling for the remaining 4 playoff spots in the Western Conference. Their 45-31 record was identical to the Grizzlies’ record coming in, but the Grizz won every head-to-head against the Suns this season, giving them the tie-breaker edge.

Markieff Morris puts one over Caron Butler. Markieff ended his night with 10 points.

Markieff Morris puts one over Caron Butler. Markieff ended his night with 10 points.

This was a fairly close game most of the way, given there were 10 ties and 9 lead changes. Although the Thunder could only establish a 5-point lead at best, while the Suns pushed their lead to 14 at one point. What cost the Thunder in this game was their inability to score in the game’s final 2 1/2 minutes. A Durant 3-pointer was the only made Thunder bucket in the last 2:39 of the game. The Thunder were actually up 112-111 until the scoring drought, which allowed the Suns to finish the game on an 11-3 run that sealed the win. The final was 122-115, which moved the Suns to 46-35. Coupled with the Grizzlies’ 112-92 loss to the Spurs that same evening, it moved them 1 game ahead for the Western Conference’s final playoff seed. The Spurs win also essentially locked them into the #1 seed. It wasn’t technically official, but the Thunder are simply being asked too much to overtake the Spurs for the #1 spot this late in the season.

Gerald Green pops over Derek Fisher. Green finished with an astounding 24 bench points.

Gerald Green pops over Derek Fisher. Green finished with an astounding 24 bench points.

Durant’s 38-point, 11-rebound double-double was impressive, but ultimately failed to get the W. Russell Westbrook contributed 33 points, Serge Ibaka posted 11 points, and Reggie Jackson was also good for 11 from off of the Thunder bench.

Reggie Jackson tries to blow by Eric Bledsoe. Jackson finished with 11 from the Thunder bench. Bledsoe posted 18 points.

Reggie Jackson tries to blow by Eric Bledsoe. Jackson finished with 11 from the Thunder bench. Bledsoe posted 18 points.

The thing is, 6 different Suns players scored in double figures, and 3 of them were bench players. Goran Dragic’s 26 points led the Suns’ scorers, followed by PJ Tucker’s 22, and Eric Bledsoe’s 18 from the staring 5. The bench saw Gerald Green drop an impressive 24 points, while the Morris brothers, (Markieff and Marcus) managed 10 points apiece.

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic celebrate with Ibaka and Westbrook in frame. Dragic's 26 points led all Suns scorers. Westbrook's 33 points were to no avail, and Ibaka finished with 11.

Bledsoe and Goran Dragic celebrate with Ibaka and Westbrook in frame. Dragic’s 26 points led all Suns scorers. Westbrook’s 33 points were to no avail, and Ibaka finished with 11.

Sorry I’ve been running so far behind on these. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately, and it’s all I can do to find the time to smash these out these days. Coming up shortly, I recap the California back-to-back. Stay Tuned.

One Streak Dies As Another Is Matched In 1-1 Texas Back-To-Back. NBA Northwest Division Championship Still Clinched Due To Blazer Loss To Suns.

One Streak Dies As Another Is Matched In 1-1 Texas Back-To-Back. NBA Northwest Division Championship Still Clinched Due To Blazer Loss To Suns.

The Rockets put a damper on what might have otherwise been the definitive Thunder back-to-back.

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“Air Congo” takes to the skys. Serge Ibaka had an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Spurs, and went off for 27 points against the Rockets.

The big story was streaks. Thursday the Spurs brought their 19-game winning streak to The Peake to see if they could make it 20 straight wins. They looked like they were well on their way early.

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Nick Collison pokes a potential rebound away from Boris Diaw as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson, and Patty Mills look on. Durant was good for 28 points against the Spurs, and a 28-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Rockets. Jackson dropped 14 points against the Spurs and 17 against the Rockets. Leonard was good for 17 against the Thunder, while Mills’ 21 off of the bench led all Spurs scorers.

The Thunder were up 6-5 with just under two-and-a-half minutes elapsed when the Spurs sparked an 15-3 run to establish a 20-9 lead with 4:16 to play in the 1st. The Spurs lead was 10 (22-12) with 3:15 left in the 1st when the Thunder ended the quarter on a 10-2 run to pull within 2 (24-22) at the end of 1.

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Jackson skys over Marco Belinelli.

The 2nd quarter was all back-and-forth, with the Spurs only able to add 1 to their lead by the halftime buzzer (51-48).

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Russell Westbrook attacks Tim Duncan head on. Westbrook was good for 27 points against the Spurs, while Duncan scored 17 points for the Spurs.

The 3rd quarter looked to be more of the same, as the Spurs were up 4 (56-52) an even two minutes in. That’s when the Thunder sparked another run, this one a 15-4 run that gave the Thunder some breathing room (69-60) with 4:13 left in the 3rd. The Thunder would take a similar 9-point advantage (81-70) into the 4th quarter.

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Durant shoots through the triple-team of Duncan, Leonard, and Danny Green. Green ended his evening with 11 points.

The Thunder were obviously aware of how dangerous this Spurs squad can be, so they did not let up. They started another run, this one started by a Kevin Durant running jumper with 4.9 seconds left in the 3rd. It turned into an 11-2 run that put the Thunder up 16 (89-73) with 8:35 to play. The thing about the Spurs is, they don’t go away quietly. With 7:13 left, and the score 91-77 in the Thunder’s favor, the Spurs hit on an 8-0 run to pull within 8 (91-83) while only shaving one minute off of the clock. The Thunder would then score the next 6 points to give them the breathing room they needed (97-83), and they would finish with a 106-94 victory that puts the Thunder at 55-19, while dropping the Spurs to 59-17. This doesn’t hurt the Spurs too bad though. They almost have the #1 seed locked up in the West at this point.

