A RUSSELL WESTBROOK THREE-POINTER FROM THE LOGO!
A KENDRICK PERKINS RUNNING HOOK SHOT!
EVEN A DEREK FISHER FOUR-POINT PLAY. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
The Oklahoma City Thunder took this game pretty comfortably, flying by the New Orleans Pelicans with a final score of 109-95. They were led by 29 points from Kevin Durant and 25 from Russell Westbrook, both of them shooting 50%+ from the field (11-17 and 8-16 respectively). The Pelicans saw most of their scoring come from Ryan Anderson (18 points), Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon (both with 16).
The Pelicans came storming out of the gate tonight, with a 22-11 lead at 5:13 remaining in the first quarter. They shot 52.4% in the first quarter, with Eric Gordon getting to the rim with ease and Ryan Anderson making a couple of shots early. However, the Thunder were able to close the gap in points by the end of the first, and proceeded to hold the Pelicans to 32.8% shooting from the second quarter on. The Pellies hung around throughout second quarter on the back of a strong effort on the offensive glass, but the Thunder were able to take the lead in the third and never looked back.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Any time you win a game like this, it feels good. The Thunder's defense looked a step slow early, and Eric Gordon beat Thabo Sefolosha to the rim numerous times. They eventually settled in and remained dominant for the rest of the game. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played great, scoring with relative ease as per usual. Nobody really looked bad while they were on the floor, if you exclude the first quarter where the Thunder started out shaky.
Anthony Davis was out, but that doesn't subtract from what was just a strong performance from the Thunder. Perhaps the only flaw was allowing the Pelicans to rack up 19 offensive rebounds (compared to the Thunder's 7), on which they scored 20 second chance points (the Thunder had 5). Being able to pick up their misses helped the Pellies stay in it for longer than they had any business being. Lou Amundson and Jeff Withey each had three offensive boards in less than ten minutes of playing time, Ryan Anderson had three, Jrue Holiday had four, and Al-Farouq Aminu had five. It's kind of overwhelming to see a team rack up so many offensive rebounds.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Strong play on both ends, especially after the Thunder settled in on defense. Offense was never a problem, as they shot 50.6% for the game. After Durant and Westbrook's double-digit performances, Serge Ibaka recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 boards with 3 swats thrown in as well. Reggie Jackson scored 15 points off of the bench on 6-13 shooting, and Nick Collison really gave the Thunder a lift off of the bench when they needed it (though his contribution on the box score, 6 points and and 2 rebounds, are a bit underwhelming in typical Nick Collison fashion).
The Pelicans could never do much to stop the Thunder on offense. The shots were falling (even some of the well-defended ones), and the Pellies were doing themselves no favors by allowing the Thunder so many opportunities to get out on the break. New Orleans' defensive rotations looked suspect at times, as they often left guys open – even under the rim.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
Let's talk about the Thunder's defense here. The Pelicans' field goal percentage from the second quarter on, which I brought up earlier, was a measly 32.8% and a far cry from their 52.4% from the first quarter. Ryan Anderson shot 5-17 from the field, Al-Farouq Aminu shot 3-14 and Jason Smith shot 2-8, offsetting 50% performances from Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon.
How did the Thunder do it? The way Ryan Anderson has been shooting before tonight, luck was certainly a factor. But letting Aminu shoot outside jumpers again and again and again was a plan for success, and the Thunder did a good job of recovering to shooters and contesting shots after the first quarter. The Pelicans shot a predictably lousy 3-16 from three, and after the Thunder realized they just needed to protect the paint, midrange shots were all the Pellies had. They weren't winning the game that way.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
That's another for the win column, and the Thunder are now 14-4 on the season. The Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs are also very good basketball teams, so the Thunder are still stuck in the third seed for now. Still, this team is looking great and there really isn't much to be worried about.
Scott Brooks did make some surprising decisions with who he gave playing time to tonight, though. We got three minutes of Ryan Gomes to start the second quarter, but another DNP-CD for Perry Jones. Throwing out the fourth quarter which was pretty much entirely garbage time, Jeremy Lamb played just 4:09 minutes and Steven Adams saw 1:59. Nick Collison was great, but it was odd to see those players see so little playing time. Derek Fisher played a mind-boggling 8:34 through the first three quarters in comparison to Lamb's four minutes of playing time. Interesting decision, and it worked for this game, so we'll have to wait and see if Brooks sticks with it. He probably (hopefully) won't, but you never know with Scott Brooks.
|FINAL - 12.6.2013||1||2||3||4||TOTAL|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||24||34||22||29||109|
|New Orleans Pelicans||26||26||16||27||95|
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant (29 points, 11-17 field goal shooting, 2 threes, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals)
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook (25 points, 8-16 field goal shooting, 3 threes, 4 assists, 4 steals)
Thunder Blunder: Jeremy Lamb (2 points, 1-5 field goal shooting, 5 personal fouls)
Thunder Plunderer: Jrue Holiday (16 points, 6-12 field goal shooting, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals)
Next game: vs. Indiana Pacers @ Chesapeake Energy Arena (Sunday, December 8 @ 6:00 PM CMT)