So, after two long overtimes of action, the Thunder pulled out a solid win over the Timberwolves. It took some epic offensive play from Westbrook and Durant, and some great defense and picks from Nick Collison. But with any game that goes to 2OT, there's going to be a good amount of successes and failures. So without further ado, let's get right down to what worked and what didn't work tonight.
Things that worked:
Nick Collison guarding Kevin Love. Collison lost a few points down low to Love, but who wouldn't? He avoided fouling Love well, and got a critical block on Love in 2OT. Love never hit a jumpshot against Collison, which is a testament to how well Collison kept with him on the perimeter.
Small Lineups. During the beginning of the second quarter, the Thunder rolled out with a lineup of Derek Fisher, Lazar Hayward, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, and Nick Collison. They went on a 11-2 run, and set the tone for the entire quarter. It's one of the few instances I agree with the use of Fisher, because there's two ball handlers to supplement him on offense. But the lineup quickly died with a couple of missed Hayward jumpers, and Durant and Westbrook were subbed in, killing the quickness advantage the lineup had. I would have liked to see Durant at center in a small lineup, but oh well.
Westbrook exploiting his matchup with Ridnour and Barea. Both of the guys who defended him are pretty small by NBA standards, and Westbrook exploited that for all it was worth. He was able to push off of them for easy jumpers, and would pretty much destroy them in the post as long as no help defense came along.
Attacking the Paint in Double Overtime. Despite their offensive successes, Anthony Tolliver and Kevin Love aren't a very intimidating defensive combo down low, especially with Nikola Pekovic out. The Thunder did their fair share of getting to the line and grabbing easy points throughout the game, but when they saw Love was running out of gas, they took advantage of it and seized a commanding lead late in the game.
Below: What didn't work, Durant and Westbrooks Record, Two Consecutive Goaltending Baskets From Perk, Final Thoughts, Awards!
Things that didn't work:
Ibaka and Perkins guarding Kevin Love. When Ibaka had to guard Kevin Love, it was bad enough. He'd actually come out to the perimeter and attempt to guard Love there, but he just didn't have the quickness to stop his shot. Perkins was downright atrocious. Perkins would just hang around in the lane and let Love get whatever shot he wanted. Whenever he actually did come out to the perimeter, he would either get destroyed by a screen or be comically far away when the shot was taken.
Derek Fisher. I know I've harped on this far too much already, but it's got to be said. Derek Fisher was atrocious tonight in all aspects. The Timberwolves weren't threatened by him sitting on the three point line at all, as he was consistently missing wide open threes. He handicapped the offense by allowing the Timberwolves to ignore him....and missing tons of shots at critical times. The comical part of this whole thing is that Derek Fisher almost never had this many attempts with the Lakers. The Thunder were going to him like he was a primary scoring option, something which he hasn't been in years. On defense, he was shredded in the paint by J.J. Barea (moreso than Westbrook). Even Luke Ridnour was able to get good attempts in against him (though Ridnour didn't really take advantage of that). He didn't do much ballhandling, and would just hand the ball off whenever he did bring the ball up the floor. Granted, he had a couple of nice assists (one in transition and one to Collison on a faux drive), and he did score once in OT, but those few bright spots amount to a nightlight in a dark room. You can somewhat navigate around the room, but you're probably still going to accidentally step on the cat.
Lazar Hayward. His game wasn't terrible offensively, as he went 1 of 3 from beyond the arc and missed a tough jumper. But defensively, he was nothing but a liability. Wayne Ellington, an otherwise meh player, was able to cross him over and nail a couple of easy jumpers. During the start of the fourth, he somehow managed to commit three fouls in the span of 24 seconds, miss a jumper, and turn the ball over while attempting to do a ridiculous over the head telegraphed passback to Westbrook over two defenders. His incompetence gave Minnesota legs, and he was promptly subbed out of the game.
Plays out of timeouts. The Thunder had a second to respond to Kevin Love's game tying three, and you know what they did? A Durant three, three feet behind the line, guarded by three Timberwolves, at a really awkward angle. What about in overtime, when the Thunder were down by five and needed to respond? Same thing, except with James Harden. It's pure luck that Westbrook happened to beast for the rebound and keep us in the game. I know, Kevin Durant hit a three out of a timeout a few seconds later, but he was really lucky that Love switched onto him, and I don't really credit Brooks for drawing up the play. I might be sounding a bit sour right now, but isn't Brooks the disciple of Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest playcalling coaches of all time? Everything Brooks calls, especially at the end of games, is really simple screen plays that everyone sees coming from a mile away. I ask: Why?
Kevin Durant's defense of Anthony Tolliver. Tolliver is a pretty limited player offensively, but he was able to just destroy Durant tonight. Durant is taller, but Tolliver has more bulk, and pushed Durant out of the way when he got a one on one matchup in the lane. On the perimeter, he caught Durant trying to cover for Fisher's bad D a couple of times, and got open jumpers as a result.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 85 points, with Westbrook scoring 45 and Durant scoring 40. They're the first pair in NBA history to score 40 points or more simultaneously in two games in one season, having done it once earlier this season against the Nuggets. As far as we know, Jordan and Pippen have done it before, along with Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller. (Hat tips to Rickpidero and J.A. Sherman.)
Kendrick Perkins had two consecutive baskets counted because of goaltending. Both of them were pseudo turnaround jumpers near the lane. The kicker is, both shots were so flat that Derrick Williams and Wesley Johnson knocked it as it headed towards the basket on help defense. The two calls actually helped spark an 8-0 run in the third quarter. It was a pretty strange game for Perkins overall, as he also scored Oklahoma City's first four points, with one basket actually coming on a wide-open fast break. And, as I said above, his offense was a whole lot better than his defense tonight, which is unusual for him.
Final Thoughts. Look, it's really easy to point to Derek Fisher and say, "If Ivey, Hayward, or Cook played in his place, we would have easily won this game." And if you said that, you'd be right. But, truth be told, this game shouldn't have been close in the first place. Kevin Love was allowed to run rampant (after we showed we could contain him earlier this year), and the Timberwolves were able to exploit matchups in our defense like there was no tomorrow. The offense was there, but the defense was some of the worst I've seen all year. So yes, I blame Derek Fisher for tonight's loss. But I also lay the blame on Scott Brooks for not recognizing problems with our defense earlier on, leaving Fisher in the game, and calling some horrible crunch-time plays.
In the end though, a W is a W, and the win tonight is a testament to just how talented the Thunder are.Hopefully the Thunder can pick up the pieces heading into Sunday's spotlight game against Miami.
Thunder Wonder: Nick Collison, for providing the clutch defense and being the only player to play admirable defense on Love.
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, for his always fantastic clutch shots.
Thunder Blunder: Derek Fisher. Is it even possible to give it to anyone else?
Thunder Plunderer: Kevin Love, who, despite his 50 points, doesn't have a beard that's nearly as cool as James Harden's.
Next Game: Versus the Miami Heat, Sunday, March 25th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time