It’s a treat to not only win our fourth game out of five, but to actually beat somebody by a good margin – a playoff team no less. The Thunder tonight played stifling defense for most of 48 minutes and held the Sixers to 22 points below their per game road scoring average.
Philly essentially made two little runs in the game. The first was in the middle of the first period after the Thunder jumped out to a quick 8 point lead to open up the game. Philly called a timeout and regrouped. They then began to hit their shots and took the lead to end the quarter with a six point lead at 24-18. What was interesting was that this run coincided nicely (sarcasm) with Brooks’ first player substitutions. He took out Thabo and Krstic and inserted Wilkins and Malik Rose just a couple of plays apart. When Thabo and Krstic came out they were +3 and +6 respectively, and the team had the lead. Then a bit later Earl came in for Westbrook and the lead disappeared completely and became a deficit. Westbrook, Thabo and Krstic were the only positive +/- guys for the Thunder in the first; during the opening quarter Philly shot 55% (mostly great shooting in the second half of the first) and opened up a 6 point lead. The Thunder committed 7 turns in the first.
Shortly after the start of the second period Krstic and Thabo rotated back in, and the stifling defense re-appeared. Philly was completely suffocated offensively and could only manage 12 points in the second on 31% shooting, with 7 turns of their own. By the half, Thabo and Krstic were +23 and +25 respectively. These two guys were just having a crazy effect on the game. Russell Westbrook was +10 and Malik Rose found his Geritol and was +7. The Thunder shot 14/24 in the second for 58% shooting, and the Sixers looked like they wanted to be somewhere else.
In the third with the Thunder sustaining a double digit lead most of the way, both teams played a little sloppy and had a lot of turnovers, and Philly couldn’t make any headway. They were turning the ball over, shooting poorly from the field, and missing almost half of their free throws. They were only able to score 16 points in the third.
In the middle of the fourth quarter Philly went on it’s second little run and made things interesting. Thabo was out of the game getting a breather and Damien Wilkins was in (big surprise). The Sixers began trapping the full court and harassing the wings and Russell Westbrook got rattled. In about a minute of play, RW turned the ball over twice (his fifth and sixth turnover of the night) and fouled Thaddeus Young, and the Sixers cut the lead to 11. Brooks did his most masterful coaching move of the night by getting Russell and Damien out of there and getting Thabo and Weaver back in to pair with Earl down the stretch. Say what you want about Earl, but he is definitely the better ball handler of our point guards when the pressure is on; he didn’t have a turnover all night. The Thunder then ratcheted back up the defense and held Philly to only seven more points the rest of the way.
- I can’t say enough about Krstic and Thabo tonight. These two guys were the glue that kept us in the game; and Earl actually was a big contributor by steadying the team down the stretch.
- Thabo, Collison and Krstic did a really great job collapsing in the paint and helping when the Sixers tried to drive the ball. Philly looked really frustrated at their inability to get easy shots close to the basket.
- Malik Rose played really well tonight. I just didn’t think he had that much left in his tank at this stage of his career. He had a nice post up spin move on Dalembert, and hit a couple of nice deep jumpers on the pick and pop. He boxes out so well with his bulk and strength, nobody moves him out of the way for a rebound. He was being interviewed after the game by NBA tv’s Steve Smith and Derrick Coleman. He was asked who were the most surprising players on the Thunder having now seen them up close. Malik mentioned Nick Collison as a real hard hat kind of guy; a guy who does all the dirty work and really hustles and gives it up for the team. He also said Thabo was the defensive leader of the squad.
- Malik also mentioned how when he was a young player he used to get down and “pout” when the team struggled or his play was poor. He talked about how the vets (like Steve Smith) would pull him aside and encourage him and speak confidence to him. Malik mentioned how he is now trying to do that for Russell Westbrook, who sometimes gets down and sort of pouts.
- For Royce those of you who might have missed it: Earl hit a three! Now he’s 18-76 (23.6%). However, Earl made a really nice hustle play offensively tonight, shooting a little runner off the glass from about 10 feet out, he chased his own miss and got a little one handed putback.
- For me, the play of the game was the play with about 45 seconds left, and Philly was already giving up. Thaddeus Young had a running shot at a slam dunk off of a handoff on the left side of the court. He started a few steps inside the three point line, and nobody was under the basket. Thabo was on the weak side clear out almost to the opposite three point line. He came charging in and came clear over to the other side of the rim to block Young’s shot. Impressive.
- Thabo and Krstic were +27 and +26 respectively. Since we won by 15 it’s obvious that these two were out of the lineup when Philly made it’s moves, and in the lineup to put the Thunder back up on top.
- The Thunder had a crazy 13 steals tonight. It was only the third time we’ve had at least thirteen, and only the tenth time we’ve had double digit steals on the season; but it was the fourth time in the last eight games! Our guys are really getting their mitts on the ball and playing the passing lanes. Thabo had three and four others had at least two.
- The Thunder allowed only 28 points in the second and third period combined.
- The Thunder had 6 players in double figure scoring tonight; the Sixers had only two.
- Nicky C had another double double.
- It was a pretty slow paced game tonight with just 91 possessions. Neither team really ran much except on occasion in transition.
- We held Philly to 81 points per 100 possessions (offensive efficiency). This is a team that has averaged 113 points/100 in it’s last five games.
- Our 97.8 points/100 isn’t anything to brag about, but a win is a win, especially without our two young stars.