All together now: Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Remind me again what we were all worried about? In maybe the most important game (to date), Oklahoma City never trailed, plowing over the Houston Rockets 122-104 and it really wasn’t that close. That ends a 13-game losing streak to the Rockets, puts the Thunder’s Magic Number over Houston to six and best of all, restores a bundle of confidence and builds momentum. Phew. Phew, phew, phew.
Oh, and did anyone miss James Harden? Let me put it this way: Kyle Weaver in five games of replacing Harden: 16 total points. Harden tonight: 23 points on 6-10 shooting including 3-4 from deep. He walked on the floor, the Ford Center exploded and immediately injected life into the Thunder offensively. He drilled his first three 3-pointers, attacked the basket and gave OKC everything it missed in his brief absence. How important is he? Pretty darn important. Plus, I thought his beard was looking especially fantastic as well this evening. I missed that plush ball of face fur mess more than I knew.
Any time there is a blowout, I think it’s required to run down the outrageous statistics that accounted for it. So here we go. OKC shot 59 percent from the floor, hit 8-16 from 3, had 30 assists (!), had 12 blocks, every single player was a plus and at halftime, had 74 points. The Thunder missed only four shots in the first quarter en route to 39 points. It was exactly what you’d want in an important game. There was a complete focus from the tip and the team really looked to be on a mission. The ball moved exceptionally well, players hit shots and the Thunder took care of business. Order restored.
- Key moment: OKC was up 20 with about two minutes left until halftime. The Rockets hit a few shots and went on a 7-0 run to cut it to 13. Scott Brooks took a great timeout, quelled the Houston momentum and OKC scored the final four points to end the half. Instead of Houston taking an edge into the locker room, the Thunder now had it, plus a solid 17-point cushion.
- Houston hung tight because it can hit the 3. In the first half, Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks seemed to be on fire from deep. But that’s when the Rockets did most of their deep damage – the first half. Houston hit six of their nine treys in the first 24 minutes as OKC locked up on the perimeter in the second.
- Thabo came back after the big miss and showed some nice offense tonight. He hit a corner 3, had a sweet dunk and hit a tough jumper with contact. He was 5-6 from the floor for 11 points.
- No kidding, at halftime I watched Thabo stroke six or seven straight 3s from exactly where he missed last night. I believe I speak for everyone when I say, face palm.
- Russell Westbrook didn’t have a great game by his standards, but he had eight dimes and five boards. Eric Maynor was excellent off the bench with nine assists and 10 points. As a tandem, they played extremely well.
- KD with a tidy 25 points on 8-16. I might be wrong on this but it seems he’s shooting more and more 3-pointers without catching off a pass created by penetration. It seems like he’s taking more “by himself” if that makes sense. I don’t have the numbers on it, but it sure seems like he’s a much better catch-and-shoot outside shooter than off the dribble.
- Jeff Green gets the underrated star of the night. He had 19 points on 8-11 shooting including 3-4 from 3, but he also played Luis Scola extremely well. Scola had 25, but it came on 11-25 shooting and Green did a great job playing Scola physical and forcing him out of his comfort zone.
- Speaking of Scola, a solid tweet I received tonight: “Scola was pretty good in Forgetting Sarah Marshall I think.”
- I think right now, there are two players on this team that if they were traded, the city would riot: Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Seriously. How stinking awesome is he? I love how EVERY shot he tries to swat. And he comes from out of nowhere to do it. You WILL NOT score on him at the rim without a challenge. He had four blocks and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. My man love for Serge is strong.
- Also, consider me a fan of his new airplane move after dunks. I envision it picking up steam in the fanbase eventually to the point where everyone in the crowd does it after a big Ibaka dunk.
- Nick Collison was quietly excellent tonight (six points, nine rebounds). But he made one great play that I just had to call “a Nick Collison play.” Russell Brand had position on him for an offensive rebound and was easily going to get it. Instead of jumping for it, Collison let him grab the board. As soon as the ball hit Scola’s hands, Collison swiped at it, knocking it out of his hands. Collison batted it again and it eventually wound up in the Thunder’s hands. Just a smart, Collison-type play.
- For those at the game tonight, lame halftime show. It was just the Thunder Girls dressed up like Michael Jackson dancing to Michael Jackson songs. In other words, it’s late March and it’s getting tough to book new halftime acts. Just have Quick Change finish out the year. Or the guy that drummed on buckets. I don’t think anyone would complain.
I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better end result than what we got tonight. The team got over the mental hump against the Rockets in dominating fashion, restored some serious confidence, effectively sunk Houston from catching them for the eight spot and executed a tight gameplan. There’s truly nothing negative to mention. Maybe if you wanted to point out the perimeter defense in the first half, but in my mind that’s picking nits. OKC jumped out to a lead and never really threatened to lose it. There was the lapse before halftime but like I said, they responded immediately. It’s impressive when you can hold a 20-point lead for an entire half. I know I’m not the only one that’s a little relieved by this game. This team is good. What in the world was I ever worried about?
Next up: A big Friday nighter at home against the Lakers, er, Friday.