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Durant puts Belinelli and Leonard on a poster.

Durant dropped 28 points while Russell Westbrook added 27. Serge Ibaka had an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double, and Reggie Jackson dropped 14 points off of the Thunder bench.

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Durant defends Duncan.

Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard posted 17 points apiece, while Danny Green added 11. But their leading scorer came from off of the bench, as Patty Mills was good for 21 points.

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Durant celebrates the continuation of his streak, and the destruction of the Spurs’.

This game was followed up by a road trip to the Toyota Center in Houston, TX for one more showdown with the Rockets. The Rockets had a lot to play for Friday night. They were in the midst of a 3-game losing skid, yet a win would punch their postseason ticket for sure, as playoffs would be clenched. Unfortunately, they were going to have to try to get that done without Dwight Howard, who would be out with a strained left ankle.

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Durant squares off with Chandler Parsons. Parsons scored 23 points against the Thunder.

You could tell they were playing with competitive fire too, as they jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead in less than three minutes. The Thunder answered back with a 7-0 run that pulled them to within 3 (14-11) with 5:42 on the clock, but the Rockets shot right back with a 9-3 run that pushed the lead back out to 9 (23-14) with 3:28 to play in the 1st. Thankfully, the Thunder were still able to close the gap to 4 (27-23) after 1.

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Durant lays it in as Caron Butler and Terrence Jones watch from behind. Butler posted 13 points off of the Thunder bench, while Jones had a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.

The Thunder had pulled within 3 once again at the 9:23 mark of the 2nd quarter, only to be pushed back once again by an 11-0 run that established a 14-point Rocket advantage (43-29). That was when the Thunder started a huge run that went into the 3rd quarter.

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Butler goes for 3.

It was a 34-14 run that allowed the Thunder to finally take the lead (63-57) with 7:29 remaining in the 3rd. The Rockets had cut the lead to 2 (73-71) with 4:29 left in the quarter when the Thunder hit on an 8-2 mini-run that pushed their lead to 8 (81-73) with 2:52 left in the period. Down 8 (84-76) with 2:02 left in the 3rd, the Rockets sparked a run that went into the 4th quarter.

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Jackson tries to get around Omer Asik. Asik didn’t score double digits, but pulled down 12 rebounds in Dwight Howard’s absence.

It became a 15-2 run that took the lead back (91-86) with 9:55 to play. The Thunder would respond with a 10-2 run that took the lead back for them (96-93) with 6:47 left on the game clock. The Rockets then responded with the run of the game that mattered, as an 11-2 run established a 104-98 Rockets lead that they would not relinquish. They defended their house via a 111-107 victory that jumps them to a playoff-clinching 50-25, while dropping the Thunder to 55-20. The Thunder are now 3.5 games behind the Spurs with 7 games remaining. The good news is that the Trail Blazers lost to the Suns 109-93 that same evening. With the Blazers 7 games behind the Thunder, 7 Thunder games remaining, and the Thunder holding the tie-breaker edge via the better in-conference record, the Thunder are officially the NBA Northwest Division Champions once again.

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Despite the loss, KD and MJ are now on equal footing in the scoring department. Now KD just needs the rings.

Durant gave a solid 28-point, 12-rebound double-double effort. He is now tied with the one and only Michael Jordan for the longest 25+-point streak of the last 50 years. Ibaka exploded for 27 points, while Jackson was good for 17. Caron Butler and Jeremy Lamb even combined for 25 off of the Thunder bench (Butler: 13, Lamb: 12).

James Harden, Terrence Jones, Nick Collison

James Harden throws down. Harden’s 39 points led all scorers.

Although former Thunder 6th man James Harden led all scorers Friday night with his 39-point outing. Chandler Parsons dropped 23, and Terrence Jones had a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double. Omer Asik pulled down 12 rebounds filling in for Howard as the Rockets used a mere 8-man rotation for the game.

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Ibaka attempts to shoot over Asik.

Durant looks to bring Jordan’s streak down at the US Airways Center tonight against the aforementioned Suns. The season series is currently deadlocked at 1-1, with the Thunder taking the Nov. 3rd meeting 103-96, and the Suns returning the favor 128-122 exactly one month ago. The Suns will be especially dangerous tonight, seeing as 5 teams are currently fighting for 4 remaining Western Conference playoff spots, and the Suns are one of those 5. And despite having an identical record as the Grizzlies at 45-31, their 0-3 record against the Grizzlies this year currently has them on the outside looking in. Tonight’s game tips off at 8pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.

Thunder Easily Handle Basement-Dwelling Jazz

Thunder Easily Handle Basement-Dwelling Jazz

This is another one that should be very short and sweet. This, like the Kings game, was another in which the Thunder never trailed. But, unlike the Kings game, the Jazz couldn’t even manage to tie this one at any point. The Thunder were already up 11-0 by the time the Jazz scored their first bucket at the 7:34 mark of the 1st quarter. Yes. The Jazz were actually held scoreless for nearly 5 1/2 minutes, and were held to a total of 9 1st quarter points as a team. The Thunder led by as much as 28 (84-56 with 4:04 remaining in the 3rd quarter).

Russell Westbrook contorts his body as Enes Kanter defends. Both Gordon Heyward and Derrick Favors aren't in position to provide help. Westbrook finished with 19 points, as Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. Hayward added 16 points, and Favors pulled down 13 boards.

