The fear was, at least for me, was that Wednesday’s spanking was going to send the Thunder into some kind of funk. Their confidence would take a hit, maybe they’d question themselves a bit and therefore, drop a bad one on the road. But then I quickly remembered this is a good team and it’s kind of silly to worry about such things.
The quasi odd thing though, is that Oklahoma City didn’t play that good of a game. Russell Westbrook turned the ball over seven times (six times in the second half) and only had two assists after halftime. Kevin Durant didn’t have an overly dominant offensive performance (32 on 10-22 shooting). Jeff Green went a mediocre 5-13 from the floor. Yet the Thunder cruised to a 17-point victory, winning 104-87. So what was the deal?
Oklahoma City got its energy goin’ at the defensive end, that’s what. The Thunder held the Clippers to just 87 points on 37 percent shooting, picked up 11 steals and had seven blocks. The intensity was high all night defensively, the rotations were crisp and the team communicated well. After giving up a bunch of points the last week or so, it was nice to see the Thunder refocus and remember their calling card. Westbrook had seven steals. Green had three blocks. Thabo Sefolosha locked down on Eric Gordon, forcing him into a 3-11 night. Overall, it was just a solid performance on that end of the floor.
And it’s not that the Thunder played bad offensively. 104 points is good and they shot 45 percent. They got to the line 36 times and made 27 free throws. And once again, OKC got some production from role players. Nenad Krstic turned in a very productive performance. He had a double-double (his first since Dec. 26) with 13 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden hit 3-6 from deep, scored 17 points and had four assists off the bench and got the key minutes at shooting guard down the stretch. Serge Ibaka played well again with nine points and five rebounds. All in all, it was solid performance wrapped in a lackluster one, if that makes sense. The important thing is as always, it’s a win.
- KD dropped 32 for the game on 10-22 shooting. He had 15 of those in the first quarter when the Clips basically played hands-off defense. Clipper head coach Kim Hughes told his team to keep its hands off Durant, literally. It resulted in KD getting a bunch of open looks and easy jumpers. He didn’t pull off the rip move though, so if that’s what they were going for, success.
- Serge Ibaka has a ton of untapped offensive potential. When he tightens up that little 15-20 foot jumper, he’s going to be fairly awesome offensively. He’s already got a decent back-to-the-basket game, but it’s improving. Maybe his biggest weakness are his stone hands, but those have even improved since the season started.
- Craig Smith’s physical nature just eats OKC up. He had 19 points and 15 in the first half. He also grabbed six offensive rebounds. Lucky for OKC, he got in foul trouble or this may have been a little tighter.
- Games like this really illustrate how James Harden will eventually be an offensive force. He’s just an inconsistent rookie right now. But give him a season or two, let him adapt to the speed of the game, let him get used to finishing in traffic and he’s going to be a really, really good offensive player.
- Harden Headband Watch: Jimbo brought back the cloth headpiece for the first game since Toronto and of course found his outside stroke, scoring 17 on 5-11 shooting, including 3-6 from 3.
- For a second straight game, Thabo didn’t score a point. This time, he didn’t even take a shot. But again, he played fantastic defense on Gordon and Baron Davis (2-11, six points).
- I’m beginning to wonder if Scott Brooks will ever get another haircut. It’s completely over his ears now.
- Much like Michael Scott, I think sometimes Grant Long starts a sentence and has no idea where it’s going to end up. It’s like improv analysis. An improvanalysis.
- I have no problem saying it: It really felt like the Thunder got the benefit of the whistle tonight. Quite a few calls went OKC’s way it seemed, especially in the second half.
- Make that 22-2 against sub-.500 squads.
- Russ obviously had seven turns which was bad, but he also had 15 points on 5-11, nine assists, six rebounds and seven steals. Not a bad game by any means. He just got loose with the ball on a few possessions and tried to force a few passes. But then again, I guess that’s how you turn the ball over most times, isn’t it?
- Chris Kaman had 15 in the first half and looked kind of unstoppable but only attempted three shots in the second, and finished with 19. I do not know why.
- Ibaka had an awesome swat on Kaman, Green a sweet block on a Rasual Butler dunk attempt and Nick Collison a stuff on a Drew Gooden cram try. Three excellent defensive plays.
I guess what made this game feel a little sloppy and uninspiring was the fact that it felt like OKC could have won in a cakewalk. It just felt like the Thunder was throwing away opportunities to stretch the lead out to 20 and really cruise on home. But hey, who can be upset with a 17-point dub on the road? This is win No. 37 and it puts the Thunder back to 13 games over. It’s a nice way to bounce back from Wednesday’s debacle and should restore a little confidence.
Next up: Sacramento at Arco Sunday evening.