The Oklahoma City Thunder pushed their record to 5-2 by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 106-91. Overall the team shot 54.8% on the night and a very respectable 7-15 from the 3-point line. The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook, who filled up the stat sheet with 27 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, while committing a game-high 8 turnovers. His partner Kevin Durant scored 26 points and grabbed 8 rebounds on the night, and Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-9 shooting.
The Cavaliers were led by Kyrie Irving, who scored 20 points while passing out 5 assists, and Alonzo Gee, who scored 18 points.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
This game is notable because for the first time this season I thought the Thunder began to look comfortable in their offense. To be sure, offenses always look better against poor defenses, and the Cavs' 27th ranked defense is one of the league's worst so far. Yes, Westbrook had a high turnover night, committing 8 all together, but I think the difference was that in previous games, we were either seeing the good Russ or the bad Russ. In this game, we saw a lot of the good Russ, but with some of the bad Russ sneaking in. The Thunder are a much better team when Westbrook looks comfortable on offense, and he looked more comfortable this time out than any other time so far. As a result, he not only had the right pacing in his game, but it allowed him to both attack and dish off to Durant. Durant got lots of clean looks at the rim, and shot 9-16 for the game.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The Cavaliers' porous defense aside, the reason why the Thunder were able to be about 8-10 points better than Cleveland for most of the night is that the Cavs were trying to play a game to which their opponents were much better suited. Cleveland has a really nice young group of offensive talent, and with Irving running the show, I think they are going to surprise some people with their offense. However, by playing the faster pace, they opened up the game to have to deal with Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka in the open court, and that is the type of game the Thunder are going to win more often than not.
The Thunder challenged the Cavs to shooting a poor 41% from the floor, caused 12 turnovers, and grabbed 37 defensive rebounds. With these possessions the Thunder were able to accelerate in the open court and scored 31 points in transition, several ending with a flourish. The Thunder are a young team that needs to feel the speed of a fast break, and you could tell that the squad was finally starting to enjoy themselves.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
Durant and Westbrook led the offensive charge, but for a second consecutive game the Thunder inside game proved to be a difference-maker. In all, the Thunder scored 46 points in the paint. Serge Ibaka did not reach 20 points again, but still shot an effective 5-11 from the floor for 14 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 7 shots. His frontcourt-mate Kendrick Perkins followed up his strong game against Detroit by scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting from the floor. The combination of Perkins (who is looking healthier by the day) and Ibaka is forming an unexpected source of offense for OKC. The duo are working well with each other with and without the ball, and Perkins continues to show a knack for setting up Ibaka either on rolls to the rim or passing to him on the perimeter.
Every point the Thunder generate efficiently by these two guys helps in the short and long term because it frees up Westbrook and Durant from feeling like they have to play great just for OKC to win. It also balances the entire team offense so that the Thunder are no longer purely a perimeter-based team. I believe Charles Barkley likes to call it "easy buckets."
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder are building momentum against some of the weaker teams in the league and in the process ironing out a lot of the flaws that have hindered them in this young season.
Most importantly, it appears that OKC is beginning to find their groove on the court. They have become known as a team that enjoys and embraces the opportunity to compete on the court and cheer on each other. The Harden trade had left an emotional void that was holding back the Thunder's exuberance. It looks like OKC is finally starting to move past that emotional place and find their own effervescent identity once again, and that makes the game experience exceptional for all of us.
|Final - 11.11.2012
|Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 27 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, 26 points on 9-16 shooting, 8 rebounds
Thunder Blunder: Perry Jones III, who is getting minutes each game but so far not converting on offense.
Thunder Plunderer: Kyrie Irving, 20 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds
Next game: @ the Detroit Pistons on Monday Nov. 12 at 6:30PM CDT
If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.