‘Next man up’ performance, balanced Thunder team is Warriors biggest threat

Game highlights.

With Jerami Grant and Dennis Schröder out against the Portland Trail Blazers that sit just one spot under the Thunder in the Western Conference, Deonte Burton and Raymond Felton picked up the slack, helping will the Thunder into another big victory as they close in on the NBA All-star game.

The Thunder defeated the now (33-23) Trail Blazers, 120-111 behind the typical big night from Paul George and Russell Westbrook but surprising big nights from Burton and Felton as well. George finished with 47 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, while Westbrook recorded his 10th consecutive triple-double, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record for the longest active streak. He finished the night with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists.

As unbelievable as this streak has been for Westbrook and George, it’s becoming the norm. Russ is liable for a triple-double every night, and George will pour in 30 points and lock up on the defensive end.

The underlying reason the Thunder won tonight’s game was Burton, who finished the night with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and old school Felton, adding 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and held the second highest plus/minus statistic on the Thunder, behind George, at plus-13.

Grant and Schröder being out could have been and probably would have been earlier in the season, a painful short-term loss for the Thunder. That’s 28.8 points per game that would go unaccounted for and even more detrimentally affect their defensive rhythm that has become their identity.

By the way, Grant missed due to a sprained ankle and Schröder was dealing with a personal matter.

What this shows the NBA is that not only are the Thunder a good team, they could very well be second-best in the Western Conference and the only team that has a fighter’s chance against the Golden State Warriors.

As documented throughout the season, OKC offers the best formula to dethrone the Warriors. They can be so elite on the defensive end of the floor, more so than any other team in the NBA and what sets them apart from conference teams like Denver, Memphis, Dallas, and Utah, the teams preceding them in points allowed, is the fact that they’re also third in points scored.

The Thunder are the most balanced team in the NBA and during this stretch where they’ve won 11 of their last 12 games, they’re only becoming a more intimidating threat to Golden State.

Monday night was the definition of “next man up.”

feature photo: Zack Beeker/Getty Images.

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