That folks, was quite a win.
Everything was fantastic. Every. Thing. The defense. The offense. The rebounding. The coaching. The late game execution. The crowd. Just everything about tonight’s 96-87 win over the Mavs was fantastic.
As we all knew before the game, it was going to take a total team effort to win this one. And that’s exactly what happened. Look at the lines here: 26, 18, 17, 15 for Nenad Krstic, Kyle Weaver, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha. Add in solid minutes off the bench from Malik Rose, Robert Swift and Damien Wilkins and you’ve got an entire group effort. And that was just offensively.
We all also knew that OKC was going to have to play great defense to hang in there. And again, that’s exactly what happened. Almost every Dallas shot was contested. The Thunder had seven steals. The rotations were crisp and right on the money. The help and recover defense was awesome. The Mavs shot 42 percent from the field, were 7-24 from three and Dirk – who had torched the Thunder for 87 in the first two games – was held scoreless in the third and had “just” 28. But subtract that and Jason Terry’s 20 and Dallas had just 39 on 40 shots from everywhere else. Dirk and Terry took 40 between them. In other words, not a total team effort.
Let’s try and tick off the awesome individual performances. I feel like some “shocked” actor accepting an award and standing on stage saying, “I’ve… I’ve got so many people I need to thank…”
- Russell Westbrook. What a game. If you want to knock on his 6-18 shooting from the floor, don’t. Forget about it. Russ played a freaking fantastic ballgame. Of course there’s the triple-double (17-10-10), but the most impressive thing was that he managed the game properly down the stretch. This is one of those defining moments in his rookie season and his process of becoming a point guard. The Mavs started the fourth on a 16-2 run when Scott Brooks ran out a lineup of Watson, Weaver, Wilkins, Rose and Swift and that group turned it over four straight times. Then with about nine minutes left, Westbrook came back in and while Kyle Weaver did a lot of the damage, Westbrook took control and settled everything. He stayed within himself all night and never really forced anything. He didn’t take his first shot until five minutes into the game. When I saw that, I knew Westbrook was going to have a solid night.
- Kyle Weaver. Hey NBA, the Dreamweaver can play a little offense too. How about that crap? Pulling up and knocking down two MONSTER threes. Yes sir. And while some of us thought (arrow pointing right at me) that he was at best going to be a spot up shooter, the dude can take it to the house too. He finished off three or four really nice dribble-drives AND THEN knocked down the mega-jumpers. Oh yeah, and he played a really nice defensive game to boot. I think we’ve got a player on our hands here.
- Thabo Sefolosha. I know a lot of people said he was basically inept offensively, but maybe he just wasn’t in the right situation. Because he really plays well within the flow of an offense. Tonight, the only bad decision he had, he swished (the 17-foot fallaway with about five minutes left with 14 on the 24). With the game tightening, Thabo was incredibly calming offensively and seemed to help get everyone back into their sets and made sure nobody rushed. And he is so active defensively. He’s pretty much everywhere. He challenged every shot, tipped passes, rebounded and completely locked out Josh Howard (seven points). He’s completely changed the Thunder defensively. I’m happy Sam Presti put him on my favorite team.
- Nenad Krstic. Krispy had the jay working tonight. For once, every shot that left his hand I immediately thought, “That’s in.” He had 26 points but also was huge defensively grabbing six boards and coming up with some really nice late blocks. I’ve wished for Krstic to go down low and work the post game a little more, but if he strokes jumpers like that then who cares. (I wonder if Sam Presti just sits back with his arms folded, grinning smugly as these guys begin to confirm his genius-ness. I know I would.)
- Nick Collison and Malik Rose. Neither one has a line that’s going to jump out to anyone tomorrow morning, but they both had major impacts on this game. Collison had nine big rebounds and Rose pulled down five boards in 17 minutes. Plus, they both played big, physical defense on Dirk, never giving him an easy look.
- Scott Brooks. Other than semi-questionable lineup to start the fourth, he had his guys perfectly prepared for this one and he manged the game to perfection. His comment that it only takes five guys to play is exactly what the team needed to hear and is exactly the mindset the team had. The team didn’t play out of control and never really forced anything. He used timeouts perfectly and he called sets that his team executed flawlessly. Easily Brooks’ best in-game coaching of the season.
- Damien Wilkins, Robert Swift, Wes Welker, Rumble and anyone else I forgot, thank you so much! Thank you!
Before the game, I worried that this might be a borefest seeing as OKC only had one part of its three-part fun team. Russell is a joy to watch, but without KD and Uncle Jeff, I wondered if it would be any fun watching Nick Collison and Kyle Weaver grind out possessions. And the funny thing about it is, this was probably the most enjoyable game of the entire year from a pure basketball stand point. For four quarters there was awesome ball movement. For four quarters there was tight, no-room, suffocating defense. For four quarters, five guys (on one team) worked together as one. It was beautiful. Not to take anything away from Jeff Green and KD, because give me them back tomorrow please, but what an effort by the Thunder scraps – and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Awesome win for OKC and we all know Dallas will say it’s on them and they weren’t ready and there’s nobody to blame but themselves but the fact is, the Thunder kicked their butt. They wanted it more. Four straight offensive rebounds in the first quarter says it all. OKC scrapped and Dallas didn’t. Like I said, they were going to go ahead and play the game regardless of who the Thunder had suiting up. And evidently, Dallas didn’t get that memo.
Next up is the Wizards Wednesday night at home. I know we did alright without Jeff Green and KD, but seriously guys, if you want to get well before then, I’m totally cool with that.