Bittersweet California: The Thunder End Their Road Trip (1-1)

Last night was one of the most anticipated games of the season. Durant versus Westbrook, Western Conference re-match, Adams versus Green. Too bad it was scheduled the second night of a back to back for the Thunder.

The Golden State Warriors blew Oklahoma City away. Durant got hot and scored 39 points and turned it into a super efficient shooting night. A lot of trash talking, mostly from the Warriors’ players. It did not feel good.

Before diving into the game, let’s take a step back to Wednesday night. The Thunder faced the Los Angeles Clippers on the first of two nights in California. All of the odds were against Oklahoma City. The Clippers are predicted, rightfully so, to be a top 3 team in the West and a title contender while the Thunder are precdicted as a middle-low play off seed. Well, as Westbrook said after the game, a lot of people got it wrong.

It wasn’t pretty, a lot of mistakes, turnovers and missed shots. There were two good things that stood out for the Thunder: Defense and crunch time execution.

The Thunder played very good defense against the Clippers. No easy baskets in the paint, won the rebounds battle by eleven (52-41) and tried to close out the three points line as much as possible. The result was pretty impressive: the Clippers scored only 83 points. Los Angeles, before meeting the Thunder, averaged 106 points per game.

Crunch time execution was managed good as well. The inability to close out games has been one of the biggest issues for the Thunder in the past few years. This time they did it perfectly, and it’s not the first time we saw it this season. Smart offense and hard defense led the Thunder to the win over the 76ers and the Suns while the games were on the line. These two ingredients worked out as well against the Clippers.

Oklahoma City started perfectly in Oakland. They were feeding Adams under the basket and he was scoring points. Nobody on the Warriors roster can stop Adams. Too bad he went into fouls trouble early. It wasn’t just Adams though but a whole team effort. Westbrook played under control and Oladipo was hitting shots. Golden State was able to make a big run when Westbrook sat on the bench. Most of the people think that Durant went hot because Grant dunked on his head. It might be partially true. Mostly is because the full Thunder bench entered the game. As we know, they aren’t at their best right now.
The Warriors outscored the Thunder 37-11 in the second quarter and that was basically game over.

Overall, last night felt strange. Not only because Durant was wearing a Warriors jersey but he also was talking trash to the Thunder bench, he was getting super hyped every basked he scored. The whole Warriors team played for him (Green especially). It felt like the Thunder did something wrong to him while, let’s be honest, they didn’t.

I don’t want to dig deeper into this Durant/Westbrook narrative. Other people are taking care of that. I want to look at the bigger picture for the Thunder right now. It looks good.

There is a lot of work to do for sure but this team will only get better once they will find their identity. For now let’s take what’s good about this start. A 4-1 record and a bunch of guys that will fight night in and night out no matter who’s the opponent.

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