I think it’s time we all just accept something. It might be hard for some. Might not be for others. The Thunder doesn’t play good offense. Their defense is inconsistent. But they win. This is just how it’s going to be. They’re going to look average and sometimes bad, but in the end, they’re going to win or get darn close to it.
That means we all might be dead by mid-March or at least have very little hair remaining, but if you can live with winning, you’ll survive. Because despite shooting under 40 percent again, with Kevin Durant having another off night and Jeff Green going 4-14 from the floor, the Thunder topped one of the best teams in the West.
It’s kind of hard to deal with at times, watching bad basketball. It makes you want to yell into the face of a small child. Five minutes straight of bricked jumpers, isolation sets that lead to contested shots and an offense that’s really pretty elementary. I can understand someone hating and being frustrated with that. But let me tell you, I love winning. And this team wins. I guess we’ve just got to deal with it.
In reality, this was kind of a throwback to last season. The 2009-10 Thunder won games with gritty defense, timely runs and big stops in big moments. And that’s exactly what this game saw. Consider this doozy of a stat: The Hornets didn’t score a point from the six-minute mark to the 34-second mark of the fourth quarter. Didn’t score a point. The Thunder took a six-point deficit with six minutes left and turned it into a seven-point lead with a 13-0 run.
It was keyed offensively by Russell Westbrook, but defensively, Kevin Durant gets the gold star. The Hornets were running most everything through David West and instead of keeping Jeff Green on West, Scott Brooks switched Durant over to guard NOLA’s big man. Durant used his length to bother everything West did and just like against the Pacers, peeled off and blocked Emeka Okafor at the rim on a key possession. KD’s having trouble shooting the ball. That’s obvious. But he’s not giving up. He’s not pouting. He’s not giving anything away. Durant plays two different games each night – one on the offensive end and one on the defensive end. We’re used to him winning games offensively. Now he’s doing it on the other side.
And of course Russell Westbrook was again the MVP of the night. He played so well that I didn’t even notice he had eight turnovers until I checked the box score. Russ finished with 25 points, 11 assists five rebounds and five steals, and absolutely took over in the last couple minutes. He went right at Chris Paul, scoring in traffic and then hit a 3 right in his face. KD after the game said, “It’s the new Russell man. Taking over games.”
- Jeff Green’s chase-down block on Chris Paul might be my favorite play of the year. It looked like Green had zero chance to make that play. But he absolutely turned on the jets, busted his butt and saved two points. It got the crowd energized and fired up everyone. Huge play.
- KD summed it up nicely: “This game is all about wins and as a leader you have to do what you have to win.” And Green put it well too: “Everybody would love a 20-point win every night but some nights you have to win like this. It just shows our character and how we have been progressing this season.
- If you still had any lingering affection for Chris Paul coming into tonight, I would assume it’s fading fast. CP3 is one of the three or four very best players in the league, but man, his falling and flopping really annoy me. The way he took a dive when Serge Ibaka swung his elbows around was pretty ridiculous. His name shouldn’t be Chris Paul, but Chris Fall.
- You may be wondering, “How does OKC win this game shooting 38 percent to NOLA’s 44 percent? Here’s how: a 56-36 edge on the glass. The Thunder grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and absolutely owned everything on the defensive glass.
- Two big players involved in that effort: KD and Serge Ibaka. Durant and Ibaka both had 11 boards. Ibaka didn’t score a point, but his rebounding plus three blocks were crucial.
- Hey, how about Thabo? Besides the usual stellar defense, Sefolosha went 4-4 from the floor including 2-2 from 3 for 13 points. I thought he got a lot better lift on his jumper tonight. He’s been working to improve his shot and maybe that’s one of the adjustments.
- James Harden played just 16 minutes, but he looked a lot more confident and sure of himself. Foul trouble held him back, but he attacked the rim, made some nice decisions after beating his man and was aggressive with the ball.
- Durant went 7-22 from the floor but I swear, he had at least eight shots rattle in-and-out. He also was 0-5 from 3, but really, I only noticed two, maybe three shots overall that were questionable. Everything was good and in rhythm for KD. They just didn’t drop. Regardless, he still scored 26 points.
- OKC turned it over 18 times tonight and had 17 assists. Teams aren’t supposed to have negative assist-to-turnover ratios.
- The first nine minutes of the second half, OKC scored just seven points. It was brutal. Nothing was falling, the offense was stagnant and the Hornets looked to be on the verge of taking control. But OKC finished the quarter scoring 11 points in the final 90 seconds and trailed bu just two heading to the fourth.
- Ibaka was a +17 tonight. The only minus was Jeff Green and his was just a -1. That’s pretty good.
- Monty Williams on Westbrook: “He’s an All-Star. He plays at a level that causes teams to scout him 10-15 minutes during practice. He is shooting well now and getting to the free throw line almost 10 times a game.”
- Ibaka was 0-5 from the floor tonight after going 7-7 against Houston. That’s kind of weird.
- For Green and Durant to go a combined 11-36 and the team to win is pretty great. If they are getting back to their defensive principles now, we’re going to be fine.
- Remember, this Hornets team is really pretty good. Beating them, regardless of style, is great.
Scott Brooks talks a lot about not quitting, about continuing to fight no matter what. And that’s what the Thunder just keeps doing. They’re a resilient ballclub. Jeff Green’s block really is a good example. All hope appeared to be lost. Chris Paul had an easy two points. But Green never quit on the play and the Thunder stole two points back as a result.
Here’s the thing: The team is winning and when they’re not, they’re close. And I think we can all agree that something just doesn’t look right. Whether it’s KD, the offense or something else, it just feels like there’s something to be fixed. But they’re winning regardless. I’m completely convinced that this team isn’t playing to its capability and at some point, will hit a stride. But the fact they’re surviving a rough schedule and are now 12-6, tells me that we’re going to be all right.
Next up: At the Nets Wednesday.