Yesterday included a rather large family gathering from my father’s side for Christmas so a game recap was a little difficult to get to. The holiday season can kind of have that affect on a blog. I watched it this afternoon via DVR and here’s a few quick thoughts:
- Considering how the first matchup went, this was a pretty good improvement. The two teams swapped leads for about two and half quarters, but in the end the Cavs won because they are just simply better – which is what should happen. But the effort of the Thunder shouldn’t be overlooked because it’s obvious OKC has a little something going. It’s playing better and playing smarter. For one team being 3-24 and the other being 22-4 coming in, the game sure didn’t play out that way.
- I love the way Russell Westbrook is playing right now. He’s still attacking the rim but he’s doing it in moderation and doing it smarter. He isn’t recklessly flying at the cup and challenging Ben Wallace repeatedly. Now he’ll pull up for a little jumper and he’s knocking it down at a pretty good clip. He had a nice 24 and 11 assist. He did turn it over five times, but I can live with that as long he’s getting better – he’s got the ball in his hands a lot more now so more turnovers will happen but he’s also making a lot of good things happen too. The comparison to Rajon Rondo was amped up a lot before the season and right now, he’s really looking a lot like Rondo offensively. Westbrook can get into the lane with ease, but now he’s making solid decisions once he gets there instead of chucking an errant shot with defenders in his face or leaving his feet with nowhere to go. (See: the nice dish to Nick Collison for a flush. Very nice play.)
- Jeff Green’s game is how he needs to focus on playing for the rest of his career. He had 16 points, 10 rebounds and took (for the most part) smart shots. He played solid defense and did a nice job helping.
- Kevin Durant is taking a lot more threes under Scott Brooks than he was under P.J. but he’s also shooting the ball so much better from there. Almost every three Durant takes is in total rhythm and comes on a kick out of from dribble penetration. He went 2-3 from downtown Sunday night and if he continues to get good looks on threes and doesn’t get carried away trying to take them, he could be absolutely unguardable in a few years. Besides getting a little stronger on driving, I’d love to see KD add a nice fadeaway post up jumper. He used that shot quite a bit in college but he doesn’t seem to go to it as much in the NBA. With his length, that shot could be unstoppable.
- You have to love that OKC outrebounded Cleveland 41-32. For a team without a true center or dominant big man playing against a team that has one of the premier rebounders in the league (Ben Wallace) and a really solid center (Zydrunas Ilgauskas), it was nice to see that kind of effort on the glass.
- LeBron James is so bloody good. People forget he’s 23 years old. Some guys haven’t even arrived in the league at that age. Think about what he will look like or might have accomplished at 29. Scary.
It’s another loss and it doesn’t look any better on the right side of the column, but playing extremely well and hanging in against one of the elite teams in the league shows how far OKC has come from the totally and completely inept team it once was.