Thunder survive the Magic, 97-89

BOX SCORE

If this game was supposedly a must-win, well, the Thunder accomplished their objective. They won.

But if the intention behind that proclamation was to put an emphasis on this game against Orlando to inspire a better, more focused performance, well, ehhhhhh. Kevin Durant promised that they would win and again, that’s what they did.

The overall performance though was erratic and inconsistent with a quality hot start being wiped out by allowing 32 points in the third quarter. With 3:55 left in the game, the Thunder found themselves in a tie game, facing the very real possibility of making not only KD a liar, but setting off fire alarms all over Oklahoma City.

The Thunder got it done though. A Durant 3 with 2:44 left put OKC up 89-86, and that was the last bucket the Thunder needed. Serge Ibaka erased attempts in the paint and the Thunder hit 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch, only allowing a single point the final 2:31 of the game.

Not only was it a bounce-back for the Thunder, but more than anyone, a major bounce-back for Ibaka. After putting up a combined eight points and eight rebounds in the previous two games, Ibaka owned both sides of the paint, grabbing 13 rebounds (six offensive) while blocking five shots and adding 14 points.

Obviously, Ibaka’s game tonight doesn’t redeem him for the previous two because this was against Kyle O’Quinn and Tobias Harris, not the premier frontlines in Denver and Memphis. But it’s definitely better than the alternative and at least showed again that Ibaka can indeed dominate games physically when he commits to it. It’s one of the first games I can remember in a while where Ibaka completely shut down the interior for the opponent. The final five minutes, Thunder defenders were over-pressuring the ball and actually funneling their man to Ibaka with the trust that he’d clean up.

Westbrook had a bounce-back game within the game too. After finishing the first half 0-6 with one point, Westbrook started the second half 7-7 and scored 18 of his 19 the final 24 minutes. He got the mid-range stop-and-pop game going, attacked the rim and answered some of Orlando’s third quarter offensive burst.

So… again the Thunder won which sure beats the other outcome and while it wasn’t an extremely focused 48 minutes, it was nice to see the Thunder re-focus the final four minutes to avoid a disastrous result.

NOTES:

  • The Thunder’s struggles from 3-point land continue. Just 5-21 as a team tonight. Remove Kevin Martin’s 3-6 and KD’s 2-3, and the Thunder were 0-12.
  • KD’s turnover struggles also continued. He gave it away five times tonight. Here’s the problem: KD is just so lazy with his passing sometimes. For instance, he was making a post entry pass to Ibaka a little over a minute into the game and there was no commitment to it. He just put the ball over his head and tried to lob it to Ibaka. He’s got to get back to some fundamental stuff with his passing. He turns the ball over a couple times a game trying to make hero bullet passes, which I can accept, but the lazy stuff are just wasted possessions.
  • Derek Fisher’s last four games: 0-12 shooting, two points.
  • Interesting: DeAndre Liggins started the fourth quarter and played four minutes. He was part of a lineup that included Jackson, Fisher, Martin and Collison. I’m assuming it was an effort to find some defensive energy. What’s odd to me is why Liggins was in there with Fisher. Seems to me if you’re going to sub in Liggins, shouldn’t it be to change the focus of your identity?
  • KD was hot early hitting his first three shots. Then he sat about halfway through the first, checked in early in the second and hit only one of his next five. Rhythm killed.
  • Explain this one to me: Joey Crawford calls a foul on Jameer Nelson hitting KD on a jumper, but has to review whether or not it was a 2 or a 3, when KD was at least three feet inside the line. That would indicate Crawford didn’t have the greatest look at it, no?
  • With the way Jackson finishes, I really think he needs to watch tape of Harden in the pick-and-roll. He has that same look of being quick but not fast, hurrying while taking it slow. He’s good at picking spots, but needs to get a little better feel for that pick-and-roll with Nick Collison.
  • Has anyone ever seen Moe Harkless say a word?
  • Harkless, was fantastic. A career-high 25 points and some very sound defense on both Westbrook and Durant. Orlando has a very nice young player.
  • Martin was very, very good in just 25 minutes. He had 15 points on 5-10 shooting, knocked down some 3s and provided that necessary bench spark.
  • Thabo: 2-9, 0-4 from 3. But he did make some good defensive plays in the first half.
  • Every time Perk misses a gimme layup, an angel falls from heaven.
  • Westbrook’s nine assists are the most he’s had since he had nine five games ago against Utah.
  • Jacque Vaughn took a timeout 42 seconds in. OKC was up 3-0.
  • White jerseys on the road. Beautiful.
  • Mohawks for Perry Jones and DeAndre Liggins. Gotta do something to not get completely bored, I guess.
  • Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Sent behind over teakettle.”

Next up: Portland at home on Sunday.

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