Tonight, it was the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won 119-110 for their third straight win. Kevin Durant led the way with 37 points, while Josh Smith had 25 for the Pistons before fouling out with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter.
It was largely a game of scoring runs, only the Thunder had better runs as well as the last big one in the game. Coming out of a close first quarter, the Thunder pushed themselves to a lead as high as 11 in the second quarter before the lead was shaved down to 4 points leading up to halftime. The Pistons came out strong in the third and held a small lead that spanned almost five minutes, but a run late in the quarter gave the Thunder an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. From there, the Pistons never bounced back.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Steven Adams! This was the best game of his rookie season, and he finished with an impressive stat line of 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks in 31 minutes. He looked great, shutting down Andre Drummond and continuing to display that surprisingly soft touch around the rim. For those of you interested in how Kendrick Perkins fared for comparison's sake, he didn't score a point and had three rebounds and two blocks in just 16 minutes. In other words, Scott Brooks will probably soon be thinking about making a change in the starting lineup, if he hasn't already.
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant was in peak form. His 37 points took him just 15 shots and 19 free throws, and he threw in 8 rebounds and 7 assists. It sure feels like this is starting become a ho-hum performance for KD, doesn't it? Russell Westbrook was less effective, going 5-of-19 from the field (though he still put together 20 points). He struggled heavily in making shots at the basket, going 2-13 in that area. He's still drawing fouls, which is excellent, but he clearly isn't comfortable finishing around the rim yet (which isn't surprising given how quickly he returned).
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Maybe it'll come as a surprise with Durant putting up scoring numbers both prolific and efficient, but the bench production in this one sure felt like a game-changer. It's a flawed stat to many (including myself), but it sure leaves an impact when you look at the box score and see every single bench player that played finish with a plus/minus rating over +17 (with the exception of Derek Fisher, who played just 7 minutes). This was in contrast to the starters, where Durant was the only one to finish with a positive rating (+4).
On a night where Perk doesn't score, Westbrook goes 5-19, Thabo Sefolosha goes 3-9 and Serge Ibaka scores just 11 points, certainly it'll be important for the bench to step up. They sure did, and the Thunder got 42 points from the subs. We've been bemoaning the lack of depth surrounding the Thunder for a while, so it's great to get a solid performance from each one of our subs at the same time. Jeremy Lamb had an efficient 10 points with two threes, Reggie Jackson offset his 2-7 shooting line with 6 rebounds and 6 assists, and Nick Collison didn't miss a single field goal or free throw en route to 9 points and (of course) solid off-the-stat-sheet play. And, that's all surrounding what Adams did.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
44 free throws attempted, 39 free throws made (88.6%) for the Thunder. They hadn't attempted that many free throws since January 20th of last season, and that type of performance from the line was great. Durant and Westbrook accounted for 29 free throws (the Los Angeles Lakers led the league in free throw attempts last season, averaging 27.9) and missed just three. It helped very much that even while not scoring efficiently from the field, Westbrook was able to get to the line to make his mark on the game.
Just as important as scoring from the line was getting the Pistons into foul trouble. Smoove fouled out late in the fourth, and there's a chance that he might've been a factor in the closing minute where the Pistons actually hit back to back threes to cut an 11 point lead to five. Kyle Singler also fouled out, and both Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings finished with four fouls. Limiting Drummond was important for the Thunder, and the Thunder did a great job of it by landing him in foul trouble. He finished with just four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes, which is his worst performance in a very long time.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
There were a bunch of small trends that can be picked up from this game. Russell Westbrook is still rusty, which is fine because we know he'll shake off the rust and bounce back. Thabo Sefolosha's 3-9 shooting line (and particularly his 1-6 shooting on three-pointers) is indicative of his early struggles, as he's shooting just 34.2% from the field and 15.8% on three-pointers. Serge Ibaka followed up his 17-point performance against the Mavericks with a moderate 11 points, though he still shot over 50% which is reassuring after his own struggles in the Thunder's first three games.
Of course, what everybody is looking at going forward isn't any of those things. Instead, all eyes are on Steven Adams. Does he become a starter any time soon? One does get the feeling that it's starting to become a question of when, not if. The way he's played so far, it's becoming harder and harder to develop an argument against not starting him.
|Final - 11.8.2013
|Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant (37 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 9-15 field goal shooting, 17-19 free throw shooting)
Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams (17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers, 7-10 field goal shooting)
Thunder Blunder: Thabo Sefolosha (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 3-9 field goal shooting, 1-6 three-point shooting)
Thunder Plunderer: Greg Monroe (20 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 8-13 field goal shooting)
Next game: vs. Washington (Nov. 10th) @ 6:00 PM CDT