The first 10 minutes of tonight’s game? Very, very bad. The Jazz started the game 11-11 from the field and OKC was down 13 early on.
The last 38 minutes? Very, very good. The Thunder’s defense never exactly caught up completely, but whoa boy, they shot the ball. Oklahoma City hit a season-high 13 3-pointers on just 21 attempts and overall, hit 56.6 percent from the floor. The Thunder scored 121 points and had 100 with nine minutes to go. Amazing what awesome shooting can do. This is obviously something you can’t expect nightly because I mean, 13-21 from 3 is kind of ridiculous, but for this night, it was what won the game for the Thunder.
While Russell Westbrook led the way with 33 points on 10-15 shooting including 4-4 from 3, the two players of the game were absolutely James Harden and Eric Maynor. The Thunder bench in general was stellar with 33 points total, but late in the first and for a lot of the second quarter, OKC’s bench is completely what brought them back. The starters were totally flat and really, it looked like early on OKC was in danger of getting run out of the building. But Maynor and Harden checked in and slowly, the Thunder worked back in the game.
Harden scored seven quick points, Maynor hit two 3s and just like that, the Jazz lead was down to just one. Maynor had 10 on 4-4 shooting while Harden added 14 on 5-9 plus five assists and six rebounds. Some nights, Harden shows you what he’s totally capable of doing. And this was one of those. He gets you excited with his ability to kind of take over a game both scoring and creating. Games like this one make a good case why he’s solid coming off the bench because he can anchor the second unit and give the Thunder a much needed spark.
You just can’t underestimate the importance of this win. This puts the Thunder five up in the loss column over the Jazz and gives OKC a 2-1 edge in the season series. Plus, the Jazz just had a bit of a deflated look in the fourth quarter like they knew they were just overmatched. Again, so much of this was because of the Thunder’s abnormally hot shooting from deep, but a lot of that was due to Utah’s strangely horrible defense. While the Thunder’s defense is kind of atrocious at times, at least they play in stretches. The Jazz never did. They appeared content to just let OKC shoot and hoped the Thunder would miss. Sometimes, that’s a good gameplan against this team. Tonight, it most definitely wasn’t.
- The Thunder scored 121 points on 87 possessions. Wow.
- Kevin Durant’s offensive numbers don’t pop. He scored 21 on 7-17 shooting, but he was quietly terrific. He pulled in 12 rebounds giving him his third straight double-double. KD’s work on the glass is going to be crucial for OKC down the stretch and he had another strong effort there tonight.
- If I told you KD would shoot just 41 percent from the floor and the Jazz would hit 51 percent and take four more shots than the Thunder, you’d think OKC lost by at least 10 right? No way you’d say that the Thunder won by 16, for sure.
- I loved how Scott Brooks stuck with the bench for extended minutes in the second quarter. They were what brought the Thunder back into the game and they were simply outplaying the starters. In the first half, the bench scored 26 of their 33 points. That’s just incredibly huge.
- In the new Thunderground Radio podcast which will be posted Sunday, I talked to the guys and we were on what Westbrook’s next development could be. And really, it’s just a consistent 3-pointer. And boom, he stroked four beauties tonight. They looked really good too. If Westbrook can develop a consistent 3 — and use it wisely, very important part there — he’ll be completely unguardable.
- Nick Collison got popped in the chin in the first half and had to get six stitches.
- Holy crap, Paul Millsap. He just was NOT missing. I realize a lot of those shots were open, but even still, most guys don’t make 11 or 12 of those in a row. He finished 15-20 from the field (started 10-11) for 34 points.
- Deron Williams clearly was not entirely right. He was short on everything he took. I think his wrist is bothering him quite a bit.
- Speaking of Williams, he has to have the worst tattoo in the league. That black panther on his right arm is really just a black blob with a tail. It looks horrible.
- The Thunder’s production team flashed Jeff Green’s season stats at the beginning of the game and had him at 19.7 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Boy, I wish. Actually, Green is averaging 15.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg.
- Green was just wonderful though offensively. He had 20 points on 8-9 shooting (2-2 from 3) and just fit in completely perfect. The box score says he didn’t have a rebound even though I really feel like I remember him getting one, so naturally, we can’t be entirely happy with Green’s game. How fitting. Even when he’s awesome, there’s room to complain. Story of Jeff Green’s life.
- One thing I’ve noticed with Green’s improved shooting the past two nights his how he’s settling his feet so much better. Normally on the catch he goes up for a shot all in one motion. As a result, the rhythm of his mechanics are a bit off. But these last two games he’s taken just a split second to calm his body on the catch and then shoot. Just the small tweak can make a world of difference. He was rushing a bit before. By slowing down, it forces him to get a better look in order to get it off and smooths his mechanics in a big way.
- Oh, Westbrook also dished out 10 assists to only two turnovers to go with his 33 points. Most efficient game ever? Most efficient game ever.
- Brian Davis had kind of a rough night on the mic tonight. First, he busted out a suicide joke when talking about the Cavs record-setting 24th straight loss. He said, “Do you think at this point they’re hiding the razor blades?” Then he sang a little and also used a couple of really weird sayings. I feel like I can say pretty confidently that while this was maybe one of OKC’s best games of the season, it was maybe Brian Davis’s worst. All I could think was, sit down and shut up, Brian Davis.
- However, I did like this line a lot after Westbrook hit a 3: “Kind of like me on the driving range. Rarely I hit a good one. I stand there with that high finish.” Props for that one.
- Pretty similar first half in this one to last night’s Phoenix game. OKC allowed 57 points and let the Jazz shoot 60.5 percent The second half defense was better (48 points for Utah) but the difference in this one was that the Thunder offense absolutely turned on the jets, scoring 59 second half points.
- How bad is the quality of the production for the Thunder’s starting lineup thing? I hate watching it every game.
- Thirty assists for the Thunder on the 43 field goals. That’s good movement.
- Could Gordon Hayward’s hair be any more floppy?
- The Thunder turned it over only seven times. And the Jazz just six times. What a clean offensive game.
- The way Brooks used Daequan Cook tonight is how I hope we see for the rest of the season. When there was an opportunity, Cook came in and got 10 minutes of run and hit an open 3. That’s exactly what OKC needs from him. I think the best way to handle the rotation is to give Harden 25-30 minutes, feel Thabo out and see how valuable he is on that given night defensively and on the glass and if he’s not, give those extra minutes to Cook.
Next up: Home against the Grizzlies Tuesday.