All things considered, this is a good win for the Thunder. For a team trying to find itself on both ends of the floor, at this point, beating anybody by any margin, is good.
That doesn’t mean that a 109-103 win over a now 2-6 Sixers squad shouldn’t have been a 15-point victory. Because it should’ve been. The Thunder had the 76ers down by 10 and 11 a number of times, but never got the stops, the rebounds or the baskets to officially put the game out of reach. A bother, definitely. But winning ain’t easy, especially when you’re not playing anywhere near your best.
But I think the Thunder found something offensively in this one. They finished with just 17 assists, which isn’t great by any means, but the ball movement was much improved. One possession stands out in my mind right now – in the first quarter, the Thunder moved the ball slickly around the perimeter, finally snapping a pass to James Harden for 3. We haven’t seen that kind of team ball at any point for over a week.
And the guy that deserves the credit for getting them going is Russell Westbrook. His line is stellar – 31 points on 11-19 shooting, 12 assists and five rebounds (and seven turnovers) – but Westbrook really pressed the action for the Thunder. He was determined to get them into sets, to get them moving and to get them energized. I think that’s potentially a reason for his seven turns. He was forced to force it, if that makes sense.
It got closer than it should’ve been in the last six minutes though largely in part to horrible defense. The Thunder completely lost Jodie Meeks four times and he made them pay with four 3s. Evan Turner went to the rim with relative ease. There were breakdowns that allowed easy baskets, open looks and in turn, lots of Philly points. OKC made the stops when it needed them, but had the Thunder just played a little better defense on three or four possessions, they win this one by double-digits.
It’s kind of a thing OKC is getting a knack for. Big plays in big moments. Which is definitely a good, good thing. For instance, one second on the shot clock with the Thunder up three, 2:30 left in the game. OKC is inbounding at half court. Scott Brooks calls timeout, sets up something and wouldn’t you know it, Thabo finds Westbrook on an alley-oop for a layup as the 24 expired. Instead of a big turnover or stop for the Sixers, it’s a five-point lead with two minutes left for the Thunder.
- Another large play down the stretch was KD’s baseline drive for an and-1. That essentially iced the game. It was about darn time too. That was KD’s only field goal in the fourth and largely, the Thunder didn’t run things through him. It was kind of the Russell Westbrook Show and for good reason.
- I thought other maybe than opening night, the Thunder looked more Thunder-ish in this one than any other game. Durant scored, Westbrook created, the team was unselfish and players made big plays. Throw in some better defense and it would’ve been a really good game.
- Part of Philly’s small comeback can be credited to the fact I think OKC started sleepwalking a bit in the fourth. The help defense got lazy, players stopped moving and the Sixers hit some shots. Comebacks happen in the NBA. The fact OKC didn’t give it all away is what’s good.
- KD was kind of bad defensively tonight. He got completely beat by Andres Freaking Nocioni three different times for a transition dunk. He didn’t fight hard through picks and didn’t rotate all that well. I’m not going to say he was tired, but it kind of looked like he was taking it easy on that end tonight. I guess you feel you can kind of do that when you’re guarding Nocioni though.
- James Harden showed a few flashes. He was energized and it came through. He scored nine points in 21 minutes and was aggressive, instead of looking unsure like he has the past few weeks. He didn’t shoot the ball great, but that’s no worry to me. Seeing him play with more confidence is far more important.
- OKC went 35-37 from the line tonight. Zoinks. The Thunder leads the league in free throw shooting and when you look at it, it’s quite a weapon. A lot of teams give games away at the line. OKC on the other hands, takes them away.
- Durant forced things a bit offensively. He had two airballs off stand-still jumpers and he chucked three contested 3-pointers that just weren’t great looks. He finished with 31 on 18 shots in the end, but that was mainly because he went 16-16 from the stripe.
- Jrue Holliday is a nice player. He’s going to be a solid point guard here in a time not too far away.
- Count me a big fan of Serge Ibaka’s mid-range game. His jumper looks smooth and confident and they’re going in! That’s the best part! Starting for Jeff Green again, Ibaka was good – 12 points, seven rebounds and FOUR blocks. Plus, he did great work on Elton Brand.
- Daequan Cook is now 3-15 from 3 this season. Not excellent.
- KD had an interesting point post-game I thought – he said the team probably overpassed. I can see what he means too because there was a lot of forcing into tight areas. I’d much rather have overpassing than no passing at all though.
- Doug Collins post-game: “Westbrook’s a hell of a player. We saw the Portland tape and they were down five late and Westbrook stepped up and hit two big jumpshots for them. I mean this kid is really, really good … You saw the maturity of a team that’s been together for a while and been to the playoffs and played the Lakers and been in the heat, and you saw us once again, trying to learn.”
- Scott Brooks post-game: “Well, it was nice to hit some shots tonight. I thought our offense was really good at times. Our guys were making shots. Defensively, we had a stretch that we were really good, and then we had a stretch that we were really bad. We’re still improving; we’re still going to get better. All in all, it was nice to get a win in front of our home crowd.
- Westbrook post-game:
It’s a nice bounce-win for the Thunder because they needed it. They played with urgency and it would’ve been easier than you think to have given this one away. But they didn’t. Offensive play-making is what’s to credit most, but a big steal here by Durant and a big block by Ibaka there were equally important. The Thunder played in odd spurts, showing the brilliance of a season ago at times, and the head-scratching lapses of the past two weeks as well.
But winning is always nice, despite the opponent. Especially when you kind of needed it.
Next up: Home against the Blazers Friday.