Once again, the Thunder showed how good they are on a big stage against a top-class opponent. After losing four consecutive games, Oklahoma City went into the Bay and played a nearly perfect game against the defending Champions.
Westbrook set the tone in the first quarter where he erupted for 21 points, and help the Thunder to score forty-two points to start the game. From that point, Oklahoma City never looked back. Paul George played an outstanding game on both ends of the floor, he scored at will and guarded whoever was coming in his way.
Despite Melo going out for injury, the Thunder kept attacking and kept defending at a high level. Their length on defense is one of the main keys that makes the Thunder so good on that end of the floor. They can switch everything, they deflect balls and passes, and they make every shot hard to take for the offense. The problem in the previous four losses was the missing effort, however last night, it was the perfect example of how, when the team is engaged, they can beat everyone.
In an interview before the game, Russell Westbrook told a reporter (actually he let the reporter answer his own question) that he approaches every game in the same way. Well, everyone knows this is not completely true, and yesterday was another example of how great Westbrook is when he plays full power. He scored 21 points (9-10 FG) in the first quarter and finished the game with 34 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists. On offense, Westbrook attacked the basket, took smart shots, and had everyone involved while on the other end of the floor, his defense was above average.
Paul George played a spectacular game. His final stat-line: 38 points (11-23 FG, 6-11 3PT, 10-12 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 steals, and 3 turnovers. He is hands down the best two-way player in the league right now, and definitely a top candidate for defensive player of the year. Last night, George showed all his offensive skills: a great ball handling which leads to creating his one shot, able to finish at the rim with contact and catch and shoot. One word to describe Paul George: unstoppable.
Finally, Donovan decided to bench Ferguson and to start Josh Huestis in his place. It was the right call and it paid off. Ferguson will be a solid NBA player in the next years, but at the moment he is not fully ready, and the Thunder can’t waste time to develop him. Huestis did a nice job, nothing crazy, but he defended well, which is it what this team needs from him.
Carmelo Anthony went down after six minutes into the game with a sprained ankle and didn’t come back. It might sound harsh, but I think that Melo being out, helped the Thunder win the game. Patterson and Grant did a great job in replacing Anthony: they are better defenders, faster, and, most importantly, They don’t need the ball in their hands on offense. Against top teams, who can exploit Anthony’s weaknesses, Donovan should explore this option more frequently.
The Thunder’s bench showed some life in the past few games. Grant has been the most consistent and surprising player out of that group. Last night, he finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks. With the trade deadline being only one day away, and with Grant’s value going up (he is an unrestricted free-agent at the end of the year), Presti might have to move him in order to create an interesting package for other teams. Abrines, Huestis, and Ferguson are the other three players who could have played their last game in a Thunder jersey.
- FG% 47.3, 3P% 38.7, FT% 75.8, ASSISTS 17, REBOUNDS 40, STEALS 14, TURNOVERS 13
- FG% 48.1, 3P% 28.6, FT% 74.2, ASSISTS 27, REBOUNDS 46, STEALS 7, TURNOVERS 25
The Thunder will play on Thursday in Los Angeles, against the Los Angeles Lakers. Tip-off 9.30 p.m. CT
Cover Photo by Noah Graham