Another fantastic game. And by fantastic, well, I think you know what I mean.
- The Thunder mixed it up today with a different starting lineup and a lot of the non-roster guys saw a lot more playing time. The starting five were Westbrook, Vaden, Livingston, D.J. White and DeVon Hardin. Livingston was back and looked great after sitting yesterday’s game and Kyle Weaver (12 points, 4-5 from the floor) asserted himself much more and was far more aggressive on the offensive end. I actually noticed him today.
- James Harden didn’t play at all in the first half but came on in the second to score nine points and on 2-4 shooting. He also had three terrific passes in a short time span, including one beautiful bounce pass to D.J. White for a dunk. Harden’s vision and feel for where his teammates are is just awesome. When Westbrook flies through the lane and goes airborne I get the feeling he’s on the way down and thinks, “Oh crap, where do I go with this?” Harden on the other hand is seeing where he could go with it as he’s slashing through the lane and before he takes off.
- Westbrook today though, was excellent again. He may have had four turnovers, but I only can remember one being his fault. Three times a perfect pass went through a teammates hands (I’m talking to you, Byron Nelson Mullens). Russ scored 26 (9-16 shooting!), tossed out five assists, had four rebounds and had five steals and appeared completely in control for the full game. He never really had a bad stretch of poor decisions. One play that stuck out to me: On a fast break, Westbrook had the opportunity to go 1-on-2 or pull-out. He went ahead and took on the two defenders, but didn’t attack the rim recklessly without a Plan B. He took his time, drew both defenders and dropped off a beauty to D.J. White for a dunk.
- Robert Vaden got more chances today and didn’t take advantage (two points, 1-7 from the floor). Twice early he was set up nicely by Westbrook and missed wide open threes.
- Reader Bryan with a nice comment about Westbrook’s first half: “Agreed, he is playing quite well and you can tell that he is all that’s holding the team together at the moment. Vaden just stands there. Mullens is like a cat chasing a flying insect and, the others are just getting by on Westbrook’s play. I’m a bit shocked, frankly.”
- Twice Robert Swift beat Mullens on the offensive glass and finished with dunks. Mullens is just pretty inconsistent. His jumper didn’t fall today but he was impressive going up high for an alley-oop. While he scored six, he didn’t make much of an impression on the glass or the defensive end again. Unless he really stars in Vegas, I’m thinking D-League all the way for him. I think he has every tool to be really, really good, he’s just not there yet.
- Nice to see former Yukon/John Marshall star J.R. Giddens playing pretty well. He may actually catch on with someone this year. He’s got a pretty well rounded game and he’s a good defender. Also, De’Angelo Alexander got his first burn and scored on a nice lefty spin move late in the game. (Update: Evidently, that sweet lefty spin move was actually DeVon Hardin. Darn you, blurry webcast.)
- David Thorpe: “Westbrook has a chance to be a all-defensive team guy … Good defense always starts with great starting positions, both individually and with all 5 guys. The Thunder, collectively, get that.”
- Just because I know the entire state of Oklahoma cares: Robert Swift played 21 minutes, scored nine, grabbed four rebounds and thoroughly embarrassed himself just three times.
- D.J. White played much better today with 16 and 5, hitting 7 of 10 from the floor. And DeVon Hardin played pretty well too scoring 11, grabbing seven boards and blocking four shots.
- Serge Ibaka didn’t play any today. Obviously probably nothing wrong, just management is picking spots for these guys. He’s got another full week in Vegas coming up and he’s not used to playing in back-to-back games.
- Evidently, Moses Ehambe played two minutes today and again, came up empty in the box score. I almost have a hard time believing that he’s played 5-plus minutes and hasn’t done anything.
Nobody making a huge impression today, except for the fact Russell Westbrook really looks like he’s improved and still improving. I think he’s understanding more and more how to get teammates involved and how to choose his spots. Again, for the billionth time, he’s not where he should be, but he’s played very well in these three games.
Oklahoma City gets the Scrapple tomorrow at 2 p.m.