I like a good close game. I love the intensity it brings, the edge-of-your-seat moments and the sheer explosion of joy when a big play happens in your favor. Those type of games are what make this whole thing so darn fun. But watching your team completely outclass another squad can sometimes be just as, or even more fun.
We were due for one of these. Oklahoma City hasn’t put it on easy street against a team since, well, really back in November versus Orlando. And the Thunder pretty much put the Knicks away early, running out to 63 first half points en route to a 106-88 win. And it wasn’t that close. With five minutes left, OKC led 100-71.
The Thunder played really lose offensively, taking good shots in rhythm, making nice passes and just sharing the ball all over. But what keyed this one was just flat out excellent man-to-man defense. Every shot was challenged. I’m talking, every shot. Passing lanes were closed. New York didn’t have any room to breath at any point and it forced them into 20 turnovers and held them to 38 percent from the field. There was just a great energy and focus for OKC right from the opening tip. The offense and defense, plus great hustle. Every loose ball went the Thunder’s way it seems. Plus they were making shots. Which helps.
- The Knicks didn’t do their homework with Russell Westbrook. They must have confused last year’s (or early season) Westbrook with the new and improved model. He can hit that elbow jumper if you give it to him. Westbrook had about as quiet a 17 points as you could have. He was 7-11 from the floor, dished out five dimes and didn’t turn it over. All in just 25 minutes.
- Jeff Green was aggressive and while 4-13 for nine points isn’t awesome, I thought he was solid. He had seven boards, a block and three steals. But he was 1-5 from deep again. One issue I’ve notice with his 3-point shot is that he sometimes drifts on it. He’ll catch in rhythm with an open look but instead of settling his body, he’ll just shoot in motion. And his body will fade to the left, throwing off the whole flow of the shot. He’s a really nice shooter when set and ready. And he can make it while drifting, but when you’re struggling a bit with it, I think it’s better to take only the good ones.
- Durant is a really nice passer. He forces things sometimes, but he always has his head up when he gets in the lane and looks for teammates. He had just three tonight, but the way he got in the lane with ease and found cutters was impressive. He could be a five assist a game guy. I’m convinced of it.
- Good for Jonathan Bender. Honestly, I’m happy for him. He’s still got some skill left. I can see why he came back.
- Kevin Durant was 9-10 in the first quarter from the free throw line. That’s a freebie more than averages a game in the first quarter alone. The reason? He was aggressive and New York has nobody to check him. He finished 13-16 from the line, scored 30 on 8-14 shooting and pulled down five boards. Yawn.
- I think Eric Maynor would start on a lot of teams. You wouldn’t think a backup point guard could be such a huge piece to the puzzle, but he has vastly improved this team. Instead of the offense stalling for three minutes at a time when Westbrook sat, things stay at the same level and sometimes even pick up. He had nine points and four assists in 23 minutes and hit a 35-foot 3, which was awesome.
- KD scored just five points in the fourth quarter. But in what was actually “crunch time” tonight, he had 15 points in the first quarter.
- The Thunder had 54 points in the paint.
- Serge Ibaka has some butterfingers. But he has really nice touch around the bucket. Kind of an interesting combination. I’m sure he’ll get much better at catching and securing the ball when he gets more used to the speed of the NBA game.
- The Knicks shot 18-57 from 16 feet and out (28 percent). OKC shot just 10-34 (29 percent), but was 20-33 at the rim and was 11-21 from 10 feet and in to 15 feet.
- Thabo absolutely does not like to pass on a run out. He almost always takes it to the rim on his own. Maybe it’s because he sees it as his only real chance to get points. He turned in another stellar game, playing top drawer defense and also pulled down eight boards.
After watching a sloppy, poorly played Bedlam game where it honestly seemed like nobody would ever score again, let me tell you, the Thunder game was an absolute treat. While watching it, I was thinking, “Ohhh. This is what basketball is supposed to look like.” There was honestly nothing to complain about in this one. When your team puts a game away in the first quarter, it’s hard to be upset about anything. And the fact that this puts OKC at 21-16 and FIVE games over .500 makes me so happy that I could kiss Byron Mullens’ scant facial hair.
Next up: A big home game against the Spurs Wednesday night.