Boy it feels nice to be on the other end of that. After watching it happen four times to us, seeing our guys jump all over each other after the buzzer was pretty stinking nice. Oh, and guess what? Nine baby. Nine.
But dang, what a great game that was. There were 14 ties and 22 lead changes. The first half was played at a hellish pace, with both teams combining for something like 480 points. At halftime I actually had to go towel off. The third quarter slowed down dramatically with Oklahoma City scoring just 17 and Golden State 25. The fourth quarter was all about who could get more stops, grab more rebounds and turn the ball over less. And I guess, who had the ball last. In this case, it was Jeff Green knocking down an awesome jumper as time ran out, lifting the Thunder to a 122-121 win over the Warriors. Woo.
The Thunder three were BIG tonight. I mean big. Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists (20 points in the first half), Green 26 and Kevin Durant 27, 12 boards and five assists. So to spare you from grabbing your calculator, the three combined for 83 points, or 68 percent of OKC’s total points. It was funny that with about a minute left Fox Sports Oklahoma awarded the player(s) of the game to Durant and Westbrook and left Green out. Oops.
A major sequence was the 9-2 run the Thunder had mid-fourth to tie the game at 88-88. The Warriors looked poised to pull away, but OKC (NINE!-34) hung tough and clawed back in it. After taking a four-point lead minutes later, the Thunder dodged a huge bullet as GSW (13-30) got three cracks at the bucket but came up empty and OKC closed winning the quarter 33-26. Those type of things weren’t going the Thunder’s way when they were losing the close ones. Now, they’re learning how to scrape and claw and fight and win.
Check out some of these stats from tonight: OKC played at a ridiculous pace (98.0) and had an offensive efficiency of 124.5. Conversely, Golden State had an offensive efficiency of 123.5. OKC shot 49.4 percent from the field on 85 shots and GSW hit 52 percent on 75 shots. Some may disagree, but to me, it wasn’t about bad defense tonight. It was just about really, really good offense coupled with a fast game. And for another double-take stat of the game, OKC took 33 free throws and hit 30 and GSW took 40 (!) and missed just two — but none bigger than C.J. Watson’s with about a minute left. Remember when the Thunder were hitting just 60 percent of their free throws and losing games by seven? Yeah, that would’ve been the case again tonight if they didn’t hit 91 percent. Nice work guys.
Let me tell you, Russell Westbrook is going to be a star. An absolute star. He shot the ball tonight as well as I’ve ever seen, but most importantly looked confident and fearless taking those shots. The Warriors laid off, daring him and he just said, “OK, I’ll take that.” Swish. But probably the most impressive sequence of the night for Westbrook came with under a minute left in the half. First, he probed the Warrior defense at the top of the key, then dove into the lane. He used a nice hesitation dribble, and dropped a beautiful pass to Nenad Krstic for two. Very sweet play. Back in November, he would have launched at the rim, attacking the basket likely to be denied. That play alone showed RW’s incredible progress as a point man. Following an answer by Watson, Westbrook then took the inbounds pass with 4.7 seconds left and went flying up the court before stopping on a dime to hit a 23-foot, eight-inch shot as the buzzer sounded. We’ve got a player on our hands folks.
And how about Kyle Weaver? The box score doesn’t really light you up, but he played an excellent game off the bench. He hit two threes, scored six and had two assists. But I was especially impressed with his defense. He actually guarded Corey Maggette as well in the post as anyone. He’s got great instincts, long arms and bodies up really well against just about anyone. Krstic was off tonight, going 3-7 from the floor and netting nine. But they were wide open looks. One thing that’s extremely encouraging that was shown tonight is that Westbrook can free Krispy Nads up for that 18-footer almost at will. Krstic can hit that shot, it’s just that he’s still not totally back to form. But that little dribble-drive and over-the-shoulder kick-back to Krstic will be deadly in the future. It almost reminds me of CP3 penetrating and kicking back to David West actually.
This was easily the most enjoyable basketball game I’ve watched all year. It wasn’t sloppy, both teams were playing hard and holy crap the offense. The first two minutes of the second quarter were as fun to watch as animals close up with a wide angle lens. First you had Kid Delicious with one of his signature sensational super scoop-to-the-hoop soaring slam slammers (copyright: Matt Pinto). Then Dream Weaver knocked down an open three. And THEN Russell’s monster throw-down about .002 seconds after the Warriors scored. Up and down, back and forth. Exciting basketball. And also, after watching OU play on ESPN U tonight with the “Campus Connection” bull crap, Brian Davis sounded like Vin Scully to me. Just a fun game all the way around.
OKC looks to complete a West Coast sweep as the Thunder take on the Clippers Friday night in L.A. How about coming home with 10 wins? That sound good to anybody else?