What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Man, what a game. Shots were falling like the rain in Spain's plains. Durant was constantly getting open looks and setting up other guys with his drives. Westbrook was hitting his mid-range jumper with ease. Harden his threes like nobody's business. Even Perkins and Sefolosha got in on the action.
Fact is, the Trail Blazers, aside from their first quarter collapse, played a pretty good game. Our help defense in the lane was as bad as ever, with Felton finding his way into the paint all too often. The coverage on Aldridge was better than it had been all season, but as a result, our defense suffered elsewhere. The Trail Blazers consistently threatened to come back tonight, but no balls seemed to bounce their way. If Camby and Wallace were there, I can almost guarantee you the game would have gone down to the wire.
What was tonight's turning point?
The Thunder built up a solid 15 point lead in the first and kept it for the rest of the game, so there was no real change in the tide. Rather, the Trail Blazers inevitably crossed a point of no return. That point didn't really come with a bang (though Durant did have a nice dunk after the fact). It came along with a whimper, after the Trail Blazers came to within 10 with 3:28 to go. Oklahoma City called a timeout, milked the clock, and Westbrook hit a jumper. A minute and a half later, the Trail Blazers only had another free throw to their name, and Westbrook hit an amazing layup off of a Harden lob into the post. With that, the game was all but finished.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Offensive execution. It's a cliche thing to say for a basketball analyst to say, I know. But the Thunder shot 55% from the field tonight, along with 66% from three. Sure, I could ramble on and on about how this play worked better because they did this and that, but I honestly can't remember a single shot the Thunder missed tonight. It's hard to explain rationally, but the Thunder were just there tonight.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
43-35. 23-15. That's how much the Thunder were ahead in rebounding and assists tonight, respectively. The rebounding advantage helped the Thunder get a semi-transition game going, allowing them to get in some mid-range jumpers before the Blazers' defense was set. Assist-wise, I can talk all day about our shooting game, but the only way it got there was via excellent ball movement. Durant, in particular, kept the ball moving fantastically. He would often drive the ball, get deep into the post, and kick it out to a totally open player for an easy shot. It was rather unusual for him, since he usually only kicks it out if he gets trapped. But from what I saw tonight, it's clear he's come a long way from rip moves and flops to keep the offense kicking.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The game might have meant more if this game took place a week ago, but it's still a solid Northwest Division win. Hopefully it gives the Thunder some momentum as they move forward and try to protect their 3.5 game Western Conference lead.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for his amazing assists and shutting down the game in the 4th.
Thunder Down Under: Thabo Sefolosha, for going perfect from beyond the arc
Thunder Blunder: Nobody. I seriously can't fault anyone for their performance tonight.
Thunder Plunderer: Jamal Crawford, for his efficient offensive night.
Next Game: At the Utah Jazz, Tuesday, March 20th, 8 PM Central Daylight Time