What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The Thunder broke out of their one game slump Saturday night to crush the Bobcats by 27 in a game that was essentially over by the second quarter. One game after playing a dreadful series in a loss to the Cavaliers, the Thunder bounced back by exerting themselves on both sides of the court. It was a necessary win to end an uneven week of play.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Apologies to the Bobcats fans, but the answer here is simple - talent. The Thunder simply have more of it, and when they play even at a merely competent level, over the course of 48 minutes that talent manifests in a great number of ways.
For example, consider that super-sixth man James Harden just set another career high in points, shooting 11-16 from the floor to finish with a game-high 33. Then consider that the entire Bobcats bench also scored...33. To be sure, Harden is one of the best two-guards in the game and he is experiencing a bit of a breakout right when the Thunder need it, but the Bobcats don't even have a starter who can do what Harden does. The Thunder talent is too great.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
The Thunder did a much better job generating high percentage shots, and a big reason why was their willingness to make the extra pass within the offensive sets to find open shooters. The Thunder gathered a total of 27 assists on the night, and the game high assist man was Reggie Jackson.
As a result of this increase in team passing, the Thunder shot a ridiculous 63% from the floor. On top of that, the combination of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook shot a combined 29-40 for 82 points. What this game should hopefully tell the Thunder is that it is a lot easier to score when players are putting themselves in better spots to shoot the ball.
Lastly, the Russell Westbrook assist-per-game saga this season has been one of contention against his personal growth. I'll go on the record here and state that I'd much rather have a team average 25 assists per game and the PG only having 1/5 of those, than a PG who has has half of the team's total. Playing the point isn't just about setting up a guy to score; it is about making the entire offense work.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
The Thunder should use this game to remember that they are capable of far greater things than what we saw Friday night, but those accomplishments come at a cost. The cost is focus, energy, and perspective on what makes them play great.
Thunder Wonder: James Harden, 33 points, 3 assists
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, 26 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Thunder Blunder: None
Thunder Plunderer: Corey Maggette, 21 points, 3 assists
Next Game: vs the Houston Rockets, Tuesday March 13 at 7:00 PM Central Standard Time