No. 4: The pupil becomes the master, for a second time [recap]
Honestly, this was probably my favorite game from last season. The last time the two teams met, just two weeks prior, Oklahoma City stunned the Spurs 78-76 at the Ford Center for what was then, easily the Thunder’s best win of the season. OKC trailed by 17 at one point, turned it over a ton and shot only 36 percent. So up until March 31, it was OKC’s best win, albeit maybe coming in one of their worst played games.
But the 96-95 thriller came in San Antonio. And it was a fantastic game. After Kevin Durant struggling a bit offensively the previous week, it was especially sweet to see the Durantula return to form and drop 31 points on 12-19 shooting and grab eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 16 and 10 assists (and that insanely awesome offensive rebound over Manu – one of my favorite plays from last year). Nenad Krstic went 8-11 from the field for 16 and hit a monster jumper late. Jeff Green had, you guessed it, 16 as well and played pretty good defense on Timmy. Thabo scored just two points but was a beast defensively on Manu Ginobili and Michael Finley. Kyle Weaver hit a huge 3. It was just a total team effort and it was totally awesome.
OKC held dearly onto a lead with seconds remaining and after a scramble in which the ball ended up in Finley’s hands, his jumper clanked off the rim giving the Thunder it’s defining win for the season. Westbrook played a fantastic game and here’s my thoughts after the game:
I know KD was downright dirty tonight with his 31 on 12-19 shooting and eight rebounds, but the player of the game is Russell Westbrook. Forget his triple-double, this is his best game of the season. He had 16 points (6-15 from the field), 10 assists, three rebounds and turned it over just twice. But more than anything, he had complete control of the game.
During the second half, I felt like I was watching Chris Paul or Deron Williams control the game. He was calm, he was assertive and he was confident. I really never doubted him. He took good shots and he made better decisions. His drive and dish to Nenad Krstic with about a minute left was absolutely perfect. He let the 24 tick down a bit, hesitated, beat his man, drew the defense and kicked to Krispy for a sweet 22-footer to go up 96-93. Heck, his drive and pass to Jeff Green with 15 seconds left was a thing of beauty but Duncan made a great play on Green’s dunk attempt. And on top of that, he played top notch defense on Tony Parker holding Mr. Longoria to 11 points and four assists. Last time Thabo had to switch over late in the game. This time, Russ had it.
So yeah, easily my favorite game because I honestly had no expectation to win, even when the Thunder held a one-point lead with 13 seconds left. Heck, I didn’t think we would win even after there wasn’t any time on the clock and the scoreboard said 96-95. That’s how little confidence I had. But the scoreboard had one more point for OKC than San Antonio. And that’s what mattered.