Russell Westbrook contorts his body as Enes Kanter defends. Both Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors aren’t in position to provide help. Westbrook finished with 19 points, as Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. Hayward added 16 points, and Favors pulled down 13 boards.

With the lead still 28 (86-58), and 3:31 left in the 3rd, the Jazz sparked a 19-3 run to pull within 12 (89-77) with 26.7 seconds left in the 3rd. That’s when the Thunder decided they’d had enough, and sparked a 17-7 run of their own to push the lead back to 22 (106-84) with 5:49 to play, effectively shutting down any chance at a Jazz comeback. Once all was said and done, the Thunder had taken a 116-96 victory that jumps their record to 53-19, while dropping the Jazz to a dismal 23-51.

Kevin Durant shoots over both Hayward and Alec Burks. Durant scored 31 for the game, while Burks added 10 from the Jazz bench.

Kevin Durant shoots over both Hayward and Alec Burks. Durant scored 31 for the game, while Burks added 10 from the Jazz bench.

Kevin Durant’s 31-point performance now has him two games away from tying MJ’s mark of 40-straight set back in the ’86-’87 season, which is made even more impressive when you factor in that Durant was 1 assist shy of a double-double. Russell Westbrook dropped 19 points, while Serge Ibaka posted 17. Caron Butler scored 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Durant drives past Richard Jefferson. Jefferson ended his night with 17 points.

Durant drives past Richard Jefferson. Jefferson ended his night with 17 points.

Enes Kanter posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Jazz, while Richard Jefferson added 17 points, and Gordon Hayward added 16. Derrick Favors only had 8 points, but pulled down 13 rebounds, and Alec Burks was good for 12 points off of the Jazz bench.

Durant and Caron Butler celebrate. Butler dropped 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Durant and Caron Butler celebrate. Butler dropped 15 off of the Thunder bench.

Tonight, the top two teams in the Western Conference square off, as the Thunder welcome the Spurs into The Peake to take a crack at their current 19-game winning streak. Keep in mind, the Thunder are currently 4 games behind the Spurs for the top seed in the West. The Thunder already snapped an 11-game Spurs winning streak back on 11-27, and are 3-0 against them this season. This will easily be the toughest test to that winning streak. It’s a game with playoff seeding implications, so TNT is featuring it as the opening game of their double-header, starting at 7pm CST. You can also catch the action via Fox Sports Oklahoma, and WWLS The Sports Animal.

Thunder Now 11-0 Against The Kings In The OKC Era

Thunder Now 11-0 Against The Kings In The OKC Era
Caron Butler, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Jermy Lamb obscured by Durant's left arm in the background. Durant was good for 29 points, Westbrook for 18, and Lamb hit 13 off of the Thunder bench.

Caron Butler, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Jeremy Lamb obscured by Durant’s left arm in the background. Durant was good for 29 points, Westbrook for 18, and Lamb hit 13 off of the Thunder bench.

This postgame should be very short and sweet. There’s not much to go over in this one. The Kings never could take the lead in this affair, and only managed to tie the game twice, the last of which was a 4-4 tie at the 9:57 mark of the 1st quarter. The Thunder at one point pushed the lead to 32 points (85-53 with 10:07 to play) before settling for a 94-81 victory that pushes the Thunder’s record to 53-19 while dropping the Kings to a dismal 25-47. Although the Kings didn’t have anything left to play for anyway, seeing as they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention for several days now.

Durant heads to the rack, only to be cut off by Jason Thompson. Travis Outlaw looks for a blindside steal. Thompson's 10-point, 14-rebound performance from the Kings bench was the only double-double for either team. Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points off of the Kings bench himself.

Durant heads to the rack, only to be cut off by Jason Thompson. Travis Outlaw looks for a blindside steal. Thompson’s 10-point, 14-rebound performance from the Kings bench was the only double-double for either team. Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points off of the Kings bench himself.

Kevin Durant dropped 29, marking the 37th straight contest with 25 or more points. Three more games of that production will tie Michael Jordan’s streak of 40 games. If he beats, or even ties that streak, I don’t see “King James” taking the MVP from him this season. Russell Westbrook was good for 18 points himself, and on-again, off-again Jeremy Lamb was on for this one, scoring 13 points.

Hasheem Thabeet defends against an attempted Ray McCallum lay-in as Quincy Acy looks on. McCallum's 18 points rendered him the Kings' leading scorer. Acy didn't double in points, but was good for 13 rebounds.

Hasheem Thabeet defends against an attempted Ray McCallum lay-in as Quincy Acy looks on. McCallum ended the game with 13 points. Acy didn’t double in points, but was good for 13 rebounds.

Kings starters Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum scored 18 and 13 points respectively, but the Kings got more production from their bench. Jason Thompson had a 10 point, 14 rebound double-double (the only double-double on either squad), Travis Outlaw dropped 17 points, and Quincy Acy pulled down 13 rebounds.

Ben McLemore tries to turn the corner on Lamb. McLemore's 18 rendered him the Kings' leading scorer.

Ben McLemore tries to turn the corner on Lamb. McLemore’s 18 rendered him the Kings’ leading scorer.

Again, not much here. The Utah game has already been played, so that postgame will be coming up very shortly (as in sometime this evening, hopefully before the Spurs game starts). Stay Tuned.

