Yesterday we won a game. If we win today that’s two in a row. If we win tomorrow that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before. – Major League II
So what happens when you when three in a row? Do you get anything special, like a prize?
Can you believe after only having three wins TOTAL on Dec. 31, that the team has now won three straight? That’s totally awesome. My how far they’ve come.
Here’s a key stat from tonight’s 88-83 win over Washington to keep in mind: The last seven minutes of the game, the Thunder held Washington to 1 of 12 from the floor.
That’s what OKC did for a third straight game – defense. Just great, total team defense. And you know, total team basketball is a beautiful thing. Every OKC starter was in double-figures tonight with lines of 12, 12, 15, 12 and 18. That’s pretty unbelievable. Nenad Krstic led the way with his 18, but talk about doing it together.
We’ve talked about how this was a big opportunity for this team to become a full functioning unit instead of a couple studs and some scraps. And Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are the type of guys character-wise that should be able to jump right back into it but now will be playing with Kyle Weaver that’s playing with confidence and a Nenad Krstic that’s got confidence and is playing how we hoped and a Thabo Sefolosha that is an absolute defensive stopper and a bench that feels like it can contribute. These are big, big things going forward into next season.
Two guys really stand out with big performances (and that’s with nine guys playing pretty well): Nick Collison and Thabo. Collison did a the little things – got on the floor, tipped balls and finished plays. He scored 12 points (5-5) from the field and grabbed 10 boards, but had two major plays down the stretch. The first was when he got on the floor and dug the ball out giving OKC possession. The next was grabbing an airball in traffic that resulted in the game-sealing bucket.
And Thabo. Boy howdy, Thabo. I really just think he needed a new situation and everything has just come together for him. It’s awesome to see a guy so visibly take pride in his defense. He wants to own you on the defensive end. And call me crazy, but Thabo may be the starting two guard of the future. Now hear me out – he’s obviously an outstanding defender (how about that block on Antwan Jamison late? Holy crap), but his offensive game is really solid. His shot selection is smart. He makes really sharp and crisp cuts. He creates lanes and open jumpers for teammates. He makes the extra pass. Add that with his rebounding ability and defense and the fact he’s just 24, he could easily be a solid starting two. What a steal he’s been and I’m really excited about what he can potentially contribute in the future.
The game was close down the stretch but OKC made the winning plays when it had to. The Thunder stretched out to a 10-point lead late in the third, but the Wizards went on a 12-2 run to tie the game up. Then it was a back and forth affair with the largest margin separating the teams being four.
With OKC up two, Russell Westbrook checked in with about eight minutes left and took a bad shot and then turned the ball over. The Wizards went up four and Scott Brooks sent Kyle Weaver back in and sat Westbrook. Earl Watson took the point and settled the team getting OKC back into its sets and the Thunder went back up two. It was one of those big moments where you could see Russell pressing and not executing. But he checked back in with three minutes left and quickly led a 3 on 2 fast break for a bucket and then with OKC clinging to a one-point, 84-83 lead with about 30 seconds left in the game, Westbrook tried to run a pick-and-pop with Krstic but the play didn’t work. But Westbrook repgrouped and gathered himself knocked down a huge jumper with three on the 24. Just a monster play. So when it was all said an done, Westbrook got the big minutes in the big moments he needed.
Things are really starting to come together. You win three straight without Kevin Durant with two of them without Jeff Green. OKC shot 50 percent and held Washington to 40 percent. The Thunder outrebounded the Wiz 41-30. The defense picked up and the team picked each other up. It’s a beautiful thing.
A couple quick bullets:
- Nice work by Brent Weber tonight playing injured. He didn’t miss a beat with the broken wrist and even made up a few nice stories about how it happened (getting hung in the rim is a good one).
- Not only is Nenad Krstic finding his deadly pick-and-pop jumper, but his post game is developing too. He had three nice back-to-the-bucket scores and is becoming a sweet bailout guy late in the shot clock.
- Westbrook played within himself again and despite a rough stretch there in the middle of the fourth, he was great again. Twelve points, eight assists, two rebounds and just three turnovers. Again he made everyone on the floor better and he created a ton of scoring opportunities for Krstic and Sefolosha.
- Anyone else notice Kyle Weaver’s sick little pony? I’m not a huge fan of braids as is, but pulling them into a tiny rat-tail isn’t helping matters.
- During this three game win streak, OKC is giving up just over 87 points a game. That’s quite an improvement over its usual surrendering of 98 a game. There’s been a real commitment to that end of the floor recently and it’s something that needs to carry on.
- Anyone see Jeff Green tonight? They cut over and show Kevin Durant like he’s one of Blake Griffin’s parents, but I didn’t see Uncle Jeff a single time. Is he just getting the typical second-fiddle treatment or was he just not on the bench?
- Nice bench production tonight. Damien Wilkins had eight points and seven rebounds (but did airball once and missed a fast break layup). Robert Swift had six points and three rebounds and played solid defense. Earl had seven assists and Malik Rose contributed in more ways than by getting in the box score.
- Did I mention that I’m loving Thabo Sefolosha? Man that guy is awesome. He’s tied his season high three straight games and is averaging 15.0 points, 8.6 rpg and 3.0 apg during this three-game stretch. And what a complete line tonight: 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks. Thanks John Paxson! Enjoy your late first-round pick!
Maybe Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are back this weekend to take on the Hornets Saturday night in New Orleans, but there’s no major rush. These guys got your back. They’ll play hard regardless but having those two would just be the icing on the cake. I don’t even want to think about the possibility of four in a row.