A couple days off can make anyone feel a whole lot better about going to work. The Thunder didn’t play all that well in consecutive losses to Dallas and Portland, but washed that taste out of their mouth a bit with a 109-94 dismantling of the Rockets Friday night at The Peake.
The Thunder started taking care of an overmatched Rockets early, who were playing without Kyle Lowry. Easy transition baskets, active defense, good energy and Kevin Durant taking over the third quarter made this one simple for the Thunder. Which of course is very nice because this is the first game of OKC’s back-to-back-to-back that includes another matchup with the Rockets tomorrow night in Houston.
The Thunder finished with 54 points in the paint, shot 52.5 percent from the floor, went 6-14 from deep, limited turnovers (just 11) and handed out 20 assists. It was almost a mechanical win for the Thunder, which is exactly what you’d hope to see considering they finally got a little rest and had just dropped two straight.
What really impressed me most about this game was KD’s third quarter. He scored 14 of his game-high 26 in the third and while the box score only has him with three assists, he was creating shots for teammates like I’ve never seen before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite that relaxed with the ball in his hands. It helps that Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons had absolutely no prayer of checking Durant, but he was handling and dishing and scoring with ease. Those times where OKC’s offense stalls like it did in the second half against Portland, I’d like to see Durant give a little of what he showcased tonight a shot. I know he’s passing better than ever this season, but he was really in point forward mode in this one. When he’s got all that working, he’s as dynamic an offensive player as there is in the league. It’s just about bringing every night.
This was total domination from start to finish for OKC. Cole Aldrich was the only negative Thunder player (-1), but he only played the final minute of the game. The entire starting five was a double-figure plus, the bench scored 49 points and the Thunder probably played their best game of the season start to finish. But now you’ve got to put that away real quick and get ready to do it all over again on the road against the Rockets tomorrow. Going 3-0 in this stretch would be very nice for OKC and honestly, I think it would be a tad disappointing if they didn’t do it.
- What did the Thunder do with their two days off? Got haircuts evidently. Looking fresh, you guys.
- Russell Westbrook was a little loose with the ball at times, but he played an overall quality game. Good shooting percentage, quality looks and he did a nice job looking to get the Thunder offense moving the ball. One thing he tried was to post a whole lot on Goran Dragic, which worked relatively well. One time, Jonny Flynn picked Westbrook’s pocket and then Westbrook came right back and posted Flynn at the 3-point line and backed him down for a bucket. I bet Ray Felton was nodding there, but that’s just Russell Westbrook.
- Thabo returned and while he didn’t make a huge impact in the box score, he was really active defensively and did a great job on Kevin Martin (13 points on 4-9 shooting).
- Daequan Cook missed his first two 3-pointers of the game, both while wearing his new glasses. Which had made Cook 0-7 with those glasses on from 3. He took them off late in the fourth and naturally, dropped a 3.
- With a game tomorrow in Houston, I thought it was a little odd that Scott Brooks stuck with Harden, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed so long, but I kind of think it might’ve been to give Reggie Jackson a chance to play with actual rotation guys. Basically, Jackson was playing Maynor’s spot in OKC’s second rotation. Good move by Brooks.
- James Harden is just killing it right now. He had 23 on 8-11 shooting, went 2-2 from 3 and had three assists. He’s maybe the Thunder’s second most reliable scorer right now.
- Only two guys played more than 25 minutes: Harden (26) and KD (27).
- How about that discussion between Brian Davis and Grant Long about Thabo’s All-Star potential. I had to stop and ask, “Am I really hearing this?”
- Serge Ibaka played one of his most complete games of the season and did it against a pretty good power forward in Luis Scola. Ibaka went for 11 points and nine rebounds plus three blocks.
- KD’s no-look passes are beautiful. I think that’s truly something you can chalk up to all the streetball games he’s playing.
- Durant did miss two more free throws, which is something I’m not loving.
- If Lowry plays tomorrow — he was out with a foot injury — this game with be entirely different. Westbrook won’t be able to bully Lowry and he’s a guy that has flirted with triple-doubles almost every night so far this year. So while this was easy tonight, it might not be tomorrow.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night honorable mention: “Crouching tiger, hidden rebounder.”
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “The Rockets are playing like someone slit their wrists and put them in a warm bath.”
Next up: At the Rockets Saturday night.