Game Notes: Thunder at Warriors
Do you believe in SLAM karma? It’s real…
I went to Oracle Arena last night to interview Jeff Green for the magazine and stuck around to catch a glimpse of the Thunder and the Warriors play the NBA’s version of H-O-R-S-E. Both teams traded shots, dunks and last-minute clutch buckets.
As for Green, he’s definitely stepped his game up in his sophomore campaign and his numbers are up across the board. After I interviewed him following his pregame shooting workout, I hit stop on my recorder and jokingly told him that he’d probably drop 40 against the Warriors just because he did the interview.
He didn’t score 40, but he put up 26. And most importantly, he scored the last two of the night. Sorry to Tarantino, these game notes start with the conclusion, but we can work our way back to the end so it all makes sense.
– Good news to report, D.J. White, who underwent two surgeries on his jaw is working out with the Thunder strength and conditioning coach during the pregame shoot around. At first when I saw the swollen side of his face, I thought he was Kanye West. But then I realized he didn’t have a mullet.
– The biggest pregame news is that Andris Biedrins is out of action with a sprained left wrist. It’s the first game he’s missed all season. Rob Kurz takes his place in the starting lineup. It’s too bad the Warriors can’t borrow one of the five centers (Nick Collison, Nenad Kristic, Mouhamed Sene, Robert Swift and Chris Wilcox) on the Super Sonics, I mean Thunder.
– If you or anyone you know has seen Thunder, the Warriors’ former mascot, please contact the Golden State Warriors immediately. No questions asked…
– Russell Westbrook, Desmond Mason, Nick Collison, Jeff Green and Kevin Durant vs. Jamal Crawford, Stephen Jackson, Rob Kurz, Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike. (And 18,000 fans are here to see it…)
– Russell Westbrook has grown up so fast since his days on Run’s House as one of Rev. Run’s sons.
– Ric Bucher is sitting next to me and says the Thunder are one of his favorite teams in the NBA right now because they play together and have fun. He also says that Durant’s play has definitely stepped up under interim head coach Scott Brooks.
– Jeff Green takes and makes first his first 3-pointer. (SLAM karma…)
– Kevin Durant blows past Anthony Randolph and finishes with a left-handed dunk while being fouled. He converts the and one. On the other end after a Jackson miss, Durant finds Mason for an alley-oop dunk. The Thunder start the game on a 10-2 run.
– Hmm, I guess the Kurz-Randolph frontcourt isn’t going to be as good of an option as Maggette and Turiaf, who are on the bench. Finally at the 8:00 mark, Turiaf comes in for Kurz. One minute later, Randolph is out and Maggette is in.
– Westbrook hits a 3. I’m surprised his shoes aren’t made by Pastry or Run Athletics.
– C.J. Watson checks in for Crawford to play alongside Kelenna Azubuike, giving the Warriors a D-League alumni backcourt.
– Westbrook finishes a fast break with an amazing dunk. Can someone remind me why he’s not in the dunk contest, but Rudy Fernandez is?
– If the all D-League alumni backcourt wasn’t strange enough, Rob Kurz and Anthony Morrow check in less than a minute apart giving the Warriors two undrafted rookie free agents in the frontcourt. But don’t laugh; the two actually combine for 10 points to close out the quarter.
– Nellie hasn’t gone back to Randolph and likely will not. When it comes to rookies (who aren’t undrafted) he’s tougher on them than Troy Aikman was on Tony Romo this week.
– CJ Watson subs in for Jack with a 1:14 left and the Warriors rock a lineup that consists of the two former D-Leaguers, two undrafted free agents and Jamal Crawford.
– With 4.7 left CJ Watson makes a pull-up jumper. But Westbrook counters by racing down the court and nailing a 24-foot jump shot. He leads all scorers with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. It might be Russy’s house after all. Thunder lead 72-68 at the half.
– If Mike D’Antoni is watching this game on NBA League Pass, I’m thinking he probably likes what he’s seeing.
