What a game! You couldn't ask much more from the Thunder's third season opener. The crowd was full, the Thunder were rolling, and the game was an easy victory over a Eastern playoff team. Okay, so Carlos Boozer wasn't playing. So what? The Bulls were still dominating the Thunder inside all game, and getting all sorts of dunks.
The first quarter, for me, was the only part of the game in any sort of doubt for the Thunder. The Bulls scored two quick first baskets, putting them up 4-0. Luckily, a KD 3 Pointer helped bring the Thunder back, and the game was eventually tied again at 10. The Thunder fell behind again shortly, but they consistently got to the line and had gained the upper hand by the end of the first.
The second quarter saw a change in strategy by the Bulls, as they went to their outside threats (Watson, Bogans, and Korver) to score for a short period of time. This succeeded to getting them within a point, when Rose and Noah took over, edging the Bulls ahead, 50-47. But, the Thunder charged right back, utilizing picks in order to get their smaller players in the lane for easy scores. Even Krstic had a layup. The Thunder had a 59-54 advantage at the half.
Below: The Rest of the Game, Analysis, Awards!
The Third quarter saw a quick Bulls resurgence thanks to some missed jumpers by the Thunder. But the Thunder started re-focusing on the inside, either getting fouled or shooting an open jumper. This allowed them to slowly fight back to tie it at the end of the third. A particularly scary moment came in this quarter when Kevin Durant fell down with a knee injury. He limped off of the floor, and everyone held their breath. But he came back in the fourth, and all was well. Hopefully we don't have any heart attacks before this season is over.
The fourth quarter was the best of all for the Thunder. The early goings on were highly defensive, with only three field goals in the first six minutes. (One of the was by Brian Scalabrine, providing much hilarity.) After a short amount of back and forth, the Thunder started opening the door. Westbrook and Durant had back to back dunks, Jeff Green hit a three, and the momentum was clearly in our favour. The Bulls could only get a couple of dunks in when it was far too late. And so, that was that. The Thunder emerged victorious from their first game, and are now the #1 team in the NBA.
In terms of scoring, this game was all Durant, Westbrook, and Green. Kevin Durant (Thunder Down Under) led the way with 30 Points, 7 Rebounds, 3 Assists, and 3 Steals. The only thing that holds him back is the amount of times he turns over the ball. It's frustrating to see this guy get over half of the teams turnovers on one night, but when you have no true point guard, I suppose it can happen. Russell Westbrook (Thunder Wonder) had a much better story though, scoring 28 Points, grabbing 10 Rebounds, dishing 6 Assists, committing only 3 Turnovers, grabbing 2 Steals, and Blocking 1 shot. Jeff Green rounded out the trio, scoring 21 Points and grabbing 4 Boards. Derrick Rose had a respectable game in his own right, but I think it's fair to say that Westbrook had the better performance.
But the other players are not to be forgotten. All Sefolosha scored offensively was 1 point, but he had 4 Rebounds, 2 Steals, and 2 Blocks. Bogans, Korver, Brewer, and Scalabrine all looked less than impressive when being defended by Sefolosha, effectively shutting down the Bulls outside game. Unfortunately, we didn't have one of our own, thanks to Daequan Cook's (Thunder Blunder) cringe-worthy 0-4 three point shooting performance. But, when you hire a shooter, this is what you get. If he continues to play, I'm sure we'll all be singing the praises of Cook once he hits 4 or 5 threes during a critical game.
Harden and Maynor continue to be worthy backups. Though Harden had a terrible charging foul late in the game, he finished with a respectable 6 Points, 4 Rebounds, and 2 Steals. The largely underrated Eric Maynor had 10 Points, scoring mainly via short jumpers and Free Throws. He won't score like this every game, but it's nice to know he's able to step up if Harden can't.
Lastly, we have the bigs, Ibaka and Krstic. Ibaka had a great game, providing defensive help any time he was in the game, and slowing the Bulls inside attack. The same can't be said for Krstic, whose most effective contribution was an open layup or the steal he had. When he gets no offensive plays run for him, he's pretty useless. With the highly inside-oriented Bulls, I was surprised to see no pick and pops set for him. But, with a win like this, who can complain? Ibaka finished with 8 Points, 9 Rebounds, and 4 Blocks, while Krstic finished with 2 Points, 3 Rebounds, and 1 Steal.
I won't say much about the Bulls, since we only see them twice this year. But they do have a mean inside game, and if their peripheral shooters can get things going, then they could win most any NBA game, even without Carlos Boozer. Still, that won't happen too often, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bulls hovering around .500 when Boozer comes back, 15 games or so into the season. The Thunder Plunderer, in my opinion, has to be Joakim Noah, who had 18 Points, 19 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals, and 2 Blocks. He got the Bulls so many opportunities inside that it was just unfair. When Krstic and Green were in the game, it was a rebounding nightmare for the Thunder, and Noah was a large part of that.
Next Game: At the Pistons, Friday, October 29th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think? Vote in the poll, drop a comment!