KD: 43 minutes, 31 points, three boards, two assists, no turnovers.
Greg Oden: 16 minutes, four points, two rebounds, two assists, two turnovers and four fouls.
Ben from Blazer’s Edge:
At this point in his career, Greg Oden doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph with Kevin Durant, let alone the same sentence. One is a polished, all-purpose threat who plays with a joy for the game, confidence and passion, doing everything from knocking down pull-up 3s to blocking Joel Przybilla shot attempts. The other can’t stay on the court for a week straight and has made zero adjustments, mentally or physically, to give his coach a reason to play him. Nate has temporarily lost confidence in him. And Greg knows it. That’s a vicious cycle for someone with Greg’s demeanor. Greg’s roller coaster rookie season continues. The truth hurts.
But who cares about all that? That’s not what was important tonight for Thunder fans. The important thing was Oklahoma City never trailed and put a pretty solid beat down on a really good Blazers team, winning 102-93 in front of a frenzied Ford Center tonight. The Thunder outplayed the Blazers in every way. Shot better from the field, hit more free throws, turned it over less (I know, can you believe that?), outrebounded them, had more assists, had more steals and SCORED MORE POINTS. Great game. Probably the best of the season.
Check out tonight’s four factors, a clean sweep.
Pace Effe FG FT/FG OREB% TOr
POR 89.0 104.5 48.8% 18.8 22.0 14.6
OKC 114.6 51.3% 25.0 28.2 11.2
Why am I so excited? Do I not realize OKC is still 12-38? Well, that sure beats the heck out of being 11-39. And in this new year, we’re looking at a .500 team and I’d love to keep that up. After three lackluster defensive games and everyone wondering if OKC could stop anybody without Desmond Mason, the Thunder cashed in a gem defensively and won its first game post-Desmond. OKC held the Blazers to 45 percent from the field for the game, but worked their tail off all night. The Thunder rotated and helped as good as it has all year. They blocked shots. They were physical. And they got big stops when they needed them. The Blazers scored just 40 points in the first half to OKC’s 60 and if it weren’t for a little late run, Portland would have been lucky to crack 80.
The Thunder were lights out in the first quarter, lighting the Blazers up for 37. Then more in the second, throwing up 33. And then more in the third, racing to an 81-69 lead on an awesome sequence. Joe Smith rotated over and rejected Brandon Roy at the rim. Earl Watson (who was fantastic tonight) scooped up the ball and zoomed down court. He had KD on his right and everyone thougth an oop to The Delicious One was coming. But Earl dropped a behind the back bounce pass right into Jeff Green’s breadbasket and Green sent the ball tearing through the net – literally. The Ford Center was electric. But there was about a 15 minute delay as the net was replaced at the Thunder end. All the momentum was sucked out of OKC at that moment and the Blazers went on a 9-0 run as soon as play resumed. Everybody started to get that little squirmy feeling where you’re looking at the scoreboard every three seconds to see if they have gotten any closer. But the Thunder responded and closed. I’ll admit, I was pretty worried there for a second, but Watson got to the line and knocked down two and KD had a big bucket. The Thunder played too well to lose this one. I’m glad they didn’t.
While KD was once again spectacular tonight, the role players are really what did it. Like I said, Earl Watson was excellent. He had 12 points and 11 assists and stepped up huge as Russell Westbrook played only 25 minutes. Westbrook was in foul trouble early and just wasn’t himself most the night. He finished with 10 points and six turnovers, but he did score OKC’s last six – which were three fantastic plays – but he fumbled the ball, dropped passes and just didn’t look right. Hey, it happens. Nick Collison was awesome. Just. Plain. Awesome. I love that guy. He had 21 and 13, but was just a rock in the middle for the Thunder. More than his big box score, one play impressed me more than anything else, and it didn’t even contribute to his line. Durant missed a little runner in the lane and the ball bounced high off the iron. Joel Pryzbilla had position on Collison, but Nick weaseled his way to the side and got a hand in the between Pryzbilla’s. Nick pried the ball out and it took one bounce right to Jeff Green who flushed it through. Those are the type of things Nick Collison does. It doesn’t always get noticed, but it always makes a huge difference.
