Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was looking for.
The Thunder kind of sleepwalked through the first half, giving up 56 points tot he Rockets while turning it over nine times. But after Kevin Durant picked up his fourth foul halfway through the third, the Oklahoma City bench took over the game. The second unit (plus Jeff Green) closed the third on an 8-0 run, giving OKC an 11-point edge and after that, it was pretty much done and done.
But the fourth was even more impressive. KD returned and the Thunder just started rolling the Rockets. Running on misses, defending everything, moving the ball around and rebounding. It was exactly how you would want your team to close out a home game.
The Thunder shot nearly 58 percent on the night, went 7-11 from 3 and 27-28 from the line. It was pretty much a flawless offensive performance. Scott Brooks said after the game, outside of the 10 first half turnovers, it’s about as good as they can play offensively. Hard to disagree.
Durant is totally back in his unstoppable offensive rhythm as he dropped 32 on 12-18 shooting (2-2 from 3). (It would’ve been more had he not been in foul trouble. Like in the first half, he was in That Zone. He started the game 7-9 and totally looked prepared to score 50 points.) James Harden continues to rise to his potential, scoring 16 on 5-7 from the field. Russell Westbrook, Thabo, Jeff Green – everyone was really good. The Thunder offense was absolutely unstoppable and defensively, OKC picked things up a lot in the second half.
One thing that’s really helping the Thunder offense turn the corner is more of a willingness to run and play loose. That’s what made them so electric last season and there’s been a certain degree of that missing. But nobody outside of maybe the Heat has quite the transition horses that OKC does. The Thunder can put five guys on the floor that are great transition finishers, are really athletic and can get to the rim from the 3-point line in two big strides. Last season OKC did a good job of picking when to run. It looks like that same flow is coming back.
- The Thunder was terrific on the glass tonight. In the first half, they held a 24-10 edge on the boards and finished 41-28. A lot of that is helped by shooting 60 percent and not giving the other team a chance to rebound, but still.
- Five players in double-figures tonight and almost a sixth as Serge Ibaka had eight.
- Russell Westbrook had just five assists, but the entire team was about sharing tonight. Five guys registered four or more assists.
- Thabo’s chasedown of Kevin Martin was pretty stinking excellent.
- Is there ever a time where KD released a shot and you DON’T think it’s going in? Even when he’s having a bad night, it always, always looks good.
- Nick Collison is seriously one of the best pick-and-roll defenders out there. He just manages it, if that makes sense. Never over-commits, never gambles.
- Scott Brooks said after the game, “When James [Harden] is hesitant, he’s an average player. We’ve worked to get that out of him.” KD said that as a leader, it’s his job to remind Harden to be aggressive every time he comes on to the floor. I don’t care what they do, but as long as Harden’s keeps this type of mindset, the Thunder’s a very, very tough team.
- When Harden plays well, the Thunder has one of the deepest benches in the league. Tonight, the bench not only put up the 8-0 run that essentially ended the game, but also held on to a second quarter lead for a good stretch. Byron Mullens played five meaningful minutes, D.J. White stepped in and did his job and the other guys chipped in. The Thunder’s bench can be a big strength on some night.
- Jeff Green quietly with 21 points on 6-12 shooting. And five assists.
- Harden when he was informed he was the only one that missed a free throw said, “I was the only one that missed? Ahhh.” He kind of hung his head for a second and then gave some kind of answer about how good they are at shooting free throws.
So far, the homestand is off to exactly the kind of start you’d hope for. Two wins by a combined 41 points. And with two more winnable games against the Kings and the Suns coming, OKC could be working itself into a nice little streak. These are the types of home performances we should expect from this team against lesser opponents. Good pretty all night and overwhelming in stretches. The Thunder’s finding some flow and rhythm right now. The first month was a bit up and down but this team is coming together more and more by the night.
Next up: Home against the Kings Friday.