All that's going to matter is that we're 2-0. I like to keep telling myself that. Not the fact that this was a sloppily played and mostly boring game, and not the fact that we still have glaring holes we need to address. But, most of all, especially not the fact that both Ibaka and Durant missed crucial free throws towards the end of the game that could have sealed it.
But, let's not be too negative here. Overall, the Thunder played a good game. They managed to keep their lead from about midway through the first quarter all the way until right before the end of the game, no matter how many mini-runs the Pistons went on. The game itself wasn't very pretty to watch, given the amount of free throws that were taken by the Thunder, and the horrific 2 of 15 shooting percentage. But getting to the line pays huge dividends sometimes.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, towards the end of the game, the Pistons were on the end of one of their mini-runs, slowly eating into the Thunder's lead. Eventually, Charlie Villanueva his a pair of free throws to put the Pistons down by 2 with 49 seconds to go. This was a good position for the Thunder to be in, as most teams win in this situation. And we all held our breath as the Thunder began their next possession. Durant pulled up for a jumper, but it was a no-go. Then Serge Ibaka grabbed the board and went for a layup, but that shot also missed. And somehow, between two Pistons, Ibaka grabbed the ball again and managed to get fouled.
But we all shook our heads as the first free throw rimmed out. He hit the second, but it was a one possession game, and the Pistons had the ball. Ben Gordon immediately drew the foul and sank both free throws, narrowing the Thunder lead to only one. Off the inbounds, Durant grabbed the ball and was fouled. And no one was prepared for what happened next, as Kevin Durant actually missed a clutch freethrow. This is when the game finally came under some serious doubt. The second swooshed in, and the Thunder now only had a two point lead, and the Pistons had the ball.
Below: The Final Moments, Analysis!
They called a timeout, and moved the ball to half-court. The Pistons had some trouble inbounding the ball, but it eventually found it's way into the hands of Jason Maxiell. As Maxiell stood on the perimeter, Ben Gordon came charging from the half-court line, exploiting a mismatch he had with the slower Green and Ibaka. Maxiell handed the ball off to him, and instead of taking the hard layup, he has excellent court vision and passes it to a wide-open Charlie Villanueva on the perimeter. Swish. Oklahoma City was now down by one, with 7.5 seconds to go.
But the game was far from over. The Thunder also took a timeout, advancing the ball to their half-court. Jeff Green easily got the ball off of the inbound. After a few slow dribbles, he saw a mismatch with the slower Jason Maxiell. So he turned on the jets and whipped past Maxiell for an easy lay-in. Thunder up by one, 2.5 seconds to go. The Pistons have no timeouts, and the ball doesn't even get past half-court. The Thunder win, and go to 2-0. And Oklahoma City breathes a collective sigh of relief.
How did our guys do? Well, the big three continue to impress, though they mostly did so through getting to the line. Kevin Durant (Thunder Down Under) led the way with 30 Points, 8 Rebounds, and 2 Steals, while Russell Westbrook pulled off a double-double, Scoring 17 Points, Grabbing 6 Boards, Dishing 11 Assists, and Stealing the ball twice. Jeff Green (Thunder Wonder) was definitely a distant third, scoring only 21 Points, grabbing only 5 Rebounds, and getting 3 Turnovers and Steals, but he continued his streak of being a solid contributor, and he hit the game-winning shot.
The success stories from the rest of the team definitely come from the big men. Nenad Krstic followed up his pathetic opening night performance with 14 Points and 7 Rebounds, no doubt resulting from more plays drawn for him and the shorter Pistons players. These two games are a perfect example of what types of games are good and bad for Nenad Krstic. Against a perimeter-oriented team, he can exploit mismatches and rebound adequately. But against an inside-oriented team, he mainly serves as a pick machine. Ibaka did well for himself as well, with 16 Points, 10 Rebounds, and 2 Blocks. He was also invaluable in limiting Ben Wallace and Jason Maxiell to just 4 Points.
The rest of the team was just one gigantic flop. Sefolosha probably comes out the most scot-free, as he got 4 Points and 7 Rebounds, but he still allowed Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton to explode for bunches of points. It's kind of unpreventable, but they had great nights. James Harden (Thunder Blunder) had a bunch of ones on the stat sheet in his 16 minutes, and didn't provide anything defensively. Daequan Cook had 2 Steals, but has yet to score a point this season, Eric Maynor had 2 Points, 2 Assists, and 2 Steals in 9 Minutes, and Royal Ivey was on the floor for 40 seconds.
The Pistons are an East team, so we don't need to be too concerned with them. But we face them again on March 11th, and it will be interesting to see how they've evolved. Will they have mortgaged the team by then and focused on next year? Will the team still be languishing with the same roster, trying to etch a playoff berth? Will they strike gold and actually be good? It's hard to say. In my opinion, they have the most questionable future in the NBA. But, from tonight's game, it's pretty obvious what they lack: Size. Even if Chuancey Billups was still there, I don't think this team would be much better. Ben Wallace provides nothing more than a body to grab rebounds at this point (See: Krstic 14 Points and Ibaka 16 Points). Jason Maxiell is a career backup, and too small to provide a serious post presence to most players. Villanueva and Daye both prefer to sit out on the perimeter. And, that's it. Jerebko, Summers, and Wilcox (Weezy!) sit in reserves, but they don't provide a whole lot. Their best hope would seem to be Greg Monroe, the 7th draft pick out of Georgetown. But can a rookie really step in and fill a gigantic hole like that? I doubt it. We'll see what unfolds over the next couple of months, but if this team stays healthy and doesn't manage to keep around .500, I'd say it might be time to rebuild.
Oh wait, they played tonight, didn't they? Sorry, I love standing on soapboxes. Anyway, Ben Gordon (Thunder Plunderer) is easily their best performer. He had 32 Points off of the bench, and an extremely clutch pass to Villanueva. Rodney Stuckey also had 24 Points, 9 Assists, and 5 Rebounds. Hamilton, Prince, and Villanueva all scored over 12.
Next Game: Versus the Jazz, Sunday, October 31st, 6 PM Central Daylight Time.
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