Fitting. That’s the first word that came to mind for me after this game ended. Fitting.
Fitting that Jeff Green was the hero. Fitting that after his fairly horrific start, that Uncle Jeff was one of the key guys that came up huge for the Thunder in the second half. Fitting that he finished off the game for OKC to move the Thunder to 2-0. And fitting that Green made another one of “those plays” that seem to define his value.
Green is a hot topic around the fanbase and his supporters will most definitely point to this game. Jeff Green just seems to come up with big plays. Even if you’re not a Green apologist, it’s kind of hard to deny.
After Charlie Villanueva hit a corner 3 that appeared to put away the Thunder and seal the kind of loss that ruins your Friday night, Green found the ball in his hands with seven seconds left in one of those “This is supposed to go to Durant, but we can’t get it there” plays. And of course Green wiggled his way down the lane and made a driving layup to win it for OKC.
Jeff Green started the game 0-6 from the floor and didn’t make his first shot until there was 50 seconds left in the first half. He was constantly left wide open from everywhere, but just never got a shot to drop. He finished the half 1-8 from the field, including 1-5 from 3. But the second half he began to assert himself much better, hitting his last 6-10 from the floor, including the game-winning shot.
But though Green was the apparent hero, and don’t get me wrong, he was huge, the gold star of the night goes to Serge Ibaka. Off the bench, Air Congo put up 16 points on 6-9 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots in 28 minutes of work. He played mostly center and though I haven’t been a huge fan of Ibaka playing the 5, he’s done fairly excellent work there the first two games. (However, I think part of Ibaka’s success there has been due to the matchups there. Against the Bulls he got a similar player in Joakim Noah and against the Pistons, he was seeing a mix of Jason Maxiell and Charlie Villanueva, guys that are really power forwards.)
What’s interesting here though is while both Green and Ibaka were extremely valuable in OKC’s success Friday, the better Ibaka plays, the more dispensable Green becomes. Yes, Jeff Green had 21 points, five rebounds, three steals and a game-high 42 minutes. Yes, he hit the game-winner. But Ibaka was probably the key player for the Thunder and he (sort of) plays Green’s position. Obviously the Thunder is better off having both because depth is a glorious thing, but if the numbers don’t work in the end, the better Ibaka plays, the less money Sam Presti probably feels like he HAS to offer Green. At least that’s kind of my perspective at this time.
- It’s probably too early in the season to voice any real concerns, but James Harden’s offense has been fairly disappointing thus far. He scored just six points in the opener and was 0-5 for one point in this one. He only saw 15 minutes because of the matchups determining that Thabo needed to check Ben Gordon, but still. Hopefully this improves as Harden starts finding a rhythm off the bench as we go on.
- KD went over 6,000 points for his career making him the third player in history to do that in under 240 games. He joins Shaq and LeBron. Pretty cool.
- The other lede that just missed out was, “PAY HIM PRESTI. PAY HIM NOW MAX MONEY OR WHATEVER HE DEMANDS.” I felt like that might have been a bit of an emotional overreaction.
- The black shoes returned on the road. Good to see. I was worried after the whites were worn in preseason.
- Let me tell you, the FSN crew is in love the the X-Mo super slow-motion camera. For good reason too. Everything looks cool in that super slow-mo.
- Oklahoma City’s new sharpshooter Daequan Cook is 0-6 from deep on the season and 0-8 from the field.
- Detroit really tried to let OKC blow them out in the first half. It was almost like the Pistons were begging the Thunder to take at least a double-digit lead to halftime. They turned the ball over, took dumb shots and really gave the Thunder every chance to separate themselves. But OKC never could put together an 8-0 run to do it. It wasn’t like it was a bad half for OKC. Just inconsistent.
- Jeff Green’s shot chart: 4-4 at the rim, 2-4 under 10 feet, 0-0 from 10-15 feet, 0-2 from 16-23 feet and 1-8 from 3. But honestly, Green was open with at least six of those 3s and one was a heave at the end of the half. I continue to believe Jeff Green is at least a serviceable outside shooter so when he’s open like that, he HAS to shoot.
- Ben Gordon was a big reason this game was close late. Sometimes he’s just unstoppable. And that’s what he was in the fourth quarter.
- Rodney Stuckey really seems to play well against the Thunder. I think the reason is because he does a great job of getting into the lane and attacking and Westbrook is the kind of player that allows that type of penetration.
- Speaking of Westbrook (segue!) He had one of those Good Russ, Bad Russ games. Good: 11 assists, just three turnovers, six rebounds and 17 points. Bad: 4-13 from the floor and some questionable shots in key moments. But you take that with Westbrook because overall, he was terrific.
- I thought Malik Rose was outstanding in the postgame stuff. Smart commentary, good talker and he just seems so nice.
- Nenad Krstic quietly had a nice little game. He had 14 points, seven rebounds and showed off some pretty moves in the post in the first half.
- KD with a second straight 30-point game but offensively, it was a bit forced. He went 9-24 from the field, but was good at the line hitting 11-13 for the second straight game. And he added eight rebounds, which was key. But once again, in a big spot late, Durant knocked down an important jumper that gave OKC a four-point lead. Seems like KD is developing a knack for those big fourth quarter shots.
- Durant fell in love a little too much with the long 2-pointers tonight. He was 5-13 on long 2s tonight and 4-11 from everywhere else.
When you run down the box score, it really looks like the Thunder should’ve lost. OKC was 39 percent from the field to Detroit’s 47 percent. The Thunder didn’t hold a huge edge on the boards, outrebounding the Pistons just 47-44. But just like the opener, OKC did the damage with the easiest shot on the floor. The Thunder went 37-44 from the free throw line to the Pistons 16-20. The Pistons turned the ball over 18 times to OKC’s 12. In the end, it really wasn’t the ideal way of winning a game, but on the road, you take it.
Next up: The Jazz Halloween night at OKC Arena.