The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the New York Knicks, 105-78. The Thunder got one half of its superstar duo back, as Russell Westbrook detonated on the moribund and injured New York squad. After a month of physical and mental pain, the Thunder finally got a win that left their starters smiling on the bench in the 4th quarter.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Wooahhh...that was nice.
I think I'm going to need a cigarette.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Russell Westbrook is the answer of course, but what is important is the answer to the question, why? What we saw tonight is the reality that he simply compromises everything that a defense will try to do to slow down the Thunder attack. It isn't even a question of speed or pace; backup PG Ish Smith is arguably quicker than Westbrook. Rather, it is the fact that Westbrook can come at defenses with a full head of steam, constantly probing the seams in the defense, looking for passing outlets, and if a defense turns its collective head for a split second, Westbrook turns the corner and is finishing at the rim.
Westbrook will not always play these types of efficient games because his attack mode doesn't allow for it, but in reality it doesn't even matter. What does matter is how he breaks down defenses from all angles to create shots for himself and for his teammates.
A few other notes:
1) The Thunder defense did not take the night off. Westbrook will grab the headlines, but what I took note of more than anything else is that the Thunder defense gave up only 33 points at the half and 50 points after 3 quarters. The Knicks shot under 40% and only 2-19 from 3-point range. They never had a chance in this game, and it is because the defense maintained the same energy that it had over the first month playing without Westbrook and Durant.
2) Jeremy Lamb continues to play well at home. What I liked about Lamb tonight is that he played 22 minutes, but didn't try to produce 22 minutes of offense. Most of it came early in the game where he helped push his team to a huge first half lead. He only took 5 shots on the night, hitting 3 (all 3-pointers). What I like about it the most, and I know I'm a long standing Lamb apologist, is what it means for both Lamb and the bench players as a unit. Nobody got shot happy as the lead ballooned to the 30's. Everyone stayed in their lanes for the most part, took the shots that were available, and showed good discipline in not wasting possessions. When Lamb (and the rest) play like this, it makes the bench very formidable.
3) Grant Jerrett scored his first career NBA bucket. You know what I liked the most about this? That the entire team was working hard to set him up for open looks. He played 9 minutes in the 4th quarter and got up 5 3-pointers, yet none of them were wasted shots or shots where he was just gunning at the rim. It says a lot to me that Jerrett's teammates think enough of him to work hard to help him succeed, not simply because he can help the team, but because he's part of the team.
Let's just change this to the RUSSELL WESTBROOK AWARD.
Russell Westbrook wins the RUSSELL WESTBROOK AWARD for being Russell Westbrook.
Next game: @ New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7PM CDT