The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in OKC's first home game of the season, winning 106-92. The Thunder controlled the game throughout, winning each successive quarter in earning the double-digit win.
The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook, who had a huge bounce-back game following last night's forgettable performance. Westbrook scored 32 points on 13-24 shooting, while adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds against only a single turnover. The difference in his performance was remarkable, as Westbrook controlled the game the entire way. Westbrook was helped out greatly by his All-Star teammate Kevin Durant, who recorded a double-double, scoring 23 while grabbing 17 rebounds and handing out 7 assists.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Despite the way last game ended, I was impressed yet again with the Thunder's ability to play very good defense. Portland upset the Lakers on opening night, scoring 116 points against L.A. The Thunder held Portland to 24 points below that mark, and they did it playing energized defense and not allowing the Blazers to control the offensive boards. It was a workmanlike effort by the group, and by not giving up many easy points to Portland, it allowed the Thunder stars to play their normal game and take control mid-way through the 4th. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 and rookie Damian Lillard scored 21, but there was little help elsewhere. Portland was held to 9-26 shooting from 3-point range.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
It was not as simple as Westbrook having an outstanding game going against rookie Damian Lillard, but it certainly helped. I really like Lillard's game and I think he's going to make a fine pro, but I am guessing that while at Weber State he never saw anything remotely like Westbrook. Westbrook set the tone of the game by getting through the front line of the Blazer defense with ease, as only a handful of his 13 made shots came outside of about 17 feet. By breaking down the Blazer defense, the Thunder were able to get secondary scorers open for clean looks. Nick Collison,who scored 12 points on 5-6 shooting and Kevin Martin followed up a solid Thunder debut by doing even better this time out, scoring 19 points on 5-11 shooting.
Meanwhile, Durant became a rebounding vacuum by corralling 15 defensive boards on the night, which helped keep active rebounders LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum off the offensive glass. This rebounding performance assisted the Thunder greatly in the fast break, where they scored 23 points in transition. Durant continued to show his improving playmaking chops by handing out most of his 7 assists in transition.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Thunder defense continued to be a focal point, and the team's collective 10 blocks on the night went a long way to ensuring that Portland would not get another surprise win. Serge Ibaka and Durant each had 2 blocks on the night, and they were joined with Hasheem Thabeet, who also had 2 blocks. Thabeet appears to be improving in his ability to contribute while on the court. In 18 minutes, Thabeet scored 4 points while grabbing 4 rebounds to go along with his blocks. The interior defense went a long way to holding Portland to only 36% shooting on the night.
Unfortunately, Thabeet did foul out after those 18 minutes, and that is something that he is going to have to improve upon, as we saw Kendrick Perkins leave the game early with an undisclosed injury. We know that Perkins is returning from several injuries stretching back to last season. However, if he cannot perform at a consistent level, the situation becomes all the more important for Thabeet to be able to stay on the court, now that Cole Aldrich is also in Houston (and this is the ONLY time I am mentioning Houston in this recap).
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder were all business tonight and their renewed defensive focus is going to serve them well. Defense can sustain a team as they go through the ups and downs of a regular season. Durant and Westbrook are still working to find their groove now that the team's consistency is more dependent on them than ever before, but as long as the duo commit to playing solid defense, they can earn extra time to gel and not suffer greatly in the loss column.
|Final - 11.2.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Portland Trail Blazers||21||21||24||26||92|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||26||23||25||32||106|
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, for his very Westbrook performance of 32 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover.
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, who is clearly getting more offensive touches this season, responded with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka played another poor offensive game, scoring only 7 points on 3-11 shooting.
Thunder Plunderer: LaMarcus Aldridge, who continued his Thunder-plundering ways by scoring 22 and grabbing 15 rebounds.
Next game: vs Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Nov. 4th at 6PM CDT
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