Westbrook Factor Shows In Loss To Mavericks Versus Win Over Bulls

Westbrook Factor Shows In Loss To Mavericks Versus Win Over Bulls

Sunday’s 109-86 loss to the Mavericks marked the first loss in 12 games for the Thunder in “The Battle Of I-35”. But when you’re playing without 60% of your starting lineup, wins are not very easy to come by. Just ask the Lakers. Even Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle made mention of Russell Westbrook’s absence by saying,

Shawn Marion puts one over Kevin Durant while an open Samuel Dalembert watches from the perimeter. Durant led all scorers with 30 points, but Marion's 19 points, coupled with Dalembert's 10 helped seal a win for the Mavericks.

Shawn Marion puts one over Kevin Durant while an open Samuel Dalembert watches from the perimeter. Durant led all scorers with 30 points, but Marion’s 19 points, coupled with Dalembert’s 10 helped seal a win for the Mavericks.

“They were down a great player so we caught a break there. You still gotta go out and play. They’ve had a great record with and without Westbrook. It’s a game we needed, so it’s a plus for us.”

Dirk Nowitzki with the faeaway over Reggie Jackson. Nowitzki posted 17 points, while Jackson had 13 filling in for Russell Westbrook.

Dirk Nowitzki with the fadeaway over Reggie Jackson. Nowitzki posted 17 points, while Jackson had 13 filling in for Russell Westbrook.

I noticed what Carlisle failed to mention was the fact that the great record amassed without Westbrook was in large part due to the suffocating defense provided by Thabo Sefolosha on the perimeter and Kendrick Perkins in the paint. It has been a struggle to win consistently without these two defenders. The Thunder are 5-3 this March, playing the entire month without them. And the Thunder are expected to be without both defenders for essentially the remainder of the season. The Thunder have been unable to string together three wins in a row without them, and may now have serious trouble reclaiming the Western Conference’s #1 seed from the Spurs, as Sunday’s loss puts them two full games behind. Not only are the Thunder struggling to win consistently, but the Spurs are doing exactly that, currently riding an 11-game winning streak. The Mavs jumped to 40-27 with their victory while dropping the Thunder to 47-18. The Mavs have gone 1-1 since Sunday’s night’s win, currently putting them at 41-28.

Jose Calderon scores 2 of his 16 points takig advantage of an open lane to the basket. Nick Collison, Jackson, Serge Ibaka, and Durant were all caught off-guard. Calderon dropped 16 points, while Ibaka added 19 for the Thunder.

Jose Calderon scores 2 of his 16 points taking advantage of an open lane to the basket. Nick Collison, Jackson, Serge Ibaka, and Durant were all caught off-guard. Calderon dropped 16 points, while Ibaka added 19 for the Thunder.

The fact that the Mavericks had five players in double figures illustrates the struggle for the Thunder defense, as sadly, the Mavs had the game pretty much sealed by the end of the 1st quarter. Not that they had the game out of reach, but the Thunder D just couldn’t get stops to save their lives. Shawn Marion led the Mavs’ scoring surge with 19 points, followed by Dirk Nowitzki’s 17, Jose Calderon’s 16, and Samuel Dalembert’s 10. Vince Carter also added 18 points off of the Mavs bench, making him the 27th player in NBA history to reach the 27,000-point plateau. He currently has 27,010 for his career.

Vince Carter's 18 points off of the Maverick bench made him the 27th player in NBA history to eclipse the 27,000-point mark.

Vince Carter’s 18 points off of the Maverick bench made him the 27th player in NBA history to eclipse the 27,000-point mark.

Kevin Durant’s 30 may have led all scorers, but it simply wasn’t enough to seal the deal. Serge Ibaka added 19, while Reggie Jackson dropped 13. The problem for the Thunder was that they only got 22 points out of 6 bench players, meaning more-known-for-his-defense Ibaka nearly outscored the entire Thunder bench.

Westbrook attempts the floater over Carlos Boozer. Westbrook's 17 points were more than enough to counter the 12-point 11-rebound double-double posted by Boozer.

Westbrook attempts the floater over Carlos Boozer. Westbrook’s 17 points were more than enough to counter the 12-point 11-rebound double-double posted by Boozer.

Westbrook returns for the road game against the Bulls at United Center, and the Thunder respond with a tremendous defensive effort against the Bulls. Make no mistake, the Bulls made them work for it. Clinging to a 1-point lead (76-75) with 10:01 to play, the Thunder hit on a 13-0 run that gave them an 89-75 lead with a mere 3:45 left on the clock. That run sealed the deal for the Thunder, as they went on to win 97-85. This win has the Thunder currently sitting at 48-18, while dropping the Bulls to 37-30, although last night’s victory over the 76ers has the Bulls currently sitting at 38-30.

Ibaka goes for 2 of his 15 points over Joakim Noah. Noah finished with 12 boards, but only 9 points.

Ibaka goes for 2 of his 15 points over Joakim Noah. Noah finished with 12 boards, but only 9 points.

NBA.com’s Kent McDill said it best about the Thunder’s decision to rest Westbrook during back-to-backs,

Caron Butler did much better Monday night, posting 12 points off of the Thunder bench. Here he shoots over Mike Dunleavy, who added 11 points to the Bulls' total.

Caron Butler did much better Monday night, posting 12 points off of the Thunder bench. Here he shoots over Mike Dunleavy, who added 11 points to the Bulls’ total.

“If resting Westbrook for one game on a back-to-back allows him to provide a 17-9-9 game, then the plan makes sense.”

Durant throws it down. Durant had a 35-point, 12-rebound double-double Monday night against the Bulls.

Durant throws it down. Durant had a 35-point, 12-rebound double-double Monday night against the Bulls.

