For three quarters, Oklahoma City had command of the game, but never took complete control against Philadelphia. While the Thunder led pretty much throughout, Philly was always a couple stops and a couple long balls away from getting it close. The lead swelled to 15 in the first half, but the 76ers hung around, hit shots and kept the Thunder lead around 10.
And then the fourth quarter started. OKC started the period on a 19-4 run to completely assume control of the game, but here’s the intriguing part: The Thunder bench scored all 19 of those points. In fact, not a single starter scored at all in the fourth quarter. The bench accounted for all 27 points. I find that fairly amazing in a game that wasn’t a blowout at the end of three. Starters played substantial minutes in the fourth. Eric Maynor finished with nine, Serge Ibaka 10 and James Harden 12. When the Thunder bench plays well and everyone defends, this team is really, really tough.
On the road against a sub-par team, I think the Thunder executed the perfect formula. Take an early lead, never let the other guy get close and then crank it up in the fourth. But the fact is, the Thunder probably should’ve been up by 20 in the first half. I counted nine misses at the rim in the first half alone and it may have been more than that. For the game, OKC missed a bunch at the tin, so this could’ve been worse than it was. I don’t know why it happened, but the good news is that the jumpshots were falling for the Thunder, otherwise this might’ve been a little tighter.
- Russell Westbrook started the game 1-11 from the floor, but finished with 14 assists and 10 points. Some might look at his line and think it wasn’t a great night, but he owned this one. He turned it over just once and made a couple of passes that really were a thing of beauty. The one to Nenad Krstic in the third quarter for a one-handed dunk comes to mind first.
- Kevin Durant had one of his KD-style “meh” nights. He had 26 points on 8-17 shooting, grabbed 10 boards, had three steals and two blocks. It’s getting old to say it, but when that type of line is “meh” you know you’re pretty darn awesome.
- I don’t know who that Jason Smith character was for Philly, but I like him playing against my favorite team.
- Scott Brooks finally cut his hair. It’s a good thing too, because he was about a week away from a serious case of either helmet hair or a mullet.
- Durant missed three free throws in the first half. That’s like, rare. He finished 8-11 from the stripe.
- I’ve about had enough with the hard falls from Kevin Durant. My heart can’t take too many more of those.
- I don’t know who taught Andre Iguodala how to dunk, but God bless you. It’s a thing of beauty every time.
- There was a long break before the fourth quarter because a cable broke that held up the shot clock. Extended breaks mean Brian Davis and Grant Long have to provide filler commentary. And that’s never a good thing. We heard discussions about hair length, amongst other things.
- Elton Brand was a bull inside, scoring 22 points. Like someone tweeted me, I think he stole the Hot Tub Time Machine.
- Boy, was it quiet in the arena tonight. You could really hear the sneakers squeaking and the players talking tonight. (It also helped there was only about 5,000 fans in the arena.) The Sixers don’t really play much in-game music or sound effects. I like that. It feels old school. Especially when at the Ford Center there’s some kind of noise happening at all times.
- Jason Kapono really looks like Bill Simmons to me. He shot like him tonight too, going 0-5 from the floor.
- Nenad Krstic had himself another nice third quarter, scoring eight points. He finished with 14 on the night on 7-12 shooting.
- Harden’s headband was rocked back a little further than normal. Maybe that’s what he needed to get back on track, a little headband tweak.
- As I mentioned, OKC really stunk at finishing at the rim tonight and Harden was as guilty as anyone. Once he starts finishing at the rim, he’s going to be a dynamic scorer. But I really don’t know why he’s not better now. To me it looks like he’s a little tentative about taking the contact and is over-bracing for it. It’s like he’s expecting a hard foul and it trying to score an and-1.
- Interesting note: After Harden blew an open fast break layup, Kyle Weaver subbed in for him for a few minutes. Scott Brooks wanted to get the rookie’s attention and it worked.
- You know how some teams all dye their hair or something for team unity during the playoffs or a big stretch of games? I guess the Thunder’s all wearing a black arm sleeve. Collison, Durant and Green all rocked it tonight.
- Just 10 turnovers tonight for OKC. Philly, on the other hand, gave it away 17 times.
- I actually thought Grant Long was especially good tonight. He had a few funny comments and provided better than usual commentary. However, he couldn’t figure out which way he wanted to say Kapono’s name. Sometimes it was “Ka-poh-no,” sometimes it was Kah-pah-no.” I’m probably the only one that noticed/cared about this.
I guess we’re in a “blowout win or close loss” phase. I guess I’m fine with that because you’ll win some of those close ones as long as you’re in it. And blowing out teams whether it’s the Lakers or the Sixers is always a good thing. Every team has talent in this league. Nobody is easy to blow out. It takes a certain amount of focus and energy to make it happen. And that’s what the Thunder had, especially in the fourth quarter when it really mattered.
Outscoring any opponent 27-19 in the last 12 is nice. And like I said in the pregame, correcting the mistakes from Indiana that rattled us all was the goal. And I think tonight’s victory really showcased the learning process of this team. The road trip has started out the way it should. I thought at least 1-2 would be good enough. But now that one is out of the way and we can focus on getting greedy.
Next up: At Boston Wednesday night.