The Thunder’s victory over the Heat was incredibly anti-climactic, but thankfully it was kind of boring and stilted in a good way. The major highlights were an argument on the court, a really good shooting night for a few players and, um…the fact that they won? Does that count?
Yes, the game was one those but there were some things that deserve to get some attention so let’s have a look, shall we?
Although they started off a bit slow, the Thunder quickly grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck in the first quarter and took control. Westbrook especially seemed to almost do no wrong in the first frame, managing the game very well and racking up 5 assists. He continued that play in the second quarter and I only counted one shot in the entire first half that was ill-advised (though he would make up for that in the second half). Now if he just hadn’t racked up some silly turnovers and missed some shots in the second half than this would have REALLY been one of those great games for him considering he only played 27 minutes and racked up 11 assists, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Durant got loads of buckets and also turned the ball over at least three times in the first half (though I’m fine with the scorer listing fewer than that), both are becoming expected from him and that is the good news and the bad news of his All-Star season (a lot of this stems from Durant’s continued efforts to be a playmaker and distributor but that still doesn’t make all those turnovers okay, it just means he has more room for improvement), but I can’t emphasize how well the Thunder executed offensively in the first half up until about the 5 minute mark of the second quarter.
Great spacing, quick ball movement and player’s moving without the ball into open scoring lanes made it easier on Westbrook and Maynor and the offense to the point that this game looked like it would be an early blowout. Harden provided an excellent spark off of the bench and Ibaka, Maynor and Collison continued to bring a solid impact as the Thunder’s underrated second unit.
But like nearly every single game in the NBA, the Heat made a run at the end of the half (someone want to put a hand in Beasley’s face?!) to get the score respectable again and the Thunder went a little cold. So the Thunder went into halftime nursing a 10 point lead, 55-45. And it could have, maybe even should have, been double that.
A lot more of the same in the second half, though there were more miscues in general from Westbrook, Durant and the Thunder as a whole, but you never really got the feeling the Heat were all that interested in even playing the game, let alone competing in it so the turnover aspect is the only real criticism I can levy against the Thunder because it kept the Heat closer than they even should have been.
Most excitement of the night? Jermaine O’Neal yet again deciding to pick a fight with one of the Thunder’s young stars, only this time it was Durant and not Westbrook (maybe next time Green, Harden, Ibaka, heck, the majority of the team can all take their turn and get this over with). I have to say, I love the fact that Durant took umbrage with the forearm that O’Neal gave him (after Durant swatted O’neal’s hand away the play before, but I guess the refs didn’t see that and I’m fine with it) but seriously, I just keep seeing images of twigs being snapped when I think of those two fighting.
By the close of the fourth quarter Westbrook and Wade were sitting comfortably on the bench (soon to be joined by Durant) and there was no question how the game was going to end. Thunder won 98-80.
When did the Thunder record their 22nd win last year? Try April 10. The 79th game of the season.
- I must re-emphasize how quickly the ball moved on offense for the Thunder during the majority of the first half, it was almost like they were playing hot potato but with the end result being a great shot instead of me being stuck with the ball at the end and everyone laughing. What…that never happened to you?
- Couldn’t help but notice when Westbrook got sat at the end of the first half and I expect it had something to do with a poor decision but I’m not sure. Anyone else have a better vantage point?
- Overall it was a good defensive effort, especially what Harden/Thabo/even Durant did to Wade in the second half, but I have to be blunt and just say that Krstic really showed just how poor post defense can be played in this game and that’s also why he got sat early in the second half for Collison until the game was out of reach. That might also be why Krstic was the ONLY Thunder player not to have a positive +/- at 0.
- 36 points on 14-18 from the field, 5-6 from the stripe and 3-3 from downtown. I mean, I guess that’s a good shooting night from Durant.
- Somehow Jeff Green was kept in the game for 43 minutes…on the back end of a back-to-back…with the game well sewn up at about the 9 minute mark of the fourth quarter. Yeah, I don’t get it either but he did play a solid game (14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks). Though to be fair, Beasley abused Green and pretty much anyone else guarding him until the fourth quarter.
- Ibaka’s 8 points and 10 rebounds, Harden’s 14 points and 3 rebounds and Maynor’s 8 points and 2 assists were huge in keeping the Heat at arm’s length
- The Thunder shot 50.7% from the field, 50% from 3 and 80% from the free throw line while the Heat shot 41.5% from the field, 12.5% from 3 and 55% from the stripe…yes, this game should have been a 30-40 point win but a win is a win and this makes 22. Again, April 10th, people!
- Lastly, did Westbrook actually have 7 turnovers? I watched the entire game and I expected 4, maybe 5 but the 7 number surprised me when looking at the box score.
Bring on the Hawks! I really like playing the Eastern Conference.