Westbrook’s near-triple-double, including 17 points, wasn’t even the night’s standout performance. Durant posted a 35-point, 12-rebound double-double, extending his streak of 25+-point games to 32. This has him 8 short of Micheal Jordan’s record of 40 straight. Ibaka was good for 15 points of his own, and unlike the Mavs contest, two bench scorers alone were good for 23 points (Jackson: 11, Caron Butler: 12).

Durant loses the handle to D.J. Augustin as Jimmy Butler tries to avoid the foul. Butler had 13 points, while Augustin contributed 10 off of the Bulls bench.

Durant loses the handle to D.J. Augustin as Jimmy Butler tries to avoid the foul. Butler had 13 points, while Augustin contributed 10 off of the Bulls bench.

The Bulls gave good effort, as evidenced by Carlos Boozer’s 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. Joakim Noah added 12 boards, but only 9 total points. Jimmy Butler dropped 13 points, and Mike Dunleavy dropped 11. Oddly enough, the lead scorer came off of the bench, as Taj Gibson was good for 16 points. Another bench player, D.J. Augustin, was good for 10.

Jackson battles Taj Gibson for the lose ball. Gibson was actually the Bulls' leading scorer, dropping 16 points off of the Bulls bench.

Jackson battles Taj Gibson for the loose ball. Gibson was actually the Bulls’ leading scorer, dropping 16 points off of the Bulls bench.

Another back-to-back looms starting tonight. 6pm CST will denote tip-off for the Thunder-Cavaliers game, emanating from Quicken Loans Arena. The Thunder look to even the score, as the Cavs took Round 1 by a score of 114-104 at The Peake on Feb. 26th. The Cavs, on the other hand, are looking for the series sweep. Tomorrow night will have the Thunder traveling to Air Canada Centre for another revenge game, this one against the Raptors, who claimed the first match-up 104-98 at The Peake. Therefore, the Thunder are looking to avoid two potential series sweeps in road games to “lesser teams” on back-to-back nights. Not only do both games feature the same 6pm CST tip-off time, but you can also catch both games via the usual suspects: Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

Thunder Leave No Doubts In Thorough Rout Of Lakers

Thunder Leave No Doubts In Thorough Rout Of Lakers

Well, this one should be pretty short and sweet. Jodie Meeks’ 3-pointer following a Russell Westbrook dunk gave the Lakers their only lead of the game (3-2) less than a minute into it. 5 unanswered Thunder points swung the lead in the Thunder’s direction for good (7-3). While the Lakers tried to hang early, only down 3 (15-12) with 6:35 to play in the 1st, the Thunder went on a 22-7 run that extended into the 2nd quarter, giving them a 37-19 lead with 10:30 to play in the first half.

Kevin Durant shoots as Wesley Johnson gts caught on camera not playing defense. Durant's 29 points tied Westbrook for leaing scorer, while Johnson added 10 points to the Lakers' final score.

Kevin Durant shoots as Wesley Johnson gets caught on camera not playing defense. Durant’s 29 points tied Westbrook for leading scorer, while Johnson added 10 points to the Lakers’ final score.

The Lakers would then hit on a 9-2 run to pull themselves within 11 (39-28), only to be pushed back once again by a 15-4 Thunder run that extended the Thunder’s lead to 22 (54-32). The score was 59-38 with less than 2 minutes until halftime when the Lakers sparked an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 13 (59-46) with just over six seconds until the halftime buzzer. Although a foul by Ryan Kelly allowed Westbrook a chance to hit 1 of his 2 free throws with 4 tenths of a second remaining, which allowed the Thunder to take a 14-point lead (60-46) into the locker room at the break.

Westbrook goes for 2 of his 29 points through heavy Laker traffic. Westbrook's 29 points is made even more impressive when coupled with his 9 assists.

Westbrook goes for 2 of his 29 points through heavy Laker traffic. Westbrook’s 29 points is made even more impressive when coupled with his 9 assists.

The Thunder lead was still 14 (74-60) with 6:37 left in the 3rd when the Thunder broke out a 16-3 run that broke the Lakers’ morale. That established a 27-point lead for the Thunder (90-63) with 4:09 still on the clock in the 3rd quarter. Despite the lead, the Lakers were not quite finished, as they immediately sparked an 11-2 run to pull themselves within 18 (92-74), only to be repelled yet again as the Thunder ended the 3rd on a 9-2 run that gave them a 101-77 lead heading into the 4th.

Serge Ibaka gets past the outstretched arm of Ryan Kelly. Ibaka's 15 points and 13 rebounds gave him his 24th double-double of the season, while Kelly finished his night with 12 points.

Serge Ibaka gets past the outstretched arm of Ryan Kelly. Ibaka’s 15 points and 13 rebounds gave him his 24th double-double of the season, while Kelly finished his night with 12 points.

