At the time, I didn't mind it too much. But if I had to go back and watch this game again, I think it would just be too painful. Not much was there for the Thunder tonight. Nobody got into scoring position other than Durant and Westbrook, and our second unit had no offensive direction.
The game started as you expected it would though. The Thunder were getting easy buckets, and killing Washington in transition. Their lead was as high as 9, and everything seemed to be going in the direction of a blowout. But even though Washington was only 2-14 on shooting at one point, they stayed competitive by drawing fouls. They forced nearly every Thunder player into foul trouble, and slowly worked their way back into the game.
During the second, the Wizards were doing a good job of moving the ball and finding the open man. Trevor Booker had a few open layups, as did other guys. Generally, the Wizards would give the ball to a guy in the post, isolate one of their swingmen on the wing, or have John Wall try something fancy. They had varying degrees of success and weren't excellent by any stretch, but they scored consistently enough to stay in the game without going on any huge runs.
The Thunder's second unit was dreadful, to say the least. Reggie Jackson had a couple of nice assists, but as I've said before, Harden functioned as the defacto PG. He didn't seem to know how to play within himself. As a result, he attempted some really difficult shots, and often found himself trapped in unpassable situations. And when Jackson didn't have the ball in his hands, he was pretty much ignored offensively, giving the Wizards reason to pressure Harden. However, our transition game kept us alive.
Below: Bad ball movement, the Wizards shooting themselves in the foot, some crazy final seconds, a hand of appreciation, more analysis, and awards!
There was a real lack of ball movement though, and I think we really missed Eric Maynor today. Would we have won with him on the floor today? It's hard to say, but having guys like Sefolosha, Perkins, and Cook combine for a total of 5 points on 5 points is just unacceptable. These guys have to get a few more opportunities to keep the offense moving.
Despite all of the terrible play on the Thunder's end, they stayed in the game because of the Wizards playing equally terribly. They continually shot themselves in the foot, whether it be through bad turnovers in transition or starting off the third quarter with no field goals in the first four and a half minutes. The Thunder actually looked like they were going to pull away with a 12 point lead early in the third, but they committed a couple of turnovers an couldn't rebound, letting Washington right back into the game.
But things took a turn for the worse at the end of the third. With the game clock winding down, Andray Blatche threw up a prayer of a three point attempt, and it actually went in. Then, less than a minute into the fourth, John Wall slammed down an amazingly uncontested alley-oop. Daequan Cook fired back with his lone three of the game, but Jordan Crawford quickly retorted with his own three. It was on, and the Thunder were looking like the underdogs. Granted, Westbrook and Durant were on the bench while this happened, but it still set the tone for the rest of the game.
The rest of the fourth quarter was really sluggish, with a missed free throw here and a lost rebound there working in Washington's favor. Wall's back to back penetration of the lane at the start of the fourth made the Thunder really paranoid about guarding the lane, and it opened up some reasonable shot attempts for the Wizards. Again, they weren't great, but they were getting the job done.
Eventually, things came to a head late in the fourth. Nick Young hit a three with 3:21 to go, putting his team up by 5. The Wizards could have thrown the hammer down right here, but they just kept missing free throws. JaVale McGee missed four straight. Nick Young went two of four. John Wall missed one. Still, the Thunder weren't doing much better, and went down by 7 with 25 seconds to go. Game over, right?
Wrong. Kevin Durant hits a three. The Thunder foul. John Wall goes 1 of 1. Durant tries, misses, but the ball is rebounded and he draws a shooting foul. 3 Free throws go in. Thunder down by 2. Jordan Crawford sinks 2 free throws. Thunder down by 4. Westbrook gets an open bucket, Thunder down by two. Nick Young splits his FT. Thunder down by three, with possession.
Kevin Durant gets the ball for a Dallas-like final shot to seal the deal. He elevates, shoots, and....clanks it. Game over. Some things just weren't meant to be. Still, despite his overall poor performance tonight, you have to admire his determination. When he got a charge call late in the fourth with the Thunder down by four, a lot of guys would have argued the call or given up. Durant just silently shook his head, looked up at the scoreboard, and put his mouthguard back in. It's not over until it's over!
On that same note, I don't want to rail on Kendrick Perkins for his technical fouls. But the fact remains that he has 5 this season, and he's tied for first in the league with Stephen Jackson. In terms of toughness is says a lot, but I'd hate to lose him to suspension in a critical game later this season just because he was arguing dumb calls.
Lastly, you can't detract from what Russell Westbrook did tonight. In fact, I'd say he's the only guy who did his job properly. His 36 Points were a season high, and he only had 3 turnovers, which is lower than his average. He kept the ball moving much better than he usually does, and he did a better job of getting to good spots for his shots. He still had a few boneheaded moments (like the three he took from near half-court), but that's just the Honey Badger. Sometimes he'll zig and sometimes he'll zag.
With the loss, the Thunder fall to 12-3 and lose the prestige of having the best record in the NBA. They retain the best record in the West by two games over the Jazz, Spurs, and Lakers. Their lead in the Northwest division is by two games, over the Jazz. With the win, the Wizards move to 2-12, but they've got a long way to go. They're still last place in the East, a half a game back of the Pistons and Bobcats. In the Southeast Division, they're only a half game below Charlotte, but they're at least 7 games behind everyone else.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, who had terrible stats but basically fought us back into this game during the final seconds.
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 37 Points, 14-26 Shooting, 8-9 FT, 5 Rebounds, 7 Assists
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Durant, who shot 2-10 from three and had 7 turnovers.
Thunder Plunderer: John Wall, 25 Points, 7 Rebounds, 8 Assists
Next Game: At the New Jersey Nets, Saturday, January 21st, 7 PM Central Standard Time