Thoughts on Thunder's win over Trail Blazers
FEB 12, 2014 11:29a ET
Late-night game; morning after thoughts â¦
* Wonder what Kevin Durant was thinking after this one finished up? Durant went off for 36 points and 10 rebounds but limped to the finish, going only 2-of-9 in the fourth quarter and winding up with eight turnovers.
The Thunder won, so much of Durant's late-game struggles will be overlooked, and that's understandable, but if OKC had lost, much more would be made out of the fact that maybe Durant is tired, tried to do too much or didn't get enough help. Kinda sounds like the playoffs last year against Memphis.
* The Thunder lead the Western Conference by four games, plus hold a tiebreaker over San Antonio, with 28 games to go. They lead Portland by five games. No one is saying the lead is insurmountable, but it's on the same page as insurmountable.
The biggest advantage of having the big lead? OKC can work Westbrook back into the lineup without rushing and needing Westbrook to do too much. Hard to believe this was going to be the case when the Thunder went 5-5 in the first 10 games without Westbrook after his Dec. 26 surgery.
* In a lot of ways this may be the best win of the season. The win at Miami may have been the most-satisfying, but the win at Portland has bigger implications, starting with the fact the Thunder won and weren't playing all that well coming in.
In the past week, the Thunder lost at Orlando and struggled past depleted Minnesota and a not-great New York team. When OKC won at Miami, it was arguably during their best stretch of the season. This win at Portland has to be some really good momentum heading into its last game before the All-Star break. Twice the Thunder rallied from double digits. That has to be be a lift.
* Reggie Jackson is just hard to figure out. Not only has he been wildly unpredictable since Westbrook has gone out, but Jackson was even more hard to figure on Tuesday. He started the game 0-for-9 and then followed that up by going 7-for-10 and winding up with 17 points.
Horrible against Charlotte and Orlando, outstanding against Houston and San Antonio. Tuesday, he was a bit of both.
Some of this wildness will likely settle down when Westbrook returns to the starting lineup, maybe as soon as Feb. 20 as Jackson will return to his familiar sixth-man spot. Jackson is more than capable of being a serviceable point guard, but he has battling the fact he often tries to be Russell Westbrook, when all he has to do is run the team. Meanwhile, the Thunder are going to have live with Jackson â and they have thrived, actually â as Derek Fisher is not capable of playing extended minutes.
* Man, the bench play was fantastic, and if you're coach Scott Brooks, it's great to see, but don't you want some more from your starters? Serge Ibaka was just 3-for-11 and finished with seven points. Jackson finished strong, but he was absent in the first half when no one but Durant did anything. Outside of Durant, the starters were 0-for-12 in the first half.
The difference was the bench. Jeremy Lamb had 19 points, Nick Collison was 4-for-4 and Fisher made a pair of 3-pointers. That's an impressive night of picking up where the starters didn't get it done. That difference also is what will ultimately separate the Thunder from others, namely the Blazers in a big series. Portland doesn't have anyone outside of Mo Williams it can count on off the bench. Williams didn't play Tuesday.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK