Scott Brooks didn’t have a lot of reasons to be happy tonight: the Pistons jumped out to a four-point lead after one, and while the Thunder kept things under control for the next two quarters, opening up an 18-point lead in the fourth, Detroit took advantage of OKC lethargy, or something, to close that gap to six in the last minute. But the Pistons would get no closer, and when Russell Westbrook missed at the stripe and Serge Ibaka somehow managed a putback, the Thunder were up ten, and Ibaka swatted away Detroit’s last chance to seal the 104-94 win. So maybe Brooks did crack a smile at the very end.
Remarkably, the Thunder shot 50 percent from the floor including 50 percent of their treys (nine of 18). Kevin Durant, as usual, led with 24, but James Harden beat him for efficiency: seven of 11, four of six from Way Out There, for 22 points. Westbrook posted yet another double-double (13 points, 11 assists), and by gum, there’s Serge again with another Jeff Green-ish line: 16 points, eight boards, two blocks. Okay, maybe the blocks aren’t all that Uncle Jeff-y.
But the Pistons, their lowly record notwithstanding, still made a game of it. Rookie center Greg Monroe put together a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), and Tracy McGrady, recently promoted to starting at the point, came close to one himself, missing by a single dime. Richard Hamilton, who never saw himself as a sixth man, was a darned good one, scoring 20. And Detroit managed to outrebound Oklahoma City, 38-34.
The Thunder have five more games against the East before their next battle with a Western opponent: the Jazz, at home on the 23rd. The third of those five, against the Heat, will presumably be the most difficult, if not necessarily tearful.