Wait a second. What?
It’s amazing how a basketball game can sneak up on you. After the first half, it seemed like we were all in for snoozer with both teams struggling to make anything. Then as the game progressed deep into the second half, it appeared the Thunder were about to sleepwalk to a bad home loss as the Wizards just shredding them with halfcourt execution and perimeter shotmaking.
And it seemed to only get worse with 3:18 left in the fourth quarter. After a second scuffle with Nene, Russell Westbrook picked up a second technical foul and was ejected with the Thunder down 10, 92-82. Thanks for coming ladies and gentlemen, drive home safely.
Then John Wall was called for a carry, Reggie Jackson finished at the rim, Wall missed an 18-footer and Serge Ibaka knocked in a jumper. Wizards timeout, 92-86, 2:08 left. Wall then missed a deep 3 and in transition, Jeremy Lamb dropped an ice cold 3 — 92-89, 1:37 left. Another stop, and another bucket for OKC as Kevin Durant set up Ibaka for a dunk — 92-91, 1:09 left. A 9-0 run out of nowhere in two minutes to give the Thunder a chance to salvage something out of nothing.
Bradley Beal — who is a BOSS — drilled a deep 2 to put the Wizards back up 3 with 50 seconds left. After a missed Jackson runner, Ibaka put back for two, but Beal came back with a driving layup. Wizards 96, Thunder 93 with 18 seconds left.
So really, all that first 47 minutes and 42 seconds did was set the stage for Kevin Durant to do the things that he does. Funny thing was, with the Wizards just 11-23 from the line, it made all the sense in the world to go for a quick 2, but KD doesn’t abide by the laws of common sense. He only answers to his instinct, and with him sizing up Trevor Ariza, he got one inch too much of space, and it was lights out, tie game from there.
“I just tried to read the play,” Durant said. “He laid off me just a little bit and I just need a little bit of space to get it off. If he had pressured me I would’ve went for 2, that was the plan. But I seen it open and coach trusts me with that shot no matter what, make or miss so I was fortunate enough to get that one to go in.”
Beal, who beat the Thunder last season after KD had tied the game with a 3, couldn’t repeat it this time, coming up short at the end of regulation. So for the Thunder, they forced an extra five minutes, but the job wasn’t done. They were without Westbrook for overtime, and Scott Brooks was leaning heavily on his young bench, and a small lineup to seal the deal.
“I’m so proud of J-Lamb, Reggie, Serge and Perry Jones, those guys came through,” Durant said. “They made some huge plays for us, able to get us back in the game and set me up for the shot to take it to overtime. And after that they played so hard on defense, they played inspired basketball. Those guys really won the game for us.”
But it was again Durant — who had 33 points on 12-23 shooting, 13 rebounds and six assists — who made the big play in overtime, blocking an Ariza jumper and taking it the other way to force two free throws, which put the Thunder up 106-105. What is there to say? Dude’s just amazing.
“You never feel like it’s over when you got a guy named Kevin Durant on the other side,” said John Wall. “We knew we were playing great defense, but he’s known for making tough shots. Look at the shot he made just before overtime.”
The end result feels good for the Thunder because it’s a win, and really, I don’t think they should feel all that bad about having trouble with this Wizards team. Yes, they’re the Wizards and they carry that reputation with them, and yes, they were 2-3 coming in with a couple bad losses. But this has the makings of a really nice team. With Nene and Marcin Gortat building chemistry inside, Wall orchestrating and Brad Beal playing like he did, they have a chance to be an Eastern playoff team. For most of the second half, it wasn’t just that the Thunder were playing poorly — which they were in a lot of ways — but it was more about the Wizards out-executing and outplaying them.
And to come back the way the Thunder did, in the circumstance they were pushed into, with the players they leaned on, that’s pretty good. The Thunder were forced to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to play without Russell Westbrook, and they failed in so many different ways, particularly to begin this season. The ball movement was bad, the spacing horrific, the execution worse and the over-reliance on Durant borderline insane. The supporting cast wasn’t picking up any slack, wasn’t carrying any weight.