Down 24, I think even the Lakers knew that the Thunder weren’t giving up the lead by this point. After dropping an 18-point lead to the Lakers at Staples Center to find themselves down 18 on Sunday, the Thunder brought themselves back into it, only to suffer a heart-breaking (but certainly eye-opening) 4-point defeat (114-110). I think this game opened their eyes to the fact that they need to go for the kill against anyone they have on the ropes early. The 15-4 run in the 2nd put the Lakers on the ropes. The 16-3 Thunder run in the 3rd was the boot knife that cut the throat of the Lakers’ comeback opportunity. The Lakers still gave effort with an 11-3 run to start the 4th, but the Thunder lead was still 18 (104-86) with less than 10 minutes to play. They honestly gave effort as long as they could, with the Thunder lead holding around 20 for most of the 4th. The lead was an even 20 (115-95) with 5:35 left until the final buzzer when the Thunder sparked yet another run, this one a 14-3 run that established the Thunder’s largest lead of the game at 31 (129-98) with a mere 43.4 seconds to play. The lead would settle at 29 by game’s end, as the Thunder took a 131-102 victory that propelled them to 48-17 while dropping the Lakers to 22-43, effectively relegating them to the Western Conference basement (which an organization like that would certainly view as unfamiliar territory). (Side note: The Lakers’ record is now 22-44 following an abysmal 119-85 beating by the Spurs at AT&T Center last night, propelling the Spurs to 49-16. The Spurs’ current record effectively establishes a full-game lead over the Thunder for the Western Conference’s #1 seed.)

The Thunder's Big 3 (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka) talk strategy with Caron Butler (Partially hidden behind Ibaka in this shot) and Reggie Jackson.

The Thunder’s Big 3 (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka) talk strategy with Caron Butler (partially hidden behind Ibaka in this shot) and Reggie Jackson.

Westbrook and Kevin Durant tied for leading scorer with 29 points apiece. Durant’s performance now has him scoring 25+ for the 30th consecutive game, which hasn’t been done since the great Michael Jordan posted 40 straight 25+-point performances in the ’86-’87 season. That means Durant has accomplished something even “King James” himself can’t say he’s ever pulled off in his career. Seeing as LeBron was the really the only top player during his 7-year tenure with the Cavaliers, that actually says a lot about Durant’s silky smoothness as a scorer. And Serge Ibaka has effectively replaced James Harden in the Thunder’s Big 3. His 15-point, 13-rebound performance marks his 24th double-double of the season. He also added an eye-popping 7 blocks in this game. Caron Butler continues to prove his steadiness as a bench scorer, adding 11 points.

Caron Butler pops one over the lackadaisical defense of Jordan Farmar. Butler posted 11 points off of the Thunder bench while Farmar added 13 points off of the Lakers bench.

Caron Butler pops one over the lackadaisical defense of Jordan Farmar. Butler posted 11 points off of the Thunder bench while Farmar added 13 points off of the Lakers bench.

It was truly a team effort for the Lakers. Meeks’ 19 points were added to Pau Gasol’s 14, Kelly’s 12, and Wesley Johnson’s 10. Kent Bazemore and Jordan Farmar even combined for 29 off of the Lakers bench, as they hit 16 points and 13 points respectively. They even broke 100 points as a team, but they just had no chance against a Thunder offense that dropped 131 on them. The fact that they’ve given up 250 points in the last two nights is an obvious indicator of where the Lakers’ deficiencies lie.

Kendall Marshall looks to be the only Laker even trying to battle Ibaka for the rebound.

Kendall Marshall looks to be the only Laker even trying to battle Ibaka for the rebound.

Yes, injuries have pretty much derailed them, but the Thunder are down two starters themselves, yet they’re starting to find the defense they were lacking. Scott Brooks’ decision to start Andre Roberson over Perry Jones III in place of the injured Thabo Sefolosha even paid immediate dividends at the defensive end, as he stole the ball from Meeks on the Lakers’ first possession, setting up the Westbrook slam to start up the scoreboard. Jones is good for beaucoup (many) points at times, but if Roberson keeps putting out this level of effort defensively, this starting lineup featuring Roberson could be leaned on more frequently until Sefolosha’s return.

Kent Bazemore ends up grounded as a battle for the loose ball ensues. Bazemore posted 16 points off of the Lakers bench.

Kent Bazemore ends up grounded as a battle for the loose ball ensues. Bazemore posted 16 points off of the Lakers bench.

Tomorrow evening will see the Mavericks hit Chesapeake for the last of the Thunder’s three-game home stand. The Mavericks are looking to crack the Thunder code for the first time in a 12-game span. The current 11-game Thunder winning streak not only includes this season’s 107-93 victory from Nov. 6th, but also includes the 4-0 sweep from the 2012 playoffs. They shouldn’t feel bad about it though. Since the start of the ’11-’12 season, the Heat have been the only team to find truly consistent success against the Thunder anyhow. The Mavs will get a chance to break the losing streak tomorrow night at 6pm CST, and those without a ticket can catch the action via the usual suspects: Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

KD’s Career-High 54 Points Renders Last-Minute Westbrook Heroics Unnecessary

KD’s Career-High 54 Points Renders Last-Minute Westbrook Heroics Unnecessary

It was the season series finale that had Thunder fans salivating, while simultaneously slightly worried. The first two games in the Thunder-Warriors series literally came down to the last second.

Kevin Durant celebrates the "and 1". Durant's 54 points established a new career high.

Kevin Durant celebrates the “and 1”. Durant’s 54 points established a new career high.

The Nov. 14th contest saw Russell Westbrook supposedly steal a win for the Thunder with 2.3 seconds left, only to have Andre Iguodala hit a game-winning jumper as the clock expired.

And in the Nov. 29th match-up, the 48 minutes provided by regulation was not enough to decide a winner. Even with an additional 5 minutes granted, it came down to the final tenth-of-a-second in OT as Westbrook’s game-winning 3 was hit with too little time for the Warriors to respond.

With both contests coming down to the wire, and each team looking every bit like the other’s equal, most Thunder fans I knew (me included) were confident that we were going to get another down-to-the-wire game, with the winner being a true coin toss.

Serge Ibaka turns back a Marreese Speights shot attempt. Ibaka finished with 21 points, while Speights threw down 13 from the Warriors bench.

