State of the Thunder: Sitting down Durant
FEB 28, 2013 1:34p ET
OKLAHOMA CITY – Right after Wednesday's win against New Orleans, Kevin Durant just shook his head.
Oh, what could have been.
Yes, Durant had another triple-double, this one 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, but the possibility of something spectacular lingered.
Too bad coach Scott Brooks benched Durant during a blowout. Again.
Seems like it happens all the time, and in a roundabout way, it could end up costing Durant the scoring title.
Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks are both averaging 28.5 points per game. Durant has won the past three scoring titles. He took just eight shots against the Hornets and is missing plenty of minutes because Oklahoma City keeps routing inferior opponents.
Even Durant admitted he was bothered by it, albeit jokingly and with a pretty wide smile. He's never been shy about being aware of his stats, often discussing a rebound, steal or assist with the folks at the scorer's table in Oklahoma City, and he knew his situation Wednesday against the Hornets, too.
"It's all good," he said of coach Scott Brooks taking him out of yet another game in the fourth quarter.
Listen, Durant cares about his numbers. There's no doubt about that, but he's always been a team-first guy, foremost, so there's no doubt he wasn't too disappointed to get some extra rest. His genius this season hasn't been in his scoring, it's been in his overall game. Durant is averaging career highs in assists, steals and blocks. In the middle of the second quarter Wednesday, he had four shots and four assists, showing he's not one-dimensional.
Yet, 12 times this season Durant hasn't played in the fourth quarter, and thanks to the Thunder blowing out another opponent, beating New Orleans 119-74, Durant sat, but not until he got his third triple-double of the season.
"I wasn't aware until he was one assist short," Brooks said of Durant's numbers Wednesday. "I just focus on playing good and getting the win. I don't care who scores and who makes the plays. If we do that we can put ourselves in a position to win. He demands a lot of attention."
He'll be getting plenty of attention coming up. After a stretch against Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans, the Thunder and Durant now go on the road against Denver and the Clippers before coming home to face the Lakers on Tuesday.
Should be good. And while Durant likely won't be trying to pad his stats, he will likely be playing in the fourth quarter.
Who's Hot: Great run by Russell Westbrook. He scored a season-high 37 points Friday against Minnesota, going 13-of-22 shooting. He followed that up with two good performances, too. Sunday, Westbrook was 10-of-17 shooting for 23 points and then went 8-of-17 for 29 points against New Orleans, including going 5-of-8 for 18 points in the first quarter.
Who's not: Derek Fisher's first game back with the Thunder was a dud. He went 0 for 4 and finished Wednesday's game scoreless. Coach Scott Brooks will say the backup point guard isn't a position where the Thunder need points, but if Fisher is no threat, it could put more pressure on other bench players to contribute.
1. If Wednesday was a tryout for Reggie Jackson, it was a successful one. Coach Scott Brooks said there will be a number of situations where newly acquired Derek Fisher and Jackson will contribute, but when both entered the game at the same, it was hard to see it as anything but a head-to-head competition for backup point guard.
Jackson, who scored a career-high 14 points, is still new to the game. He's just in his second season, but he has an ability to get to the rim, distribute and create a shot. Fisher really doesn't do those things. I'd love to see Jackson get some more burn, but bringing in Fisher probably will limit Jackson, particularly as we get closer to the playoffs.
2. One of the things the Thunder desperately need, in addition to getting a more-productive third scorer, is someone to guard LeBron James. Yeah, him. We're a ways away from a Finals rematch, and a lot has to happen, but acquiring Ronnie Brewer from the Knicks will help. Known for his defense, Brewer is a playoff veteran having played at Utah and Chicago before spending the first part of this season in New York.
"He's a smart, tough player. Great teammate. He'll do whatever you ask him to do. Can guard multiple positions. Can really pass the ball. Can feed the post. Moves extremely well without the ball. He'll fill any role you ask him to fill," said Tom Thibodeau, Brewer's former coach in Chicago.
But what Brewer really does is give the Thunder more options. He, or Kevin Durant, or Thabo Sefolosha can work on guarding LeBron. Another option is always a positive. Brewer had five points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist – all in 12 minutes – in his debut for the Thunder on Wednesday.
3. Hard not to feel bad for the fans after this three-game homestand. Not only were all three games blowouts, but the lack of star power kind of stunk. Minnesota didn't have Kevin Love. Chicago was missing Derrick Rose. Even lowly New Orleans was missing its two top players, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon.
The result meant even less of the Thunder stars. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the starters didn't even play in the fourth quarter against Chicago and New Orleans and the arena was as empty as I've ever seen it late in the game Wednesday against the Hornets.
"These guys were great to me last year. It didn't take long to get me settled on the court. I felt great physically."
– Derek Fisher on his return to Oklahoma City
"The way we competed was embarrassing. It's not the time to feel sorry for ourselves. Everyone needs to look themselves in the mirror. It's very humbling to lose like that."
– Bulls center Joakim Noah after the Thunder beat the Bulls 102-72 Sunday
Yea my longhorns came back from being down 22, all that showboating and coming back home to Oklahoma with a L..#hookem
– Kevin Durant after his former college team rallied from 22 points down in the final 8 minutes to beat Oklahoma Wednesday night.
7: The number of free throws the Thunder have missed in the past four games (97-for-104, 93 percent)
1994: The last time the Thunder franchise won back-to-back games by 30 or more points until victories this week over Chicago and New Orleans.
29: The percent the Bulls shot Sunday night while scoring 72 points against the Thunder
Up next: Two-game trip to Denver on Friday and at the Clippers on Sunday. The Thunder are home again Tuesday vs. the Lakers.
Tower of Power?: Well, the 3-0 run at home helps erase a three-game losing streak, but the wins didn't really come against the NBA's elite. This next stretch against the Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers and Knicks will give us a better indicator.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @theandrewgilman