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Looking Back: Defense, Defense, Defense

Questions keep circulating around the greater Oklahoma City area about if this Thunder team is good or not. Well, yes…yes they are. Their defense continues to prove that statement as true, especially after Monday night’s 97-85 victory over the Miami Heat. They improved their record to (6-1) on the season, which keeps them tied for first place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Miami’s star player, Hassan Whiteside entered Monday night averaging 20 points and 14.2 rebounds per game but finished with only five points on 1-for-9 shooting and 12 rebounds. His primary defender was Steven Adams.

Russell Westbrook sure was impressed.

Steven did a good job of buckling down, using his size, using his ability to be able to use his body and his strength to match,” said Westbrook.

The highest scorer on the Heat’s team was James Johnson, finishing with 18 points on 5-for-12 shooting, but as a team, the Heat shot only 36.9 percent for the game.

Oklahoma City led Miami 55-47 going into the half, although Russell had just 6 points on 2-for-10 shooting. That’s half because of the improved defense from this Thunder team and bench players stepping up. Against Miami, it was Enes Kanter that carried the offensive load off the bench in the midst of an off game for Westbrook with 24 points and 10 rebounds on 10-for-12 shooting. Domantas Sabonis played stellar defense well, as he appeared to finally get used to the NBA’s speed. Also, the defensive stickler in OKC’s backcourt, Victor Oladipo continued his excellence in that department and stepped up his offensive game with 17 points, shooting 66.7 percent from the field. He appears comfortable in this offense now.

The competition will ramp up quickly on Wednesday where they’ll face the leading scorer in the NBA in DeMar DeRozan who averages 33.7 points and his (4-2) Toronto Raptors. This will be more of a test for this Thunder backcourt: Russell, Victor, Andre, and Semaj.

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