Serge Ibaka turns back a Marreese Speights shot attempt. Ibaka finished with 21 points, while Speights threw down 13 from the Warriors bench.

The thing I’ve also noticed about this series is the offensive production in these games, by both teams. The first two games saw both teams combine for 225 points or more. The first game was a 116-115 Warriors victory, with both teams combining for 230 points, while the second was a 113-112 Thunder victory that saw both teams combine for 225. The final regular season showdown between these two teams was no exception, as both teams combined for their highest total yet: 248 points.

David Lee tries to back down Ibaka. Lee finished the game with 13 points.

David Lee tries to back down Ibaka. Lee finished the game with 13 points.

So naturally the 1st was an offensive explosion at both ends. The largest lead for either team was the 7 the Thunder were taking into the 2nd, as the first ended 39-32.

Klay Thompson ended his night with 26 points.

Klay Thompson ended his night with 26 points.

The 2nd quarter saw a quick Thunder bucket extend the lead to 9 (41-32), but that would be the largest lead of the first half for either team. Both offenses were still rolling, as they both scored 30+ for the second straight quarter. Once the buzzer sounded, the Thunder found themselves taking a 71-65 lead into halftime. Just one night after allowing the most points in a half, allowing 73 from the Rockets at Toyota Center the night before, their 71 establishes a season-high for points scored in a quarter.

Kevin Durant shoots over Draymond Green. Durant's 54 points establishes a new career-high, while Green contributed 10 from the Warriors bench.

Kevin Durant shoots over Draymond Green. Durant’s 54 points establishes a new career-high, while Green contributed 10 from the Warriors bench.

As expected, the Warriors continued to stick around. They even pulled within 3 (82-79) with 6:25 remaining in the 3rd. Then a 17-7 Thunder run extended the lead to 13 (99-86) with 47.5 left in the 3rd, and the quarter ended with the Thunder up 101-91.

Jeremy Lamb looks for an outlet pass. Lamb put down 12 points from the Thunder bench.

Jeremy Lamb looks for an outlet pass. Lamb put down 12 points from the Thunder bench.

The Warriors tried as hard as they could to chip away at the cushion, but just couldn’t hold off the hot hand of Kevin Durant. With the score 113-101, and 6:40 to play, Durant started an 11-3 run of his own against the Warriors. A sexy Durant 3-ball off of a Reggie Jackson assist kicked it off, only to be answered by a Draymond Green step-back jumper off of an Iguodala assist. Durant drains another 3-ball off of a Serge Ibaka assist, then Ibaka fouls David Lee at the other end. It turns into a good foul as Lee only hits the back-end of his free throws, only to be met with Durant’s 48th, 49th, and 50th points of the evening, these 3 off of a Jackson assist. Durant even gets back to get a block at the other end, which ends up rebounded by Thabo Sefolosha, and finishes his run with a turnaround jumper off of a Jeremy Lamb assist. This brought the Thunder lead to 17 (121-104), which pretty much sealed the deal with 4:53 left in the game. Although the Warriors were able to finish the game on a 10-2 run, the damage was already done, and the night ended with a 127-121 score that gives the Thunder a 2-1 victory for the season series. This win puts the Thunder at 30-10 for the season, while dropping the Warriors to 25-16. (The Warriors are currently 26-16 with last night’s victory over the Pelicans.) The 127 points scored are also the Thunder’s season-high for a game this season.

There's that look from Durant that I like to see.

There’s that look from Durant that I like to see.

The interesting thing about Durant’s 54 are that he pulled it off with so few touches. With 54 points and six assists on 67.9 percent shooting (19-for-28), Durant becomes the first player to score at least 54 points on at least 65-percent shooting while handing out at least five assists since Michael Jordan pulled it off over 15 years ago on April 3, 1988. According to SportVU, Durant scored those 54 on just 68 touches. When he starts doing things that no one has pulled off since the great MJ, an NBA Championship begins to look like an inevitability in Durant’s future.

The thing about this victory is that, despite Durant’s career-high 54 points being the trending topic of social media yesterday, he didn’t do it by himself, as the announcers would have led you to believe. Ibaka contributed 21 points of his own, while Jackson dropped 14 points, and Lamb chipped in 12 from the Thunder bench. Even Kendrick Perkins played well, pulling down 12 boards.

Ibaka shook that flu off well.

Ibaka shook that flu off well.

Rare are the games where you score 121 and can’t pull off the victory, because you don’t score that high without excellent performances. Stephen Curry had a 37-point, 11-assist double-double. He currently leads the league in 30-point, 10-assist games with 5 for the season. Klay Thompson dropped 26 points, while Lee posted 13. Plus, Marreese Speights and Green combined for 23 from the Warriors bench (Speights: 13, Green: 10).

Stephen Curry goes one-on-one with Reggie Jackson. Curry's 37 points and 11 assists weren't enough to seal a Warrior win. Jackson threw down 14 points of his own.

Stephen Curry goes one-on-one with Reggie Jackson. Curry’s 37 points and 11 assists weren’t enough to seal a Warrior win. Jackson threw down 14 points of his own.

The Thunder got their rest last night, as I had way too much going on to be able to sit and write a coherent postgame yesterday. Tonight they welcome the Kings to Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder took a 97-95 victory over the Kings back on Dec. 3rd, and three games remain in the season series. This one tips off at 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.

KD’s Triple-Double Helps OKC Avenge Their Worst Loss Of The Season

KD’s Triple-Double Helps OKC Avenge Their Worst Loss Of The Season
Kevin Durant has every reason to be jubilant after last night's performance.

