What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Solidarity. The Thunder started out from behind in this one, climbed back into competitiveness, gained a lead in the third, and maintained it throughout the fourth. They never managed to completely pull away, but the Kings never really threatened to make a serious run.
Overall, I got the feel that the Thunder were much more organized tonight. The Kings flew from one end of the court to the other, firing up shots as quickly as they could. Whenever they had to actually settle down into a half-court offense, it always turned into a one man show. Other players would just stand around the perimeter, and anything beyond the simple pick was rare. The Thunder's defense on the Kings worked well in the half court, as they focused on keeping them out of the paint and dared them to take outside shots. The result was the Kings taking 5 less free throws than they actually do, and shooting a horrendous 31% from three.
Meanwhile, the Thunder ran their plays. Granted, sometimes the plays got stale and the Kings were able to steal the ball while the Thunder were being predictable, but in general the Kings were destroyed by an offense that was more well planned than theirs, and one that was much better at getting opportunities to players off the ball.
What was tonight's turning point?
With 4:30 to go in the fourth quarter, Francisco Garcia cut the Thunder's lead to 8. The Kings had two more opportunities to cut the lead even further, but Fredette had a three rim out, and Jason Thompson couldn't score inside a play later. Serge Ibaka got an open dunk on the following play, essentially killing all hope of a comeback.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Shot selection. The Kings dominated the offensive boards tonight, and they forced the Thunder into a lot of turnovers. The pace was fast, and the Kings were in their element. But the Thunder made the most of what they had, working the ball around for good shots and letting Ibaka and Perkins sneak inside for the occasional dunk. In all honesty, the Kings let the Thunder get whatever they wanted, as long as they managed to pass the ball without getting stolen because it was too predictable.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson combined for 13-33 shooting tonight. Both of them are big guys who mostly take their shots down low, to it's a testament to how good the defense of Perkins, Ibaka, and Collison was tonight. Ibaka had 8 blocks (mostly on Cousins) and the Kings got very few gimmes down low, despite getting 17 offensive boards and their fast pace.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The win moves keeps the Thunder in lock step with the Spurs for the Western Conference Lead, who defeated the Lakers tonight by a large margin. Short of the Spurs resting their players (which is entirely possible), the Thunder seem destined for the second seed, but this win should give them confidence into their last marquee matchup before the playoffs against the Lakers on Sunday. Sunday's game isn't a must win, but it'll go a long way towards proving the Thunder can be successful come playoff time.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for hitting so many clutch shots and nearly pulling off the triple-double.
Thunder Down Under: James Harden, for great offense, taking care of the ball, and great defense.
Thunder Blunder: None.
Thunder Plunderer: Francisco Garcia, for some solid clutch play.
Next Game: At the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday, April 22nd, 2:30 PM Central Daylight Time.