Is the glass half full or is it half empty?
I asked my wife that question (without any real context, since she doesn’t really like basketball on TV that much) and she replied sweetly “half full of course”. Ok, there it is. Instead of looking at this game as a game where the Thunder were up 32 points with 1:32 left in the third, only to allow the Minnesota bench mob run the score back into single digits, I am instead going to mostly ignore all that and write about how we dominated all facets of the game with our starters in and built up the big lead and “got even” for the whoopin’ they gave us here a few months back.
In the first quarter it was just simple execution; the Thunder executed it’s offense and defense and the T-Wolves did not. The Wolves are basically running a three guard lineup with Foye, Telfair and Miller, a tweener forward in Gomes and rookie Kevin Love at center. While that group did a good job on the boards (backed up by Sonic/Thunder killer Craig Smith), it had very little inside presence on offense. They took a lot of jumpers and just weren’t hitting them. The Thunder were smooth offensively hitting their jumpers, cutting for back-door’s, and driving the lane. We had a 14-8 advantage in points in the paint in the first and opened up a 10 point lead shooting 48% to the Wolves’ 30%. The Thunder also had zero turns in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter it was more of the same except the defense really settled in for the Thunder, forcing 9 turns by the Wolves. The Thunder also played some small ball with the lineups giving the starters their first rest; for a time playing a lineup of Atkins, Westbrook, Weaver, Rose and Collison. That group did a great job closing down the paint and guarding the perimeter. The half closed with an 18 point lead for the Thunder and the future looked bright. The bench for the Thunder Rose, Weaver, Collison and Atkins were +7, +7, +9 and +10 respectively. Remember those numbers.
Most of the third quarter was again more of the same. The Thunder were still scrapping on defense and smooth on offense shooting 59% in the quarter to 31% for the Wolves, who were relentlessly jacking up long jumpers with the exception of the tough inside play of Craig Smith. Still the Thunder built it’s lead up to 32 just before the close of the third, scoring 27 points in the quarter to the Wolves’ 14. Through three quarters or offensive efficiency was 123 points per 100 possessions while the Wolves were at 78. It was a sure fire blow out…..right? Rose, Collison, Weaver and Atkins were still at +7, +11, +10, and +11 respectively.
Staying with the glass half full theme, coach Brooks began the fourth with some of the bench in the game and the shots started falling fast for the Wolves. First Rodney Carney hit a deep two, followed shortly by back to back threes by Bobby Brown. Nothing but a single free throw for the Thunder during that 2+ minute stretch so Brooksy calls a timeout, I assume just to reiterate that this is the NBA, and that we don’t let up when you’ve got your foot on the other guy’s neck.
Atkins, Weaver, Rose and Collison are still in the game at this point, and we hit a few shots to get feeling a little better. So good in fact that Brooks feels like he can let Damien Wilkins see the light of day.
The Thunder dry up at this point and don’t put any points on the board for about a three minute stretch and then the TV timeout (I think?). Brooks looks a little shell shocked on the sidelines, like someone who is telling themselves “stay calm, stay calm, this too shall pass”.
After the timeout the Wolves rattle off two more threes and and a couple of two pointers for 10 quick points to again force a timeout by OKC. The Wolves had cut the score to 15. Brooks replaces Weaver and Wilkins with Thabo and Durant to hopefully stop the bleeding. Durant quickly gets on the board with a three and a little runner, but the defense was MIA as the Wolves still kept putting the ball in the basket, going 7-0 in the final two minutes.
- The Thunder were outscored 37-13 in the fourth quarter.
- Atkins, Collison, Rose, Weaver and Wilkins were -12, -14, -13, -10 and -9. Wilkins managed that -9 in just two minutes off the bench. All of those guys (except Wilkins) were big positive guys on the +/- through three quarters.
- The Thunder had only one turnover in the first half. Feel free to read that sentence again if you think it might be a misprint.
- The Thunder had 110 scoring opportunities (FGA+FTA) to the Wolves’ 102. The difference mainly being the sixteen turns for the Wolves.
- The Wolves’ 16 turns all came in the first three quarters.
- The Wolves’ were only 15-23 from the free throw line (65%).
- The Thunder again were playing really well in the passing lanes snagging 10 steals. It was only the 11th time we’ve had at least 10 in a game, but the 5th time in the last 9 games. I guess we can call this “the Thabo effect”.
- Russell Westbrook shot the ball poorly tonight, but contributed with 8 rebounds and 10 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and only 2 turns and one foul.
- Likewise with Thabo, who was only 3-7 from the field but contributed 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals with only 1 turn and 1 foul.
- All of the starters played well. Green was quietly efficient offensively but didn’t grab too many boards, Krstic was his usual steady if unspectacular self, and KD is the offensive assassin who chipped in 8 rebs. and 5 assists to go with his 30 points.
- I appreciated seeing Weaver coming near to the bench during a ball stop and Thabo jumping up and giving some instruction to the rookie about where to be on the floor.
- I also loved seeing Westbrook still working to deny an easy dunk on a breakaway by Bobby Brown with a big lead late in the game.
- It was really weird hearing the crowd (or lack of) in Minny. When a Thunder player went to go shoot free throws, a terrible squeal would come through the speakers of my TV; it sounded like a bunch of 12 year old girls screaming at a Jonas Brother’s concert. Brian Davis enlightened the audience with the fact that the Target center is so sparse for fans that they actually pipe in fake crowd noise!
- Thunder/Sonic killer Craig Smith had 19 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes through three quarters. We had no answer for him down low. Luckily for us he picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth and rode the bench the rest of the way. Check out his splits. He averages more points against us than all but two other teams. It was the same way in Seattle the last couple of seasons.
- Malik Rose-foul machine. 6 fouls in 17 minutes.
- Tonight’s win was the 20th of the season, matching the number of wins all last season. How’s that for glass half full?