Rather than their customary road blues, the Thunder should’ve taken the floor tonight in Milwaukee wearing suits and ties. Because it was a business trip, you see.
This one, by all appearances, was dangerous. A potential trap. The second of a back-to-back, on the road, against a desperate team trying to claw into the postseason. And what do the Thunder do? Outscore the Bucks 35-18 in the first quarter and never let them within 10 points after that. Instead of a backpack, KD should’ve walked out of the Bradley Center with a briefcase.
The Bucks attempted to make this a game midway through the third quarter, mainly as Brandon Jennings tried to lock in a little showdown against Russell Westbrook. That plan failed miserably. Westbrook hit a couple 3s, a couple jumpers, dished out a couple assists and essentially slammed the door on the Bucks. It didn’t help that Jennings and Scott Skiles picked up consecutive technical fouls during their comeback push either.
But the look the Thunder took the floor with was a welcomed sight, mainly because of the somewhat inconsistent play recently. There was razor sharp focus, energy and effort on both ends as the Thunder didn’t waste any time hitting the Bucks in the face. Serge Ibaka had four of his five blocks in the first quarter. KD finished with eight assists. Westbrook 26. Thabo Sefolosha played one of his finer games with 14 points and a career-high seven steals. And not to mention absolutely outstanding defense on Monta Ellis, hounding him into a rough 3-12 night from the floor.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming into this game, and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Again, when you’re playing a desperate team, you never know what you’re in for. But when the Thunder play with all cylinders firing, this is a scary good team. Tonight, it was balanced scoring as five guys finished in double-figures. OKC didn’t need a massive output from Durant, instead just using smart distribution as his weapon. Westbrook piled up points in a few quick bursts. Harden picked his spots wisely scoring 16 on seven shots. Really and truly, no complaints, which is something to say considering how iffy this game appeared.
- KD got his Harden on tonight. Other than a flurry of misses to finish, he was efficient, created for others and stayed within the flow of the game. It’s so impressive how Durant can hold back from unleashing his scoring ability every night. I feel like that would take heroic restraint to do, when you know you could probably go for 30 if you really wanted. Instead, he just handled his business quietly, playing setup man as his teammates did their work.
- Again, Thabo was downright fantastic. I feel like I need to say this a second time.
- I was entirely fine with any open shot Carlos Delfino wanted to take. I think KD was too.
- Westbrook 3 at the end of the first half was awesome, but the way he sat and stared at Brandon Jennings after nailing it was awesomer.
- Flopping is bad, but rebound flopping is an epidemic. Players seriously are just jumping and yelling with no contact to try and draw the call.
- If Derek Fisher is mostly going to just play off the ball while Harden runs point, what’s really his value? He’s really not a backup point guard, he’s just a horrible shooting guard.
- Really no way around it — Fisher completely stunk, outside of garbage time. He had three careless turnovers and missed a couple open looks.
- Nazr Mohammed got a technical. That doesn’t happen every day.
- Westbrook finished with seven rebounds, all of them coming in the first half.
- Perk isn’t easy on the eyes much on the court, but he really is a pretty good passer. He throws the ball hard, but he’s got solid vision. He’s routinely picking up two or three assists a game, which for a center, is rather good.
- Ibaka’s Congo death grip on Mike Dunleavy and then Dunleavy’s wild karate chop was my highlight of the night.
- The improvement Westbrook has made as a catch-and-shoot shooter is incredibly impressive. Shows you how hard he works. He’s gone from a guaranteed miss as a spot-up shooter, to a guy you can kind of expect to make the shot.
- With the Bucks scuffling, there’s no reason Ersan Ilyasova shouldn’t have tried to take this thing over. He scored 18 on only nine shots. Why he wasn’t a bit more aggressive is a mystery.
- I think KD had the worst rebound in NBA history in the first quarter. With nobody within probably 15 feet of him, the ball hit off his hands straight out of bounds.
- The Spurs sat Tony Parker, Manu and Tim Duncan tonight. Second time this season Pop has sat those three guys while riding an 11-game winning streak. Meanwhile, on the second of a back-to-back, KD was playing with eight minutes left in a 20-point game. Different strokes.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “I’m thinking that line out of Star Wars or a variation. ‘Luc, who’s your daddy?'”
Next up: Home against the Clippers Wednesday.