There's really not a whole lot you can take from this game but the emotion of finally getting a win. After losing 3 straight on the road, the Thunder have finally put it back together for a rather solid win against the Memphis Grizzlies, keeping control of the game the entire time.
The Thunder jumped to an early lead midway through the first, and they never really looked back. The Grizzlies pulled within 8 with 6:54 to go in the fourth, but that was as close as they got in the final 3 quarters.
One thing that really helped was the tough interior defense played by the Thunder. As a result of Nenad Krstic being out of the game, Serge Ibaka and Etan Thomas were usually on the floor at any given point in the game, sometimes together. This frustrated Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay enough to keep them inefficient. Meanwhile, the Grizzly bench was totally worthless. And by totally worthless, I mean that not one of them had any kind of a significant impact, and, as a result, they collectively hurt the team. The subs were constantly in at one point or another, so one can't really pinpoint any length of time that they hurt the team the most, but it's obvious that the team was only doing well when their starters were in. This also resulted in high totals for Maynor and Ibaka, who took advantage of the backups.
Below: More Analysis, Awards
On another note, who's glad that we didn't draft Hasheem Thabeet? I'll admit, I was one of those who wanted to take Thabeet, even over Ricky Rubio. But so far, he's looking like bust city. I'm not closing the door on him by any stretch of the imagination, because he was supposed to be a project, and he still has time to develop. But the early signs aren't promising.
James Harden, while not a fantastic move, was the safe pick. He had clear NBA skills, but it was also clear when drafting him that he wasn't going to be an All-Star. He was kind of a lower risk pick in that you knew what you were going to get, but you also knew that he wouldn't ever be the next big thing. Again, I'm not closing the door on him being an All-Star some day, I'm just saying that his card is more clearly marked and his potential is closer to being reached. Harden had a decent game tonight, scoring 12 and rebounding 4 times, but he only hit 2 out of 6 threes, which is a little low.
All basketball aside, it was really fun to attend this game. It was kind of nice to just see a finality to everything. The final Teacher of the Year. The finale of the Love's Ultimate Thunder Fan Contest. Rumble re-attempting the hardest dunk he's ever tried. Somebody who had a legitimate chance of making the half-court shot barely missing. The last time I'll have to see Zach Randolph and his pot smoking eyes for a few months.
Not only was the game awesome, but the city is starting to go Thunder crazy. Flags are being given out for free at Homeland, a local grocery store. Thunder images are on the sidewalks. A Thunder flag is flying above downtown. Thunder signs are up on one of our skyscrapers. People across the OU campus in Norman are talking about the Thunder just as much as they used to talk about OU Football. It's a nice feeling, one that only comes on rare occasions like when OU Basketball got to the Final Four in 2002, or when OU Football won the National title in 2000. And heck, even then, you haven't seen this kind of celebration and promotion across all of Oklahoma City. Words can;t even describe how awesome this has turned out to be....
Without further ado, let's get on to the awards....
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 31 Points, 7 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 4 Turnovers, 2 Steals, and 3 Blocks. 'Nuff said.
Thunder Down Under: Etan Thomas, 2 Points, 2 Rebounds, +10 Plus to Minus Ratio. He doesn't have a lot going for him on the stat sheet, but his interior defense helped us by leaps and bounds, even after not playing significant minutes in a long time. If we ever need to dig deep into the bench during the playoffs, I'm confident in handing over the defensive reigns to this man. I know Ibaka and Maynor had great games, but I just wanted to give the award to Thomas for once.
Thunder Blunder: Nick Collison, 2 Points, 3 Rebounds, 1 Assists, 1 Turnover. Not necessarily a bad performance, but it's as close as you're going to get in this type of game. He was given the start, and was subsequently shown up by Serge Ibaka, while having his minutes severely cut into.
Thunder Plunderer: Zach Randolph, 21 Points, 11 Rebounds, 1 Steal. There's still no doubt that this guy owns us in the paint, even with Ibaka and Thomas defending. Gay also had a nice game, but Randolph had a better trus shooting percentage.
Next Game: Versus the Lakers, Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals, Sunday, April 18th, 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time