The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a remarkable win at home, defeating the Denver Nuggets, 102-91. In any other season this would be a par for the course kind of win, but in this season, under these circumstances, this game is special. Playing without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, and Grant Jerrett, the Thunder had 8 active players on their roster, and on this night, every single one of them played a part in a big win.
The Thunder were led by Serge Ibaka and Perry Jones, who each finished with 23 points. Kendrick Perkins came off the bench to score 17 to go along with 5 rebounds.
The Nuggets were led by Ty Lawson, who finished with 25 points and 5 assists.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
There is a smile on my face. Ear to ear.
This is the most unlikely of seasons for a team with championship aspirations, but the fact is, the way that their role players play over the next 6-8 weeks will go a long ways to determining the quality of the Thunder when the post-season arrives. It is not only that these guys have to keep the boat afloat as they await the return of the Thunder leaders, but also the fact that if the Thunder manage to make the playoffs, history has proven that bench players' abilities to step up in big moments is often the difference between being good and being great.
Let's take a quick look at the box score, which speaks for itself. Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom, because that's where you will find the much maligned Big Perk. It might be his best game over the past 3 seasons.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The Thunder used a massive first half to grab a 22 point lead at halftime. They maintained their lead through 3 quarters, but then things started to get tense. Flashbacks to the first game of the season began to set in, where the Trail Blazers entered the 4th trailing and then ran OKC out of the gym. This time out, the Nuggets were staring at a 20 point deficit, but revved up their engines and by the 2:53 mark, had trimmed the lead to three.
The Thunder offense was faltering, but this time Ibaka was ready. He stepped out and hit a huge 3-point shot that pushed the lead back to 6. In their following possession, clinging to a 4 point lead, Perry Jones did his best Durant impersonation by taking an inbounds pass with 2 seconds left on the shot clock, pivoted from 27 feet away, and buried the contested 3-pointer.
If that isn't enough insanity for you, Lance Thomas(!) hit the game clinching jumper with a minute remaining, pushing the lead back to 9. After some free throws by Thomas and Roberson, the win was in the books. In total, the final 11 points of the game over the final 1:46 were scored by Jones, Thomas, and Roberson. Bet you never saw that one coming.
Lastly, Scott Brooks deserves a lot of credit once again for not only getting his players energized to play, but putting them in situations where players with limited abilities were able to contribute. It was both Ibaka and Jones who often found themselves in the KD role, and they performed it well. They could have easily started hoisting jumpers without discretion, but instead they both demonstrated good shot selection, combining to shoot 20-37 from the floor for a combined 46 points.
This tweet says it all:
Scott Popovich coached himself a ballgame tonight.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 2, 2014
Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, 23 points, 3-7 from 3-point range.
Thunder Down Under: Kendrick Perkins, 17 points on 6-7 shooting, 5 rebounds.
Thunder Blunder: None. If you get a win with this cast, everyone gets a gold star.
Thunder Plunderer: Ty Lawson, 25 points, 5 assists.
Next game: 11/3/14 @ Brooklyn Nets, 6:30PM CDT