The Weekly Critique: Pure Excellence After All-Star Break

Since coming back after the All-Star game break, the Thunder won all of the three games they played. Except for the game against the Los Angeles Lakers, where Oklahoma City won without any problem, the other two were battles. In both occasions, against the Pelicans and the Jazz, Russell Westbrook took over in clutch time and he led the Thunder to important wins. The Thunder are still 7th in the West but thanks to their winning streak they are now only two games behind the 4th position.

The Games

Oklahoma City vs Los Angeles 110-93
Oklahoma City vs New Orleans 118-110
Oklahoma City vs Utah 109-106

Four Observations

Russell Westbrook Is Not Human

I am sure he isn’t. Russell Westbrook is not only averaging a triple-double (which is already crazy if you think about it) but he is doing everything possible to help the team win. Last night against the Utah Jazz he notched his 30th triple-double of the season, the 5th this year with at least 40 points. He is impressive in clutch time, and not only this past week, but he has been all season long. There are still 22 games left, if Westbrook can keep up with this type of production, I don’t think there is any doubt regarding who should win the MVP trophy.

The New Guys

At the trade deadline, the Thunder added to their roster Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott in exchange for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffrey Laverne. Taj and Doug played only three games so far, that makes it no easy to fully judge them but we can see already the benefit of their addition to the Thunder’s roster. Gibson is a very good defender who can play solid offense as well. He is good in the post and he can hit mid-range shots. McDermott is an incredible shooter, with an excellent release, and he moves a lot on offense. This help Oklahoma City in spreading the floor and add a shooting threat from behind the arc.
Today the Thunder added to their roster also free agent Norris Cole. With his experience, he will definitely help Oklahoma City as a backup point guard.

Players Rotation

Alex Abrines played fantastic during the absence of Victor Oladipo. In the last three games, the Spanish player averaged 14.3 points while shooting 51.7% from the floor and a stunning 52.4% from behind the three points line (total of 11-21). With the return of Oladipo and the addition of Cole to the roster, it will be interesting to see how Donovan will move forward with the rotations. Will he keep Abrines in the starting five and let Oladipo run the second unit? Will he start Oladipo and bring back the old rotation patterns while playing Cole instead of Christon at PG? Will Gibson start in place of Sabonis at some point? The minutes distribution and rotations going forward will be important for Oklahoma City but one thing is sure: this is a very well constructed and competitive roster.

Playoff run

As it stands right now, the Thunder are 7th in the West with a 35-25 record. However, the good news is that they are only two games behind the Utah Jazz who are 4th. With 22 games left, an easy schedule (they will play only 7 teams with above 0.500), and a reinforced roster, Oklahoma City has a big chance to gain some positions in the standings. The ideal target would be the 4th place that will assure the home court advantage in the first round of the playoff.

Top 3 Plays Of The Week

  • Mr Clutch

  • Mr Clutch part 2

  • Westbrook to Gibson

Up Next

The Thunder will play three out of the next four games on the road. They will start tomorrow night in Portland against the Trail Blazers, Friday in Phoenix against the Suns, and Sunday in Dallas against the Mavs. The next Tuesday the Thunder will be back at home to face again the Portland Trail Blazers.

About the author

Twitter: @euro_thunder

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