With other events unfolding the way they did in the state of Oklahoma, it was only fitting the Thunder joined in with their own overtime game.
And evidently that’s what the Thunder needed. Total fourth quarter output: 13 points. Total overtime output: 18 points.
I can’t decide if that’s really great, or really terrible. Either way, the bottom line is that the Thunder bounced back from a tough loss in Boston to top Philadelphia in overtime, 116-109.
It was one of those games where OKC led for most of it, going up by 10 then watching the lead dwindle to two, then going back up by eight, then watching it tighten back up. There was just a killshot missing, at least until the Thunder started making everything in overtime. In regulation, OKC was 2-16 from 3. In overtime, 4-5. According to an advanced statistic I just made up in my head, that’s a winning OT formula.
Truthfully though, there wasn’t a whole lot fixed or changed from the disappointing loss to the Celtics. The bench was still mostly non-existent — Kevin Martin finished with six points on 2-of-9 shooting, but did hit a big OT 3 — and the game came down to mostly Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant being awesome. As I said last night, that’s often a pretty strong strategy. Those two guys can win the Thunder a whole lot of games exclusively on their own. But that’s not the Thunder at their highest level.
KD had a season-high 37 and Westbrook finished with 30 and nine assists. Both were spectacular. And don’t forget Serge Ibaka too, who is becoming the consistent third scorer OKC needs (18 on 8-12 with nine boards). Between those three, the Thunder cane get enough most nights. But the fourth quarter revealed a whole lot that the excellent overtime session tried to hide. Martin was frozen out completely again, Westbrook and Durant took turns trying to score every possession and the ball stopped moving almost entirely.
That’s also known as, typical crunchtime Thunder offense. Except one ball-handler has been removed from the equation so instead of taking turns between Westbrook, Durant and Harden, it’s Westbrook and Durant trying to do it all while three other guys stand around with their arms up. That said, there were some very correct passes made to Thabo in the fourth, but he missed a couple very good looks from 3. Those drops (or land in the hands of Martin instead) and the fourth quarter execution doesn’t look as yucky.
Credit to Scott Brooks though with his lineup choices late. For virtually the final 17 minutes, Brooks went with maybe his two best lineups: Westbrook, Martin, Thabo, Durant and Ibaka and the same first four but Nick Collison in place of Ibaka. That group was able to finally dig in a bit defensively as they switched screens and held their own on the boards. The idea behind that small lineup is that it’s a more dynamic offensive unit. But really, it seems that it may be OKC’s best defensive group, assuming the matchups fit.
Also, Brooks’ solution to solving the second unit issue? Just don’t ever take Kevin Durant out. He played 50 of the 53. It’s a sound strategy, but I’m thinking it’s probably not really a sustainable one.
It’s been eight paragraphs though and I’ve failed to mention how good of a win this really was. OKC has built a strong trend of bouncing back, now having done it successfully in all four tries this season. It wasn’t a crisp performance by any stretch and there were moments with the usual hair-pulling, but winning is winning. And the Thunder have proven for a few years now that getting it done is really all that matters. Which is something they’re pretty good at, no matter how it looks.
- The Thunder solved their bench woes tonight with a simple solution: Just let Nick Collison take over. That’s what I’ve been saying since forever!
- Huge edge for OKC at the free throw line. The Thunder went 32-of-37 from the stripe compared to just 12-of-17 for Philly.
- I think the 76ers had about 28 fouls called on them in the third quarter. If you’re a 76er fan and are complaining about the officiating right now, I’m not going to stop you.
- Russ, KD and Thabo got into it a bit in the fourth quarter. Westbrook told KD to quit passing it. KD told Thabo to start shooting it. Or something like that.
- Nick Collison was balling in the first half, as much as Nick Collison balls.
- Seriously though, look at the production Collison had in his 21 minutes. Fourteen points, five boards and some excellent defense. I’m not ready to advocate for this yet, but I wonder what full time Collison as OKC’s starting center would look like. There are some matchups he’d struggle with for sure, but have a strong, sizable backup and play it all by ear a bit. Brooks is obviously married to his starting five and isn’t one to think outside the box, but the point is winning games. Not winning games your way.
- Sometimes it appears that Martin is too focused on trying to draw fouls. Instead of taking a good look, he’s trying to create contact and makes his shot more difficult than it should be.
- Martin rarely forces anything, so it was definitely noticeable when he fired up a pretty rash 3 about mid-way through the fourth. You could see his frustration. Mostly probably coming from the fact he wasn’t scoring but I’m sure some of it was in his lack of involvement. The guy is a scorer, but he has to be included in the offense. He’s not the kind of player that’s going to demand touches and go take the ball from Durant or Westbrook because you’d have to be insane to do that. He does have to assert himself though, which is why I really didn’t completely hate the forced shot.
- Westbrook splitting a double team is maybe my favorite thing. Or one of them. Ranks very highly in my favorite things power rankings.
- Serge Ibaka: Nine rebounds, eight offensive. As a team, OKC piled up 18 offensive boards. The Thunder rebounded 37 percent of their misses tonight. That’s good.
- Only 12 turnovers for OKC. Statistically speaking from a team perspective, outside of 3-point shooting, the Thunder put together a pretty winning formula. More scoring distribution is preferred and better defense, but overall, it was pretty good.
- The Thunder’s defense was very average tonight, but some of that was bad luck I think. The 76ers are one of the worst shooting teams in the league and they had players knocking down some pretty contested shots. For whatever reason, Jason Richardson, who couldn’t miss, only played 18 minutes.
- First time in 43 games Ibaka didn’t have a block.
- Maybe not do the Hyundai Drive of the Game after four minutes. Because sometimes, there are better drives that happen the next 43.
- Westbrook’s ability to hang in the air and just flip the ball on the rim is majestic. It looks like he’s playing basketball in the Matrix.
- Between Spencer Hawes and Andrew Bynum, the Sixers are leading the league in hairstyles.
- Major issue this season: OKC’s 3-point bench celebrations. Hasheem Thabeet standing up by himself just isn’t good enough. Make a trade or something Presti.
- Totally forgot about that annoying Sixers fan with the blue hat and white goatee. That guy’s the worst/best.
- If you’re an Oklahoman it was impossible to ignore the football game that preceding the Thunder tonight, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the symbolism of it all. OU and OSU wrap up a Bedlam for the ages and immediately after, are on the same team as they all root for the Thunder. I can’t be the only one that thinks that is cool.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “The Thunder are doing things.”
Next up: Monday at home against the Bobcats.