Something blew through Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday night alright.
The natural disaster known as Russell Westbrook. He’s his own F5.
With some anxiety around the arena because of severe weather all over the state, the Thunder put the Kings on blast, wiping them away 115-89. A nice bounce back win that saw three quarters of extremely crisp and clean basketball.
But it was Westbrook’s flying, soaring, insert-your-own-descriptor-because-anything-fits dunk that did the most damage tonight. Here’s the best way I can describe the moment where Westbrook launched to track down Kevin Durant’s oop to him: I got the same feeling as when you drive by a highway patrolman going 20 over. My stomach turned over. I stomped the ground. I stopped breathing for roughly 10 seconds. When the ball was in the air, I thought, “No way. What a terrible pass KD.” And then Westbrook somehow got to it. I have no idea how. Trust me, the video doesn’t come close to doing this dunk justice. It’s like the difference in seeing Jimmy Hendrix wail the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock on a grainy VHS tape versus being there in the front row.
“That was one of the most athletic plays I’ve ever seen,” Durant said. “Probably the dunk of the year but you know Blake Griffin has had a lot of those. But Russell, that was, for a 6-3 point guard to be catching lobs like that man, that was unreal. That ignited us. Kind of catapulted us into that run we made.”
KD said of his pass, which was admittedly terrible: “I thought it was too short. I thought it was going to get tipped. He turned a terrible pass into a great finish.”
The dunk too is what really sparked the Thunder from controlling the game to sending it to blowoutsville. The Thunder had missed a bunch of opportunities early to put the hurt on the Kings, letting them hang around.
“I knew we were going to make a run,” Durant said. “We were missing layups, we were missing easy shots, wide open jumpshots. I knew it was going to turn around for us. We just kept going. We got stops and were able to get some runouts and that dunk kind of pushed us over the top.”
Outside of a sloppy first quarter, the Thunder returned to the team we saw pummel Toronto and Milwaukee. Loose, confident and complete. They held the Kings to 38.9 percent shooting, shot 47.8 percent themselves, completely dominated the glass (58-41), shot 32 free throws to Sacramento’s 14, took care of the ball and most importantly, completely obliterated their opposition.
“One of the things that we talked about in our shootaround is that everybody has to be 100 percent in on the defensive end no matter what type of set a team is running,” said Scott Brooks. “If we didn’t have everybody in, our defense was going to play catch-up and we were going to struggle, but I thought everybody was really committed.”
It was pretty well known coming in that the Thunder were the superior team and if things went according to plan, they’d handle the Kings. Which is what happened. You can’t ask for much more. They won, they won impressively and they provided quite the highlight in the process.
I know I’m gushing about that dunk a bit much, but it honestly looked like Westbrook’s finish gave the Thunder a little of their swag back. It brought the arena to life, had the players bouncing around and talking and just seemed to pop a little energy into them. At this point in the season with the playoffs ahead and it kind of to focus on regular season games, anything helps.
- Perk on Westbrook’s dunk: “That dunk by Russ, that was nice. It was one of our best dunks of the year. That was pretty nasty.”
- Derek Fisher on it: “One of the best of the year, for sure. You won’t see many point guards finishing baskets that way. It’s normally the other way around — point guard to small forward. But Russ is one of the best athletes in the league and he definitely got up and got that one. I think that really energized our team and that’s really where we started to get some separation from the Kings.”
- James Harden was out tonight with a sore knee. He’s day to day and will likely play Saturday against the Wolves. The only bonus of James Harden not playing is that he’s in a suit and he looks fantastic in a suit.
- Not gonna lie, it was oddly sad watching Nick Collison come to the score table to check in with about four minutes left alone.
- Awesome exchange between KD and Russ when Durant started to talk about the dunk. Durant said, “I won’t give him too much credit.” Westbrook chimed in from the other side of the locker room. “Oh whatever.” Durant continued, “It was a great pass by myself…” as Westbrook yelled out incredulously, “Oh my gawwwd!” Here it is if you want to listen to it.
- Tonight’s opening Perk Punt Play ends in an airball.
- I absolutely loved the transition/early posting KD was doing. It led to deep catches for Durant and a bunch of easy hoops. KD can catch a mismatch in those situations and just use his length to put an easy shot over whoever happens to have picked him up. More of that, please.
- Serge Ibaka: seven more blocks to the tally.
- KD: seven more turnovers to the tally. But who cares. Probably his worst pass of the night turned into one of the best highlights of the season.
- Westbrook’s dunk made the noise but he also had a nice game — 22 points on 10-18, six rebounds, five assists.
- KD had a quality game, but he left a lot on the table. He missed some very uncharacteristic shots and really probably should’ve gone something like 16-of-19 instead of 9-of-19. When he talked about missing easy shots, I think he meant himself.
- The Thunder shot 9-26 in the first quarter. And let me tell you, about 10 of those were outstanding looks that didn’t fall. Three were airballs in fact. With the way it went, it looked like both teams might’ve been playing the Gary England Drinking Game in the locker room before the game.
- I don’t care what you may think, I unabashedly love Jimmer. However, man, he really doesn’t care about defense. He appeared completely content to let Derek Fisher — DEREK FISHER — drive right around him. One thing Jimmer does do extremely well though is listen to his coach. I don’t know I’ve seen any player listen as intently to what his coach is saying — or at least fake it — as well as Jimmer.
- A lot of cities have an “alternate” dance team that consists of fat men with their bellies hanging out, elderly women, elderly men or some combination. The Thunder’s is children. I’d say it’s better than an overweight dude jiggling around, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
- An impressive crowd tonight considering the lowly Kings in town combined with the fact of severe weather all over the state. Well done.
- For the first two minutes, the scoreboard had “Clippers” on it instead of Kings. Thanks for the horrible reminder, Thunder.
- Perk talked a lot pregame about Serge Ibaka’s defensive potential and let me tell you, I enjoy the crap out of listening to Perk talk about things. He just has a way of saying things.
- The national anthem was performed by a cello ensemble tonight. I’m a major sucker for things on a cello, so I loved it.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Oohhh, there are no words for how nasty these two All-Stars can be! OH!”
Next up: At the Wolves Saturday.