– No Randolph or Kurz to start the second half, Turiaf and Maggette instead.
– Durant uses his length to shoot over Jack. Go-go-gadget jump shot. Thunder are up 82-77.
– Maggette gets the ball on a fast break and instead of running over the defender in front of him which he tends to do, he decides to rise up for a dunk and slams it over Kevin Durant. Yes, that just happened.
– The Thunder call timeout and the Warriors show the replay from every conceivable angle, three in total. After the dunk Maggette gets his flex on like he’s asking someone courtside if they know where the weight room is. Besides the momentum-changing play, the score is now tied at 84.
– Earl Watson comes in for Westbrook. After starting the game 8-11, Russell Jr. is now 9-17.
– Great, we finally have a Watson-on-Watson matchup, the great Randy “Sexual Chocolate” Watson must be proud.
– Jackson gets called for a ticky-tack reaching foul on Durant. The Fun Police are on their way.
– After Mason misses a runner, the Warriors secure the rebound and Crawford signals to his teammates that he’s going to hold the ball for one shot. Crawford then crosses up Durant at the top of the key and swings it to his right to find Morrow, who knocks down a 3 over Kyle Weaver to close out the third quarter. Warriors lead 95-89.
– Morrow should seriously compete in the 3-Point Contest at All-Star weekend. The Ws need some sort of representation.
– Green backs down Maggette and finishes over him in the lane with a right handed baby hook. He’s made a couple of open 3s and has been able to finish inside with a variety of different shots. He’s displaying the all-around game tonight, inside and out.
– During a timeout the Warriors “Flying Ws” dunk squad puts on a show, minus their mascot Thunder. (Does anyone have any leads on his whereabouts?) Robert Swift and the rest of the Thunder bench seem to be entertained. But Swift looks like he’d rather be in a mosh pit somewhere than in an NBA Arena.
– After Turiaf is called for a defensive foul in which he fell down. Ric Bucher says he’s not impressed with Ronny Turiaf’s flopping skills. I tell Bucher, neither is Chris Gatling.
– Maggette fouls out with 1:37 left on a Westbrook drive. ‘Buke checks in.
– ‘Buke gets a stop on Durant who shoots over him, but Ws can’t secure a defensive rebound. With a new possession, Westbrook beats C.J. Watson to his left, looks down at his feet and hits a bank shot to give the Thunder a 120-119 lead. Did somebody hit a Staples button? Because that was easy…
– C.J. Watson counters by driving to the hole and then loses control of the ball. Thunder call timeout with 17.2 left on the clock.
– There’s a 6-second differential between the game clock and shot clock. Jackson guards Durant, he stays down on Durant’s pump fake and Durant throws up an air ball. Crawford catches it and takes it the length of the court without calling timeout. He gets past Watson with a hesitation move around the 3-point line and finishes off the glass with 1.6 left. The Warriors are up 121-120.
– Westbrook inbounds the ball and the Warriors deny Durant but Green curls around from a screen and is wide-open. Crawford stands in no-man’s land, when he should be in front of the Westbrook denying any cutters looking to catch and shoot. Green catches Westbrook’s pass and nails a 17-footer off the glass to win the game.
– Thunder win 122-121.
– SLAM karma is alive and well.
“I think it’s as simple as it went down to the last second, and a lucky shot beat us tonight. I don’t believe he called ‘bank’ on that shot, I believe he shot it so poorly it went in—it was one of those shots. I thought we had that game won when we didn’t call a timeout we went in the open court, got something real good and scored, but the lucky shot beat us. So anyway, we played our hearts out, and I thought we played pretty well.”
Nellie’s presser lasted less than two minutes. Three questions were asked, two of which were from me and they were they same question about Jeff Green. Nellie said he’s coming along very nicely. And that was pretty much it.
Judging by Nellie’s tone, I’m sure the sentiment in the Ws locker room is going to be the same. So Instead of asking the Warriors how miserable they felt about not picking up the W, or what happened on the final possession, or re-opening any wounds from the frustrating loss, I check-in with the Thunder. Here’s what Green and Russy had to say postgame.
