Four straight wins!
Give Russell Westbrook the MVP already. Westbrook earned his 30th triple-double of the season. He’s the best closer in the league and he proved that tonight. Russ scored 14 of the Thunder’s final 15 points in this game. He ended the night with 43 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Thunder started this game on fire from behind the arc, making 12 straight three-pointers at one point in the first half. Hell froze over in this game, and it was really fun to watch. They ended the first half shooting 12-of-13 from downtown, and Russ began the second half by hitting a ridiculous and-1 three-pointer on what was meant to be an intentional foul. OKC finished the night with a very solid 15-of-22 from behind the arc. This uncharacteristically great shooting would typically be enough for a blowout win, but Utah did a great job of keeping the game close.
Utah chipped away at a 13-point Thunder lead and outscored the Thunder by 8 points in the fourth quarter. With 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Joe Johnson hit a classic isolation jumper over Steven Adams putting the Jazz up by 4 points. That’s when the Russell Westbrook show took full effect. Russ brought the ball up the court and splashed a well-contested 3-point jumper over George Hill to make it a 1-point-game. When the Thunder were able to get a stop on the other end, it was Russ who grabbed the rebound and took all the way to the basket, hitting an and-1 layup to put the Thunder in the lead for good.
Utah had six players that scored in double-digits. They played great on both ends and weren’t shaken when OKC hit 12-three-pointers in a row. Quin Snyder might look like the headmaster of Slytherin, but he’s also a great basketball coach. Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward all played well, but the Jazz couldn’t stop the Thunder in transition. The Thunder were +16 on fast break points.
Utah had 17 more field goals attempted than OKC, despite the Thunder winning the rebounding battle by +9. The Thunder clearly shot more efficiently than Utah tonight as they scored three-pointers at a pace that I didn’t think they had in them. It was refreshing to see. OKC was also +7 in turnovers. Utah collectively had 7 turnovers tonight and Westbrook by himself had 8. That’s excusable because Russell Westbrook is playing out his mind. He’s going to continue playing out of his mind and he’ll continue to turn the ball over – and that’s okay for now. He’s playing with a historically high usage-rate and the turnovers are to be expected when he’s the only NBA-level playmaker on the court. Oladipo has missed the past few games and his return gives the Thunder another guy that can handle the ball. Combine that with Norris Cole replacing Semaj Christon as the backup point guard, and the Thunder might start moving up in the Western Conference seeding.
- Norris Cole is Thunder-bound. I really like this pick-up for OKC. Norris Cole won’t move the needle for this team in a huge way, but it’s an improvement. Presti has done an incredible job of making incrementally positive moves for this team since KD left. Those incremental small moves have added up to make this team a lot better this season. Presti deserves a ton of credit.
- Doug McDermott had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist. He hit 4 three-pointers and played terrifically. This team desperately needed a small forward that could shoot, and Doug McDermott is quickly filling that need.
- Russell Westbrook had a crazy first quarter and scored 18 points on a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc and got to the free throw line six times.
- Gordon Hayward didn’t dunk on anyone; that’s a victory within itself.
- Enes Kanter ended the night with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. The Big Turkey is making me wish it was Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for his post-moves and that amazing mustache.
- Abrines has been en fuego as a starter. Tonight, he shot a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown and 4-of-4 from the field. It’s reasonable to make the argument that he should be the starting shooting guard. He is playing very well next to Westbrook. Oladipo is no doubt the better player, but maybe the Thunder can maximize both guys more by staggering Oladipo and Westbrook. Three games of Abrines starting is still a small sample size, but it’s worth considering. Evan Fournier started over Oladipo last year in Orlando. Maybe it happens again in OKC. It’s still too early to tell. Abrines and McDermott also might be a little redundant playing next to each other in the second unit. The more likely starting lineup change I see happening is Taj Gibson starting in place of Domas. Debate away!
Next Up: A West Coast swing with Portland up first at 9:30 pm CST on Thursday.