Kevin Durant has every reason to be jubilant after last night’s performance. His triple-double consisted of 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. He also posted 4 steals and 4 blocks as well.

Their first meeting resulted in OKC’s worst loss all season. It ended in a 100-81 drubbing that saw the Minnesota Timberwolves take advantage of the absence of Russell Westbrook, who was still in the midst of rehabbing his knee following a surgical procedure performed October 1st.

Russell Westbrook dropped 19 last night after missing the first meeting due to his knee.

Russell Westbrook dropped 19 last night after missing the first meeting due to his knee.

You would think that the Thunder would be itching to prove that last outcome as nothing more than a fluke by starting strong. The thing is the Timberwolves play harder than their 9-9 record would indicate, and that record has a tendency to lull opponents to sleep.

Serge Ibaka skys for the dunk against Kevin Love. Ibaka finished his night with 15 points.

Serge Ibaka skys for the dunk against Kevin Love. Ibaka finished his night with 15 points.

While the Thunder hung early, an 8-0 run extended the Timberwolves’ lead to 9 (18-9) midway through the 1st quarter. That lead held through most of the 1st. Although the Thunder chipped away at the lead slightly, the 1st quarter ended with the Timberwolves up 6 (32-26).

PG Reggie Jackson shows no fear, going up for a dunk against PF/C Nikola Pekovic. Jackson is proving to be a solid sixth man, contributing 18 off of the bench last night.

PG Reggie Jackson shows no fear, going up for a dunk against PF/C Nikola Pekovic. Jackson is proving to be a solid sixth man, contributing 18 points off of the bench last night.

The 2nd quarter didn’t look very promising either. A 9-5 run midway though the 2nd actually extended the Timberwolves lead to 11 (51-40). The Thunder’s saving grace in that quarter was the fact that they outscored the Timberwolves by 3. That still wasn’t enough to claim the lead however, as the Thunder entered halftime down 3 (58-55).

Nikola Pekovic squares off against Steven Adams. Pekovic ended the game with 22 points and 10 boards.

Nikola Pekovic squares off against Steven Adams. Pekovic ended the game with 22 points and 10 boards.

The 3rd quarter saw the Thunder defense tighten up, as they held the Timberwolves to 25 points for the quarter. The problem for the Thunder here was that they were still outscored by 2 in the quarter, and were going into the 4th down 83-78. Through 3 quarters, the Thunder had been unable to claim the lead even once.

Kevin Love before the game. K-Love finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Kevin Love before the game. K-Love finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Then the 4th quarter began, and the bottom fell out on the Timberwolves.

Former Thunder 6th man Kevin Martin warming up. Martin was the Timberwolves' leading scorer with 24 points.

Former Thunder 6th man Kevin Martin warming up. Martin was the Timberwolves’ leading scorer with 24 points.

The Thunder defense became very stiff, and the Thunder offense completely exploded in terms of points. With 4.5 seconds left in the 3rd, the Thunder began an 9-0 run that stretched to the 10:00 mark in the 4th. This run gave the Thunder their first lead of the game. Then the Thunder began another run at the 6:45 mark. This 17-3 run gave the Thunder a 14-point lead (107-93) with 2:30 to play. This lead would prove insurmountable to the T-Wolves, as the Thunder ended the game with a 113-103 victory.

Corey Brewer with the emphatic dunk. Brewer posted 10 points last night.

Corey Brewer with the emphatic dunk. Brewer posted 10 points last night.

The big story of last night was the stat line of Kevin Durant. His numbers were astounding: 32 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. He led the Thunder in all five categories last night. Not only that, but according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player to ever post these numbers in the same game since steals and blocks became official stats in the ’73-’74 season. The only other player to ever even post a 30+-10-10-4-4 was none other than the great Michael Jordan, who achieved it back on January 16, 1988.

Ricky Rubio failed to match his last perormance against the Thunder, especially once he was forced to match up with Westbrook. He was the only T-Wolves starter that didn't post a double in any category.

Ricky Rubio failed to match his last performance against the Thunder, especially once he was forced to match up with Westbrook. He was the only T-Wolves starter that didn’t post a double in any category.

The numbers looked so good, it makes it easy to forget that other Thunder players made their mark as well. Westbrook dropped 19 points, Serge Ibaka added 15, and Reggie Jackson is proving to be a solid #6, with his 18-point contribution.

KD shares an exchage with Joey Crawford, who may actually be the most hated ref in OKC.

KD shares an exchange with Joey Crawford, who may actually be the most hated ref in OKC.

Two Timberwolves managed double-doubles last night. Kevin Love had 16 points and 12 boards, and Nikola Pekovic had a nice 22-point, 10-rebound game of his own.  Former Thunder player Kevin Martin scored 24 points, and Corey Brewer dropped in an additional 10.

Durant! Durant! He's our dude! If he can't do it, we're probably screwed!

Durant! Durant! He’s our dude! If he can’t do it, we’re probably screwed!

This was a tough win, but the victory moves the Thunder to 12-3 this season, while the Timberwolves fall back below .500 with the loss (9-10). The Thunder managed a complete sweep of their 6-game home stretch, which marks only the second time in history this franchise has pulled that off. The last undefeated home stretch this long was back when the Thunder were still the Seattle Supersonics. They pulled off a 7-game home stretch in the ’77-’78 season. Next up, the Thunder head west for the first of a 3-game road trip. The Thunder will be hosted by the 4-11 Sacramento Kings this Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 CST and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.