But with Westbrook sitting in the locker room, presumably tearing it apart like he was The Hulk, it was Jackson, Lamb and Ibaka who did the heavy lifting to bring OKC back. It was them in overtime who did their part to set KD up to finish it. It’s only November, and there’s a whole lot of time between now and April, but this was a great sign for the Thunder. Their bench has been performing so far, but in a big spot, they answered the call.
- You would think the Wizards would give a silent fist-pump getting Westbrook off the floor while losing Nene, but really, it worked much more in OKC’s favor. The Wizards were absolutely torching the Thunder with the two bigs, running pick-and-roll and counter pick-and-roll while Nene and Gortat had their way on the block against OKC’s big men. But without Nene, the Thunder were able to go small and not having a massive mismatch on the defensive end, which sparked the 9-0 run to force overtime.
- Westbrook was asked about the incident with Nene (video here) and he had absolutely no interest in discussing it. Here’s the transcript word for word: Reporter: “Russ when you pushed Nene, was that just out of frustration or –” Westbrook: “What you talking about?” Reporter: “When you pushed Nene…” Westbrook: “Did we win?” Reporter: “Yeah.” Westbrook: “Alright.” Reporter: “How frustrated were you — ” Westbrook: “That’s it for you [name].” Another effort to follow-up about it was completely ignored, with Westbrook looking around saying “Any more questions?” to which a different reporter asked another way, which Westbrook said, “Any more questions?”
- It used to bug me how Westbrook acted in these type of situations, but having been around him for five years now, I’m starting to come around on it. It’s just the way he is. He doesn’t have an on/off switch when it comes to talking about his emotions and even though it’s immature and silly (it would’ve been much easier to have just said, “Yeah, it was a bad play and I shouldn’t have lost my cool”), it’s just how he is. He was friendly and accommodating to every other question, but when it came to talking about the incident, he had no interest. In a weird way, as much as it used to irk me in the past, now I kind of like it. It’s all part of the Russ-a-badass vibe.
- On what Westbrook was doing while watching his teammates come back: “Clapping. We was winning. That’s the whole point. If my team’s winning, we good.”
- Biggest shot of the night, other than KD’s 3: Lamb’s transition pull-up. That one took guts to take. And there was no hesitation in him. He saw he was open and instinctually took it. My favorite part was when it went in.
- Lamb on if he thought twice about the shot: “No, not really. Reggie hit me and I was wide open. It was early in the shot clock but it was late in the game. The clock was going down, so we had to get some points on the board, so I just tried to knock one down.”
- Lamb on getting big minutes late: “It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun. We had a great crowd, as always. It was a close game and that was the first time I’ve played in a game like that, so it was a lot of fun.”
- At the end of overtime, there was about a 2.5 second differential between the shot and game clock and the Wizards (stupidly) elected to play it out. The Thunder ended up running a decoy set for KD and Jackson penetrated and kicked to Lamb who had his 3 roll in and out. Good play, good execution, just didn’t make it. But a smarter play would’ve been to just hold the ball until the end of the 24-second clock and launch a high-arcing shot at the rim right at the buzzer. With the flight of the ball and the time it would’ve taken to gather and call timeout, the most there would’ve been on the clock was probably 0.5 seconds or so. It all worked out in the end and it would’ve been unconventional, but maybe a better plan.
- Nick Collison was out tonight because of a left hip contusion and his absence in the second unit was definitely felt. The bench unit didn’t score a point the first four minutes of the second quarter, which led to OKC shooting 3-18 in the second, scoring only 10 points. In the first half, the bench was 1-9 for two points with the only bucket being a breakaway Lamb dunk.
