The Oklahoma City Thunder were challenged by the Washington Wizards throughout the first half Wednesday, but after a second and third quarter onslaught from Russell Westbrook, they cruised to a 103-80 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Wizards entered the game having won six of their last eight games and with John Wall coming off a 47 point performance against the Grizzlies on Monday. However, they also entered the game with only eight players, two of them not named Nene or Bradley Beal.
The Thunder showed no mercy.
Westbrook carried the Thunder after starting the game in early foul trouble. He scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second and third quarters all while helping hold Wall to 3-15 shooting at the same time. Kevin Durant finished with 20 points as well.
Wall finished the game with a team-high 18 points, but was held to just 3-18 shooting from the field.
The Thunder bench scored 20 points in the first half before they extended their lead in the final 24 minutes. Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson combined for 16 points in the first half on 7-10 shooting. Martin finished with 18 points off the pine.
What do we take away from this game in light of the playoffs?
It's tough to find ways to improve against the Washington Wizards with the playoffs in sight. However, the Thunder entered the game in need of some sort of test.
With John Wall, the Thunder were able to test their defense against an elite-type point guard. Wall isn't on the level of Chris Paul or Tony Parker, but he presents a test as one of the game's great young point guards.
Let's just say the Thunder passed with flying colors.
They gave Wall fits all night while rotating Westbrook, Durant and Thabo Sefolosha in his direction defensively. In turn, he shot 3-18 from the field and never found a rhythm in the offense. Their was plenty of anticipation with the Westbrook vs. Wall matchup, but Scott Brooks did a great job of throwing different defenders at him and keeping him off his game.
Brooks could be working on a strategy towards stopping the West's great point guards come playoff time. Although it's not likely they will face both Paul and Parker, they will still face at least one if they want to make it to the Finals. It might serve the Thunder well if Brooks continues to rotate different defenders on the point guard position down the stretch.
It's also interesting to watch Westbrook against the young point guards in the NBA. He would never admit it, but he takes his game to another level against guys like Wall, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. It will also be interesting to see if he takes it to the same level against guys like Paul and Parker come playoff time. Maybe he's getting himself ready from a personal standpoint with match-ups against the game's young guards.
What does this game mean to the Thunder going forward?
This is really just another win for the Thunder, but there is definitely more to be taken from the victory.
Going forward the Thunder can now build confidence with their defensive rotations. Westbrook, Sefolosha and Durant are starting to play better defense, which means Brooks can swing them in different directions against the game's best offensive players.
When you look at the schedule, this is just another game. However, the Thunder will use it to gain defensive momentum down the stretch.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 21 points, 4 assists, 10-11 FT shooting
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Thunder Blunder: The bigs, who gave up 16 offensive rebounds to 8 players
Thunder Plunderer: Kevin Seraphin, 12 points (6-14), 8 rebounds, 1 turnover
Next game: at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday March 29th at 7PM CDT
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