From the start, it was pretty easy to tell the Thunder was going to win this game. The Pistons aren’t very good, they didn’t seem to be all that invested and they’re kind of horrible on the road. It really was just a matter of how well Oklahoma City would execute and if there was a chance we’d see Royal Ivey.
But for a lot of the game, the Thunder seemed a bit unfocused. They appeared to lack intensity. So the Pistons hung right in the game. But for a stretch to end the third quarter, OKC finally tightened up, moved the ball, made shots and essentially put Detroit away. James Harden hit back-to-back 3s, Russell Westbrook completely tore down the Detroit defense and the Thunder finished with a strong run heading to the fourth.
A late 10-0 run and a four minute drought let the Pistons get within six, but a couple Russell Westbrook free throws and a tip by Serge Ibaka ended any doubt that the Thunder would blow it as OKC won 104-94.
Despite being outrebounded, the Thunder were very efficient, turning the ball over only nine times while shooting 50 percent from the field and 9-18 from 3. The game was very slow paced and saw some ugly stretches of basketball for both teams, but when all you really need to do is take care of business, the Thunder did just that, improving to 23-7 against teams under .500.
If you want to take something from it, basically know that Harden had another terrific effort off the bench (22 points, 7-11 from the field, 4-6 from 3), Westbrook controlled things well (13 points, 11 assists to three turns) and Serge Ibaka played another strong game inside (16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks). KD didn’t have things going in a big way (24 points on 6-13) but he didn’t need to. He was able to move aside a bit, but did pick his spots in the second half well. After starting the game 1-7, Durant finished 5-6 from the field.
The Thunder is now 18-6 versus the Eastern Conference and when you play at home against a team like the Pistons, you just want to take care of your business, do it in a somewhat solid way and move on to the next one. That’s pretty much what OKC did.
- Nick Collison turned in another strong game off the bench. He’s really picked things up since the Jeff Green deal too. In those nine games, Collison is averaging 7.1 points and is hitting that little outside jumper as well.
- Russell Westbrook joins Oscar Robertson, LeBron, Penny Hardaway and Chris Paul as a player with 4,000, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds in his first three years. That’s big time.
- Tracy McGrady played a lot of the first half at point guard. Take that, positionality!
- Remember when Chris Wilcox was a featured part of OKC’s front line? Oh, weren’t those the days.
- Russell Westbrook busted out something we’ve never really seen from him in-game. Alone on a break, he flashed a pretty windmill jam that might be one of the finer in game dunks of the season. Three thoughts on it: 1) The reason Westbrook was back and all alone for it is because he was late getting down the floor because he was complaining about a call on the last possession. 2) I don’t know what I like more: the actual dunk or Clay Bennett’s awesome reaction to it. 3) I love the look of surprise on KD’s face after it. Like, “Whoa? Since when do you do stuff like that?” We’ve seen Westbrook miss dunks alone on breaks before so in a big game, I’d rather him just make sure, but against the Pistons, that was fun.
- I don’t think it would be humanly possible for Nazr Mohammed to shoot the ball any higher over his head. I fee like when need a Sport Science episode about this.
- Ibaka kind of flashed some skill tonight. He put the ball on the floor a few times, went to the post, played with his back to the basket and of course had the jumper.
- KD had five assists in this one to go with nine rebounds. I would love to see a day where he gets a triple-double. I don’t know if it could happen, but it would be neat.
- if you blinked, you missed Cole Aldrich playing. But he saw a minute of time and it was really less than that.
- There was a call late in the game where it appeared to be off Hamilton but the referees awarded possession back to Detroit. Why not use replay there? Isn’t that what it’s there for?
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Harden kind of jerkin’ like he got hit with a cattle prod.”
- Bonus: Grant Long Line of the Night: “I did not know [Russell Westbrook] had hops like that.” Um, seriously?
Next up: At Cleveland Sunday.