For a few minutes there, things weren’t pretty for Oklahoma City. The effort was poor, the focus was weak and the play mostly terrible. The Thunder trailed by as many as 14 in the first quarter and were basically a mess.
Then Kevin Durant got cleared for takeoff and everything changed.
After KD’s dunk, the Thunder finished the game on a 94-72 run.
Maybe the dunk served as a little wakeup call, as a catalyst to spark the team, but really it was more about Kevin Martin and the bench once again steadying the ship and then Russell Westbrook playing some kind of bounce back game. Martin knocked down a couple 3s, Westbrook hit a couple jumpers and just like that, the slow start was erased from memory. The Thunder’s explosiveness is explosive.
The second unit is really starting to produce consistently though. Martin had 24 on 9-16 shooting, but his work in the first half was terrific. From 2:53 left in the first to 8:18 in the second Martin scored 15 of OKC’s 21 points in that span. He seems to be getting the feel for commandeering the second unit a bit more, growing in comfort as he switches between primary and third or fourth scorer. It’s taken some time, but he seems to be getting it, as well as the guys on the floor with him.
Then Westbrook. He was plain awful against the Warriors, but he came back with one of his more complete games of the season tonight. He finished with 18 points and a season-high 14 assists, just two off his career high. He completely owned the third quarter, piling up eight assists, which tied an OKC record.
With the passes Westbrook was whipping around — no-look lefty dishes, slick pocket passes, one-handed bounce passes — it struck me that this might’ve been the most impressive passing game of Westbrook’s career. And not only that, but it really looked like he was enjoying it. He was really focusing on where he could find an open man, how he could work somebody free and how he could set someone up. His own offense almost seemed to be an afterthought, which is something I never though I’d say.
All of it in just three quarters of work. Pretty tidy.
As a team, the Thunder assisted on 27 of the team’s 37 total field goals, made 25-30 from the free throw line and shot almost 50 percent from the floor. The Kings were entirely disjointed and had a lot to do with the Thunder’s success, but it was clear that once OKC got its head on straight, this thing was about to be a drive-by. The Thunder just needed to rev the engine a bit to get everything warmed up.
Obviously anything less than victory would’ve been massively frustrating and disappointing, so the Thunder handling business was nice, but the manner in which they played the last 42 minutes or so was pretty tremendous. It’s always nice to see them assert their superiority of an inferior team, like a couple seniors kids wiping the floor with some sixth graders.
That puts OKC 3-2 on the roadie, leaving Sunday’s game against the Lakers as sort of swing game to determine the success level of the trip. I’d recommend showing up at tipoff for that one though.
- I’ve seen a few people lately complain about Durant’s ability to get to the line. But you know why Kevin Durant draws so many fouls? Because nobody can guard him. Does KD get some calls? Sure he does. But I think he actually gets fouled more than is called. He’s held, pulled and grabbed every possession. If refs called it straight, Durant might as well build a three-bedroom house at the free throw line.
- The Kings got called for some pretty ticky-tack stuff in this game though. Final foul count was 27-20, Kings.
- The Thunder just exposed Isaiah Thomas the entire game. He was too small to guard anyone, especially Westbrook, and without fouling was completely overmatched. I honestly kind of felt bad for him.
- Tonight was KD’s first double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 19, which is also his first double-double since Dec. 19.
- I’m so guilty of this: When KD hasn’t scored much or someone’s working on a career high in something (like Westbrook tonight) but the Thunder are up a bunch heading to the fourth, I sort of root for an opposing run to give them the chance to stay in and rack up a few stats. And then when the run happens, I’m like, “Nevermind! Nevermind! Just kidding don’t come back please!”
- Westbrook LOVES using that lefty pass off the dribble.
- Perk didn’t do anything notable on DeMarcus Cousins, but he clearly had a gameplan and executed it. He wanted to keep him out of the paint and just contest any outside jumpers. If Cousins hits those, so be it. But Perk didn’t let him have anything easy and it showed — just 14 points on 6-16 for Cousins.
- Serge Ibaka had a very quiet 14 and eight tonight. It’s getting to that point where Ibaka can score a quiet 14 points. Last season it would’ve felt like someone set off a blackcat in your ear.
- The Thunder won despite Nick Collison only playing 19 minutes. I’LL NEVER KNOW HOW.
- The Kevins combined to go for 48 points on 16-28 shooting.
- Thabo had a little offensive explosion in the third quarter. Or as much of an offensive explosion as Thabo can have.
- Re: Travis Outlaw’s dunk over Thabeet: That right there illustrates the frustrations of Thabeet’s career. He’s SEVEN-FREAKING-THREE and instead of going up to feed the ball back in Outlaw’s mouth, he stands under the bucket and gets called for a blocking foul.
- I can’t get enough of DeAndre Liggins’ effort. Seven boards in 14 minutes. Love that guy.
- One thing Reggie Jackson can do that Eric Maynor most definitely can’t? This. This right here.
- Scott Brooks decided to give Maynor got minutes in garbage time instead of letting Jackson finish the game. I found it kind of weird that he left Martin on the floor though, instead of letting Jackson play off the ball. I wonder if it was to have at least one guy out there who could score, or if he didn’t want to cloud the game for Maynor with another ballhandler.
- KD tossed his shoes to some little kids, while he was on the bench during the game. KD is the best. #KDISNICE
- On the flipside, some fan tried to take Westbrook’s towel right off his head and he was having none of that. #RussIsRuss
- It really kind of angers me how the Kings misuse Jimmer Fredette. He could be a dynamic sparkplug scorer if he had the freedom to be.
- A few people were making fun of the Kings for their sparse attendance tonight with the fear of relocation looming. Let me ask you: Would you really be all that interested in paying money and going to the arena to see THAT team? I sure wouldn’t.
- Little thing I loved in the third quarter: After Tyreke Evans finished a layup over Ibaka, Ibaka was upset that Evans used his off arm to shield. He started to complain and immediately Durant got Ibaka’s attention and barked at him to get up the court.
- I think KD could dunk from halfcourt.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “And I’ve got beyond that, absolutely nothing to say.”
Next up: Sunday against the Lakers at Staples.