One thing’s pretty certain: The Thunder are going to go at least .500 the rest of the season. Because they just aren’t into losing consecutive games.
Bouncing back from a rough loss in Utah Tuesday, the Thunder stormed out to an early lead on the Clippers Wednesday, pouring in 66 first half points en route to a relatively smooth 114-91 victory at The Peake. It was the Derek Fisher debut game, and he was welcomed mightily by Thunder nation with a 45-second standing ovation, but more than that, it was a complete basketball game from the home team. Other than a first quarter where the Clippers went 6-of-8 from 3, the Thunder locked down Lob City, held them to 61 points the final three quarters on 32 shooting (36.7 percent for the game) and essentially dominated the game everywhere it could be dominated.
“It seems like it’s been a while since we’ve had 48 minutes of consistent defensive pressure on the basketball,” Scott Brooks said.
The story of the night was Fisher’s arrival for sure, and while it was kind of a crazy series of events that had him arriving at the arena, doing an impromptu presser in a hallway and then taking the floor about an hour later, the better story is that the Thunder re-established a little of that dominant home swagger against a good team. Big runs, slick offense and best of all, outstanding play from Kevin Durant again.
It was probably the most certain thing in the universe to happen today was that KD bounced back and play a terrific game. He had his worst shooting night of the season against Utah, but dropped 32 on 10-18 shooting with nine boards and five assists. He got whatever he wanted, how he wanted it, when he wanted it. His post game was glorious as he took Nick Young to the block repeatedly. He was locked in with his jumper, picking perfect pockets of space to get it off. He was selective, creative (how about that up-and-under?), but unselfish.
It helps that the Clippers are a seriously poor defensive team. If you don’t like the Thunder’s defensive sense of urgency on the ball, then shield your eyes from the Clips. Because they seem to give you just about whatever you want. In the first meeting, the Thunder returned the favor, giving up open looks off dribble penetration at will, but really turned that around tonight. Russell Westbrook looked supercharged defensively against Chris Paul, Perk and Ibaka were outstanding on the glass and the Thunder outscored the Clips 44-22 in the paint.
“From a statistic point of view, it looks like Russell had an average game,” Brooks said. “But thought this was one of his best all-around games.”
Pick and spot, and OKC did it well. It’s a good start to a rough upcoming stretch of games, but you don’t want to be trading wins and losses. I’m not prepared to say “PROBLEMS SOLVED!” just because of this game, because in the same way you have to keep yourself from going too low after a loss to the Jazz or Cavs or Rockets, you can’t fly high just because you whipped the Clippers at home. It was a fun game, an outstanding performance and hopefully a solid step in the right direction as the team heads towards a tough stretch of games, and more importantly, the postseason.
- Derek Fisher checked in with 1:47 left in the first quarter and was showered with a 45-second standing ovation. Crazy. First, he had just officially joined the team a minute ago and second, this is Derek Fisher! And here he is getting a huge hand from the OKC crowd.
- Fisher shut down Eric Bledsoe drive attempt, and a good portion of the crowd stood and applauded. Maybe in support of all the talk Fisher can’t defend, I guess. Said Fisher on that perception: “In this league, defense is just about effort and mentality and all five guys getting the job done. A lot of times I just laugh it off when there were statements made about me not being able to guard particularly the young point guards or the quicker point guards. I guarantee you can look at a lot of statsheets and see Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker or Chris Paul and you can see those guys have scored a lot of points against who they played with, not just me.”
- Scott Brooks tried Fisher and Westbrook together early in the fourth and it seemed to work well. They alternated on the ball and off, and it looked like there was a solid comfort level there.
- The question is, how was Fisher? Is he good? Does he make OKC better than Reggie Jackson did? To early to tell, I’d say, but there was a different feel to the game with him operating that second unit. He’s not a big playmaking point guard, but he commanded the offense, controlled it and definitely gave OKC’s second unit a confidence.
- Collison and Ibaka completely outplayed Blake Griffin tonight. In fact, this was a career-low night for Griffin, who only had seven points. Ibaka had 15 and eight rebounds. And Collison was outstanding on Griffin on the block.
- How about Westbrook’s dunk attempt over Blake? That was the most Russell Westbrook thing ever.
- Westbrook on what he can learn from Fisher: “A lot. He has been through it all and with his championship rings, I can learn a lot.”
- This isn’t news, but holy crap, is Derek Fisher well spoken. If he ran for anything, I’d vote for him right now. He’s a pure statesman. Professional, smart, clever — I support this signing just to have the opportunity to hear him talk every night.
- Save for Randy Foye who had 23 on 9-15 shooting, and the Thunder would’ve REALLY kicked the Clips.
- You know what I loved? Is that this game seemed to be much more about the arrival of Derek Fisher than the return of Blake Griffin. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
- The Thunder were hit with four technicals tonight, all four coming from Tony Brothers. First Perk, then James Harden, then Russell Westbrook and then Thabo.
- I am madly in love with Cole Aldrich’s skyhook.
- Daequan Cook is out 2-3 weeks with a mild MCL sprain and so tonight, Lazar Hayward got his minutes. And played well, hitting back-to-back 3s. Plus, he finally lost the mask.
- KD’s up and under. Filthy.
- The Clippers went 12-26 from 3 tonight. But 17-53 from 2.
- OKC won every quarter tonight.
- Fisher further explaining his choice of 37 as a number: “There are a number of reasons why this opportunity presented itself, being able to join the Thunder, [my age] seemed to be a negative thing for so long, especially this season. It was a negative thing I was 37. So I just wanted to send the message that the Thunder organization and I see it as a positive. That I’m still a guy that can help a team be successful and compete for a championship even at the age of 37. I figured since everybody likes to throw my age around in negative conversations, I’d just going ahead put it out there and let everybody know from the beginning, I am 37, but I think I can do some great things to help this team.”
- No. 37 though? It looks weird
- KD got two free throws on the rip move tonight. But only because the Thunder were in the bonus. That’s a wise time to utilize it.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @ThunderBDSays: “Inside outside, outside in! Bigs feeding smalls and smalls feedings bigs! Things looking good for big blue!”
Next up: Home against the Wolves Friday.