I’m kind of sort of shell-shocked. A lot of times last year and even in a game this year, I had no idea what I watched. And I mean that in a bad way.
But tonight, I really don’t know what I just saw, in a great, grand, wonderful way. Holy smokes what a beatdown. Oklahoma City pounded the defending Eastern Conference champs 102-74 in front of a third sellout crowd at the Ford Center. And I’m not even sure it was that close.
I know what some are going to jump up and say. Harumph! The Magic only suited eight players and were shorthanded! Harumph! If you want to use that as an excuse, fine by me. All I know is that the Thunder absolutely smacked one of the league’s best teams with one of the most dominating players in the league. So excuses or not, the scoreboard cares not.
It’s funny, because I couldn’t have been more wrong about this game. I thought the Magic had a major matchup advantage coming in. But I guess I had Dwight Howard’s triple-double emblazoned in my brain from last year in a game the Magic beat OKC just as a bad. But this was worse. I thought the Magic would torch the Thunder from the outside. Nope. Orlando went just 3-16 from 3 and shot 36 percent overall. I thought Howard would have his way in the post. Wrong again. Superman had just 20 points and seven boards, but he wasn’t as good as the numbers seem. OKC frustrated Howard in every way on the post. And I had just a bad feeling in general. Well, that appears to have been incorrect as well. I like being wrong.
And while this game wasn’t close after halftime, the most important part of it was the last five of the third quarter. OKC had built a solid 20-point lead halfway through the frame. Last season, the opponent would go on a 10-2 run to close the period to get the deficit manageable headed to the fourth. And you’d have to fight to finish with a win. Not tonight though. The Thunder put their foot on the gas and sped into the fourth and then went to lightspeed after that. I think OKC could have made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs actually.
It’s actually kind of difficult to recap what happened because it was such a laugher. So here are some quick thoughts:
- Kevin Durant would like to give a big Eff You to plus/minus this evening. How does a +35 do you? And Westbrook put up a +41 (!!!). More impressively, somehow in a 28-point win, Kevin Ollie put in a -11. I don’t know how you do that, but The Motown Singer accomplished it.
- Oh, and I think Durant has rebounded from his airballing – 28 points, 11-17, 2-6 from deep, five assists, four boards, and two turnovers in just 32 minutes.
- Obviously, quite an effort defensively. I’ll say this, maybe the best defense the Thunder played all night was letting J.J. Redick shoot. He went 2-11 and 0-6 from 3. If you wanted a word to describe how Redick played, I think it would be “poorly.”
- Westbrook finished with 17 points and 10 assists, and though he had five turnovers, he played solid. He went 3-4 from 3, 5-12 from the floor and did awesome work on Jameer Nelson. Westbrook is just so active defensively. Some of his turnovers are just momentary brain farts, but I’ll trade those for the countless number of plays he made tonight.
- I don’t think there is any coincidence in Westbrook’s assist numbers and Nenad Krstic’s good shooting games. Observe: In the first two games, Westbrook had 23 assists. Krstic went 12-19 from the field. In the last three before Orlando, 16 assists and Krstic was 4-20 in those three. Westbrook can almost get Krstic those 18-foot jumpers at will. And when Krispy is knocking them down, it makes Westbrook look very good.
- Everybody did great work on Dwight Howard. Etan Thomas was physical with him. Krstic played him solid and held him up long enough for help to come. And on the glass, the entire Thunder roster attacked. OKC outrebounded the Magic 45-30 and that’s with the Thunder only grabbing four offensive boards. OKC had Orlando as a one-and-done outfit tonight and when a jumpshooting team isn’t hitting and they aren’t getting second chances, it’s going to spell a night like tonight.
- I am ready to chair the campaign for Thabo Sefolosha to make first-team defense. I challenge anyone to play better, more active and inspired man-to-man defense than Thabo in these first six games. His line was beautiful (13 points, 3-3 from 3, 10 rebounds, two steals, two assists), but he just gave no room to any Magic shooter. He covers up so many mistakes single-handily for the Thunder with his effort and help defense. He’s this team’s most valuable player so far. No doubt in my mind.
- James Harden in 19 minutes: five points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals, no turnovers. And how about the two passes he had in the fourth. One was a gorgeous draw-and-dish to Etan Thomas. The other, he pulled Gortat to him and passed it between The Hammer’s legs to Durant for a dunk. No rookie feels the game better than Harden. His numbers may not be blowing anyone away, but the guy is an unselfish playmaker. Perfect piece for this team.
- OKC shot 9-16 from 3 and hit four straight in the second quarter to pull ahead heading to halftime. Big plays there by Sefolosha (hit two), Durant and Westbrook.
- Orlando missed 13 free throws. I’m sure SVG was pumped about that.
- Nick Collison played an excellent 18 minutes. Again, the box score doesn’t do him justice. He made a bunch of hustle plays, took a charge and just played his rear off. You’d expect nothing less from him. Just another night at the office.
- Again, the Thunder just beat the NBA runner-up Orlando Magic by 28. Marinate on that for a minute.
The Thunder moves on with two very winnable games and could very well be looking at a 5-3 record heading into a matchup with San Antonio. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s clear this team is nothing like the one from last year. Not even like the team that was playing solid ball in April. These guys are hustling, helping, playing unselfish and best of all, playing awesome defense. When they’re making shots, they can beat anybody. Seriously. Any-body.
Next up is a roadie in Sacramento against the Kings Tuesday night.