Ah, preseason overtime basketball. Nothing better. Except… everything. To recap quickly, the Thunder blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead, the game went to overtime and the backups backups came in and locked in a 110-105 Thunder victory.
The final score was nice and getting a win was fun but there are three very positive things to take from this one: Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and 3-point shooting.
First, Westbrook. How does a triple-double sound? It sounds pretty awesome, but Westbrook fell just short notching 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in three quarters. And only three turns including one coming off a rebound that bounced off his foot. He just looks like a whole new player. I loved the Russ from last year but gone are the hair-pulling moments. He’s in control and he plays smart. Two plays stood out: 1) With 1:15 left in the first, he took his time, split a double-team, went to the rack and scored two and was fouled. It was a patient, well calculated move. 2) With 3:30 left in the third, he got inside the lane, drew two defenders and slipped a beauty to Ibaka for a flush. A very slick play.
Next, Serge Ibaka. The man is a freak, a beast, a monster, a whatever-you-want-to-describe-him-as. His line may not blow you away – 10 points, six boards, one block – but he’s quickly stuffing Byron Mullens on the end of the bench and possibly buying his bus ticket to Tulsa. Ibaka runs the floor like a guard and tonight he showcased that rim protection we’ve all been dying to see. His block on Grant Hill in the second quarter wasn’t a block – it was a complete destruction of a shot. He got a piece of two of Amare Stoudemire’s shots, but was ticked for fouls. He goaltended twice but it was nice to see someone above the rim protecting it. I’m am quickly being convinced he doesn’t only deserve a roster spot, but a place in the rotation. He made some mistakes like a couple defensive three second calls and two moving screens, but he’s learning. Regardless, a great high energy performance. I foresee a Serge Ibaka jersey in my future. I’m officially in love.
Lastly, the outside shooting. Granted, it helps when Kevin Durant goes 5-5 from deep. But Thabo Sefolosha was 2-2. Jeff Green hit two. So maybe it wasn’t the “team” but a couple guys REALLY shot the ball well from the outside. And if that’s what it takes to not be last in the league in 3-point shooting, I’m for it. But for the most part, the team took smart shots and knocked them down, hitting 47.1 percent from the floor.
Not to be lost was a solid defensive effort. KD was his usual awesome self offensively (30 and 11 on 10-16 shooting), but I thought he played a solid defensive game. Etan Thomas provides a lot of muscle inside. Jeff Green did decent work on Amare Stoudemire. Russell Westbrook tormented Steve Nash. And Thabo was all over the passing lanes. There was a lot of talking, a lot of great rotating and any time you hold the Suns to 73 points through three quarters, it’s a solid night.
Brilliant, random thoughts:
- We’re one television game in and I am close to Van Gogh-ing both my ears. Enough Thunder Up. I can’t do a whole season of this. Please. For the children.
- Was it just me or did KD look really aggressive on the glass? It seemed like he was really snatching them up. He finished with a double-double and it just looked like he was really going after it hard on the boards. If he does that all year, he can absolutely be a 9-10 rebound a game guy.
- Let me just say, I’m not really a fan of Russ’s mohawky thing. But if that’s what it takes for him to play the way he had lately, then by all means.
- Kevin Durant finished with a +24. WHAT NOW PLUS MINUSES?
- But he also finished with seven turnovers. What now buzzkill?
- Obviously you’re not psyched about five straight turnovers in the last three minutes of the fourth. The backups were on the floor, but geez, the meltdown was bad.
- Hey you guys! Did you know Rumble was the 2009 Mascot of the Year? I KNOW!
- No Byron Mullens tonight. He’ll likely get some more chances in the last four preseason games, but it appears Serge Ibaka has distanced himself a little in that competition.
- Ahhh, another year of Brian Davis and “triggering,” “triggered” and “triggers.” If you asked me what I’d rather kibosh, Thunder Up or all forms of “trigger,” I’d have to go pack my things, head to Nepal, spends three weeks eating grubs and drinking ditch water, live with a Shaolin monk, find nirvana and then hopefully come back with my answer. Because it’s that hard of a question.
Did not play
Ryan Bowen (coach’s decision), Michael Ruffin (coach’s decision), Tre Kelley (coach’s decision), Byron Mullens (coach’s decision), Nenad Krstic (coach’s decision), Nick Collison (ankle).
If there’s one thing to not be fired up about, it was James Harden’s game and the execution late. He scored just five points on 3-12 shooting in 29 minutes. And when he was THE offensive threat on the floor late, he wasn’t able to take over and get his unit to put the ball in the basket. He did play a bit better in the extra period, but he hasn’t been the efficient scorer we’ve expected quite yet. I’m thinking it’s just early career jitters as he hit just 5 of 9 from the line and he’s typically a very good free throw shooter.
Oh, and it wasn’t awesome blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead. Nothing to be too worried about because obviously we know who was on the floor, but at the same time, Phoenix didn’t come back with Stoudemire and Nash. They came back with Earl Clark and Alando Tucker. I could’ve gone without that. And without the overtime.
A win for the Thunder which is always better than a loss. Next up is Miami Oct. 14 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.