Three random things:
A. How about that weird lineup mid-second quarter? OKC had Watson, Chucky Atkins, Westbrook and Kyle Weaver all on the floor at the same time. The Blazers had Jerryd Bayless, Roy, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw (who is really good, I like him) and Oden. I don’t know why OKC went with that insanely small lineup, but it didn’t really hurt. During that three minute stretch, the score was 6-6.
B. The Ford Center has maybe the worst carbonated beverage selection in the history of the world. I never get stuff at sporting events because I’d rather not spend $95 on a pretzel, nachos with yellow slime and a cup of ice with a little Mountain Dew around it. But here’s what they have: Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew. Holy crap, talk about selection! Where’s the Grape Fanta and Crystal Pepsi? I realize arenas sign deals with soda distributors, but this is Oklahoma. We like Dr. Pepper and Coke. At least give us more than four options. When the lady told me my choices I wanted to say, “Well sheen lady, Sierra Mist? Why don’t you just pee in a cup and charge me six bucks?” How have they not taken advantage of the obvious choice and brought in Dr. Thunder? And so what that it’s Sam’s Choice brand, that stuff is delicious. It’s so syrupy I have to chew it. It’s like drinking motor oil. But with a great, almost Dr. Pepper taste. Am I the only one that cares about this?
C. I went to the game with my older brother who happens to be in a wheelchair. This is the second game he and I have gone to (opening night being the first). And the same post-game situation has happened to us both times, nearly making me tear off my shirt and start choking everyone around me with it. Listen closely those of you that are jerks: If you can walk – and by walk, I mean like totally healthy. Like once you leave the arena, you’re not standing at the front door waiting to be picked up, but you can walk to your car - then don’t take the effing elevator. There’s like three in the entire arena. Some people have to use it. We don’t have a choice. There’s an escalator like 15 steps on down the hallway. Did you know you can ride that too? You don’t even have to move your legs on it like the awful stairs. It carries you! And it’s way more fun than an elevator. Hold your arms up and say “Weeeee!” as you ride down. Close your eyes and you might think you’re at Six Flags. You see, my brother and I waited at the elevator tonight for a solid 15 minutes, watching perfectly able bodied jerk faces get on in front of us. And some of the able-bodied walkers actually stood there for like eight minutes and THEN said, “Screw it, let’s go to the escalator.” This is what’s wrong with our country folks. This right here. I apologize for the little interlude. I just had to get it off my chest or I would be choking people next time. (steps off soap box)
Anyway, Kyle Weaver played 34 minutes, shot the ball just four times and had only two points, but I thought he played his best game as a pro. While Brandon Roy scored 32, Weaver was good chasing him everywhere, getting a hand up and helping on drives. He had three or four tips and forced probably three turnovers on his own. He actually had the highest +/- on the floor tonight with a +12. While he’s not exactly an offensive dynamo, he doesn’t force it. He’s not out there to score 15. Jeff Green and KD will take care of that. He understands his role and he’s getting better at it.
Speaking of Green, I almost didn’t mention his fantastic game. I know most everybody reading this already know Green played well and you don’t need me to tell you, but for some reason I always feel bad if a guy played good and I don’t say anything about it. Like I’m cheating him or something. I guess I need to realize he’s not some high-school kid that’s cutting out every newspaper article that his name is in. But anyway, Green had 20 and nine and actually matched up with Roy a little but mostly had LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge had a solid game, but Green worked really hard defensively. And he let his 20 come to him. He didn’t force anything either, even when had just six at halftime. I really, really love this young core for the Thunder.
I know some Blazer fans are probably thinking, “How embarrassing. We lost to those guys.” But it’s OK. We’re pretty tough at home right now. And this is the NBA. Games like this happen all the time, especially on the road. It’s a long season and you’re bound to have a bad night. We feel good about it, but that’s because you’re just the third plus-.500 team we’ve beat. So don’t worry. You’re not that great on the road. But you’re still a good team.
OKC has Saturday off, giving Sam Presti a chance to drive on over to Norman to watch Blake dunk all over Colorado’s faces and then back home to take on the Kings Sunday evening.