Defense Provides Pressure, Russ Balls Out In OKC’s 6th Straight

A highly anticipated game against two teams with nearly identical records and seasons started with no energy at all but ended as one of the most electric home games of the season. Luckily, the Thunder took advantage of a team that is in a very bad place, morale-wise, 121-112 thanks to a high-powered fourth quarter from Russell Westbrook.

It was a 10-0 run that set the tone for the game and Steven Adams had eight of them. It looked like another game where he’d dominate the inside, which he still did but not in that way. Instead, the Thunder collectively as a team found a way to make their mark in this game. The opening quarter ended on a high note with Paul George draining a buzzer-beating three-point shot, followed by a technical foul because he felt he was fouled.

The second quarter started exactly how the first ended but it was the bench that did the damage, starting with an 11-0 run in the first 3:30, extending the Thunder lead to 34-22. Also, OKC forced four turnovers on three steals in the second quarter alone which had them comfortably ahead 54-40 at halftime.

For about eight minutes in the third quarter, the Thunder resulted back to their old ways with another poor start to the second half as Washington got off to a 17-7 start. But identical to Tuesday night against Brooklyn, “uncle” Raymond Felton substituted into the game for Russell Westbrook per usual and nailed consecutive three-pointers to cut the Wizards lead to three points.

That’s all the momentum Western Conference All-Star Russell Westbrook needed to wheel his team to a convincing victory. It wasn’t just him, though. He couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for his backcourt teammates, Andre Roberson and George who committed a horrible crime by smothering Washington’s perimeter players to death. Roberson’s on-ball and help defense were spectacular and George’s uncanny ability to poke the ball away resulted in three steals, leading to six fast-break points.

The final five minutes of the game was 100 percent energy, and that energy turned into even more points for the Thunder, or actually Russell Westbrook who racked up 21 fourth-quarter points without anyone noticing it. Westbrook had a season-high 46 points on 19-of-29 (65 percent) shooting, six assists, and 6 rebounds.

Paul George had a solid game and would’ve had a better offensive game on paper if Westbrook didn’t have the game he had. George finished with 18 points, four steals, and four assists. Terrance Ferguson looked like anything but a rookie tonight, scoring 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from long-distance. His confidence resembled everything but a 19-year-old rookie that only has one-year professional experience in Australia.

Oklahoma City hits the road on a six-game winning streak, looking like the team everyone expected them to be, finally. Their next game will be against the (22-24) Detroit Pistons that are headed in a completely opposite direction in the midst of a six-game losing streak.

About the author

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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