- Steven Adams wasn’t very effective tonight in his 20 minutes, but he was the first off the bench in the first and second halves. He finished with just one points, two rebounds and two blocks. It’s one of those things where he’s set the bar really high with his early performances that we need to remember he’s a rookie, and he’s learning. He wasn’t glaringly bad or anything, and his defense was decent. He just didn’t have the overwhelming impact tonight, which to expect that game-to-game, isn’t very fair.
- Brooks was asked pregame about how much having Collison on the floor with Adams helps, particularly in Collison helping the rookie along. Brooks: “If he doesn’t play well tonight, I’ll blame it on Nick.” So, it was all Nick’s fault, you guys.
- With the suit he wore tonight, it was like Nick Collison was saying, “Yeah, I know I’m gonna be a coach or an executive once I retire.”
- Ibaka was outstanding tonight — 25 points on 11-18 with 12 rebounds and three blocks — but he did get worked a bit by Nene and Gortat on the block. Still, those are two really tough guys to defend and that shouldn’t take away from the massive impact Ibaka had in winning this one. He was knocking down everything from midrange, he was active on the offensive glass and he continued his solid work on the defensive boards. Remember when people were worrying about him a week ago?
- Perk played 19 minutes to Adams’ 20 tonight. Perk had four rebounds and three assists, and was fine against Nene and Gortat. And really, one of the more impressive things from him tonight happened in overtime when he was out near midcourt at a dead ball, waving his towel and coaching up Jackson and Sefolosha on a play. Despite not being in, Perk was actively involved and living up to his leadership reputation.
- In the second quarter, Ibaka entirely erased two easy buckets for the Wizards. Blocks can be an overrated stat in a lot of ways, but sometimes, they really matter.
- Excellent touch by the Thunder game ops folks playing the Harry Potter theme while the Wizards were announced. Too bad their whole roster is a bunch of muggles, though. The Thunder’s on the other hand, all Gryffindors.
- Via Andrew Gilman: New ball boy working during warmups for Thunder game. Kevin’s Durant comes over shakes his hand and tells him,”I hope you enjoy it.”
- Beal torched Thabo all night. For whatever reason, he was an insanely tough cover for OKC’s backcourt. Late in the fourth and overtime, Brooks went with Thabo on Wall and Lamb on Beal. And really, Lamb did a decent enough job. Good switch by Brooks.
- Thabo: “I think it was what the whole team was doing. They’re big guys rolling to the basket hard, us having to protect the basket and then kicking out for 3-point shooters. They’re a team that shoots the ball extremely well and they executed their gameplan well.”
- In the end though, Thabo still had eight points and eight rebounds and definitely contributed to the win. No shame in getting roasted by Beal tonight. That dude was just on.
- Westbrook struggled to get going again (13 points on 4-16, four rebounds, four assists, five turnovers), but he did a really nice job on John Wall who struggled equally.
- Early season trend: The Thunder are dominating the glass.
- Not counting the postseason, this was the biggest fourth quarter comeback in the OKC era.
- Via ESPN Stats and Info, KD has made the most game-tying shots in the NBA under 24 seconds since he came into the league in 2007. He’s hit 12 game-tying shots under 24 seconds in his career.
- The Wizards finished 13-26 from the line and truth be told, they gave this one away.
- Jackson started slow, but man, he was terrific. Finished with 12, seven boards and four assists in 28 minutes.
- Perry Jones with quality minutes and a big 3 late in the third quarter. He played 14 minutes, had five rebounds, five points, a block and an assist.
- Jones chews on his mouthpiece like he’s got a huge wad of chew in his mouth.
- The moment I knew Russell Westbrook was back: When he laid on the other end of the floor holding his face while the Wizards scored a layup on the other end.
- I can’t really tell if Thabo shredded Gortat’s ankles here, or if Gortat just stepped on his teammate’s foot. Doesn’t really matter because Thabo missed the shot anyway.
- I never got a replay and was pretty blocked out on it: Was Wall not fouled on that final drive? And if not, how did he not only miss that, but airball it?
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via @Pas590: “Up like a Lamb, down like a LION!!!!”
Next up: At the Clippers on Wednesday