SLAM: Did you call ‘bank’ on your game-winner?
Jeff Green: (Laughs). Yup.
SLAM: You did?
SLAM: What was the call on that last inbounds play and how were you guys able to execute it?
JG: We just tried to set double screens and force them to switch until we got ourselves an open look. And Krstic set a good screen on my man and he got me wide-open.
SLAM: Did you have a feeling you were going to be the one to get the last shot? Or were you expecting Kevin to get the last look?
JG: I was thinking whoever was open was going to get the shot. The play was drawn up for nobody. Nenad Krstic was in there setting good screens and at the end of the play he set a good screen for my man. I popped to the ball, and I was wide-open.
SLAM: Should I interview you before every game to give you good luck?
SLAM: It wasn’t 40 points like I predicted.
JG: (Laughs). Yeah, but it was a game-winner. I owe it to SLAM.
SLAM: Was that your first NBA game-winner?
JG: Yeah. Hopefully there will be more to come.
SLAM: What did you think about Maggette’s dunk over Kevin? Was that the first time you’ve seen Kevin get dropped on like that?
JG: Yeah, but he was put in a tough position—he had 4 fouls. It was smart for Kevin not to foul and it was a tough play by Maggette. He’s good and aggressive at attacking the rim and it was a dunk. I mean, everybody gets dunked on. I got dunked on a number of times last year. Ron Artest dunked on me last year. So it’s nothing new to anybody in the League. It’s going to happen.
SLAM: But that’s something players don’t ever forget, right?
JG: Exactly, we’re going to bring it up. They called timeout right after and we all looked at Kevin, you know what I mean? But it’s all in fun. We won the game and that’s what counts.
SLAM: So does that mean the rest of the team is going to give him a hard time on the flight back home or when you watch the game film?
JG: Oh yeah.
SLAM: After you put up 20 in the first half, were you sensing that you were going to get your career-high in points tonight?
Russell Westbrook: You know what? I didn’t even know. I was just trying to continue to take whatever the defense was giving me. Whatever they were giving me, I was going to take. Regardless of what was going on. I was thinking whatever the defense was giving me, that I would just take it.
SLAM: On the bank-shot you hit with 41 seconds left, you looked down at your feet after you got past C.J. Watson, were you surprised that had that space?
RW: Yeah. I was trying to take my time and not try to rush my shot. I tried to be confident when I was shooting.
SLAM: What was your reaction after Jeff hit the game-winning shot?
RW: I was happy. I was real happy. It was a tough night for us. We fought the whole game, and I wanted to win.
SLAM: Do you feel like yourself, Kevin and Jeff are one of the best young trios in the NBA?
RW: If we continue to work, Jeff, Kevin and I continue to work and get wins as a team, I think we’ll become good players and a good team.
SLAM: Any chance you’ll bring back the crazy basketball with flames haircut from your UCLA days?
RW: Naw, my barber is not in Oklahoma City. I can’t do that. (Laughs).
SLAM: So when you go back to L.A. maybe?
RW: Naw, because I go back and get it done, it will grow back too fast.
SLAM: What happened with that UCLA game when they lost to ASU at home? Just to let you know, I went to ASU… Do you think we’re going to give you guys trouble this year?
RW: It was some BS man.
SLAM: The Bruins couldn’t make a basket in the last eight minutes of regulation.
RW: I know. Hey, ASU is a good team. But we’ll be alright, though. We’re still going to win the Pac-10.
SLAM: What did you think about Maggette’s dunk on Kevin? It happens to everybody, but is that something you’re going to give him a hard time about?
RW: It depends.
(Desmond Mason walks by)
RW: Hey Mase, are we going to give Kevin a hard time about that dunk?
Desmond Mason: When Maggette dunked on him? (Looks at me) Are you trying to get my man to snitch? (Laughs).
RW: We might or we might not—it depends if it comes up on the way home.