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Thunder vs. Pistons, final score: Oklahoma City comes back, hangs on for 96-94 win over Detroit

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After a lazy first half, the Thunder defense clamped down while Westbrook and Durant paced the offense to a much-needed win.

"Hi, I'm Russell Westbrook. And I'm Super Creepy Russell Westbrook." -WBB
"Hi, I'm Russell Westbrook. And I'm Super Creepy Russell Westbrook." -WBB

Box Score | Detroit Bad Boys

The Oklahoma City Thunder won their fourth game in their last five on Sunday night with a 96-94 win over the Detroit Pistons. The Thunder were led, as usual, by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who combined for their most dominant combo performance since their respective returns. The two stars combined for 50 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.

The Thunder gave up 55 points in the first half to the Pistons, who came into the game as the 29th offense in the league and the worst shooting team in the league. Thankfully for the Thunder, the defense was far more focused in the second half, holding the Pistons to 39 points.

The game actually came down to the final seconds, though, when the Pistons trimmed a seven point Thunder lead down to 2. A missed jumper with 10 seconds to play gave the Pistons numbers in transition, but Brandon Knight passed up a decent look at a tying layup to an open Josh Smith 3-point attempt. Thankfully for the Thunder, Josh Smith misses a lot of 3-point attempts, and OKC was able to hold on for the win.

What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

It was ugly, but at this point, we'll take anything we can get. It's all about just getting wins now, and if it takes ugly games like this against bottom-dwelling Eastern Conference teams to iron out the edges, so be it. You would certainly like to see the Thunder focus for a full 48 minutes and not give the lazy effort they showed in the first half, but that should come with time when everyone begins to settle into their roles.

What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who proved just how dangerous they can be when they are both on. In Durant's first game back, Westbrook struggled. Last game, Durant struggled. This game, both were on fire. It may not be much of a coincidence that Brooks tried a new substitution pattern where he staggered Durant and Westbrook's minutes so they had more time on the court without one another. It gave both of them a chance to play more freely and run the offense in their own way.

Then, in crunch time, the two were in their element and fed off each other beautifully. Credit Brooks for finally making the adjustment. It will be interesting to see how much he keeps that up once Durant's minutes restriction is lifted.

Game diary:

First quarter

  • The Pistons are wearing their sleeved jerseys which are honestly the only sleeved jerseys I've seen that I don't totally hate. And the 'Motor City" label is actually kind of cool.
  • Thunder has started off slow from the field, and Josh Smith - despite the fact that he is Josh Smith - hit a couple jumpers over Ibaka to start. Ibaka took it to heart and the two had a little back and forth, with Ibaka responding with a jumper of his own.
  • That aside, the Thunder defense has lacked any sort of effort and at the first media timeout with 5:51 remaining, the Pistons hold a 16-11 lead.
  • Josh Smith is having his way with the Thunder inside. Off to a 4-5 start from the field for 10 points. Sort of highlights the lack of physicality inside when a guy can get going like this.
  • Thunder with five turnovers with 2:42 left in the first. That's led to easy opportunities for Detroit in transition. Have to hope the Thunder wakes up somehow, but aside form Russ and Reggie, no one is showing any real sense of urgency.
  • Scott Brooks tried a new sub pattern that involved staggering Russ and KD's minutes - you know, the way we've clamored for a million times over the years? Durant came out five minutes in and then came back with around 2 minutes left in the first quarter.
  • That said, if that's the patter, not sure how easy it will be for Durant to establish himself in those first five minutes. But as he settled in during his second shift, the offense flowed through him and the Thunder found some new life.
  • After one, Thunder trails 33-25. Pistons 11-19 shooting from the field. Wayyy to many easy looks.

Second quarter

  • Kevin Durant's defense looks to be the biggest thing he needs to get back under control. He's biting on pump fakes, he got beat on the perimeter by Jonas Jerebko. He was really good on that end last year, too, so hopefully it's just a matter of him getting his feel for the game back on that end.
  • The Pistons came in to the game dead last in field goal percentage at 40.5 percent. Shooting 56 percent against OKC at this point in the second quarter as they lead 41-31.
  • Don't worry, Caron Butler is here to bring the field goal percentage back to Earth.
  • Looks like, with Durant's 30 minute restriction, Brooks' is trying to get him three 5 minutes shifts per half. That helps stagger with Westbrook, but I don't know how I feel about it. It's hard to get anything too crazy going in just five minutes. Hopefully it's just an experiment and, once the minutes restriction is lifted, things will normalize a bit.
  • Of course, if anyone is going to be unaffected by the minutes, it's Durant. Shooting 5-7 for 13 points in the first half, looking more comfortable than he has all year. So, basically, I'm an idiot.
  • Heavens, KD
  • Anddddd Durant just took a great charge. I'm going to keep criticizing his defense and the substitution patterns, because I'm getting proven wrong on both.
  • The offense was actually fine in the half, but the defense just couldn't get any consistent stops to build a run. Durant looked great with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, but the Thunder trail 55-48 at the break. Eight first half turnovers.
  • Also of note: Steven Adams without a rebound in the first half. Still not making an impact there. KILL ME IN THE COMMENTS.

Third quarter:

  • The Serge/Smith battle picks up right where it left off! Iffy blocking call on Ibaka on one end, and Ibaka answers with an and-1 on Smith at the other end.
  • Andre Roberson has been very active. He's been tipping rebounds and came up with a big steal to set up a fast break dunk for KD. Love his energy and as long as he can keep that up, that's all he's really needed for.
  • I'm scared to criticize Adams at this point, but he has looked unengaged for a lot of this one. Had a pass right to him under the hoop and he passed it out to the arc. It gave Ibaka an open three, but you'd like to see him get more aggressive, especially when he isn't getting rebounds on the other end.
  • And Adams dunks it, and we're tied at 61-61! Who do I call out next??
  • Ibaka blocks have come to be expected, but every once in a while he has one that makes you say "wow." He just had one like that on Andre Drummond.
  • Ibaka with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks at this point. With Adams and Perkins being basically nonexistent inside, his presence down there has been massive.
  • A Westbrook 3-pointer gives the Thunder their first lead at 70-69 since it was 2-0.
  • Reggie Jackson with a Westbrook-esque 1-on-3 pullup-in-transition jumper. He missed.
  • A much more focused defensive effort gives the Thunder a 77-75 lead headed into the fourth. Outscored Detroit 29-20 in the quarter. Durant and Westbrook with a combined 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Good to have them back!

Fourth quarter

  • Remember when we were all mad at Jeremy Lamb? He made his first two threes tonight, too, meaning he's 12 of his last 14. So maybe he is a threat after all?
  • Lamb, overall, just looks better. Maybe he's one of those guys that just thrives off the bench, because he literally looks more comfortable every time he touches the ball.
  • The Thunder now up to 13 offensive rebounds in the second half. Second chances are helpful.
  • Russell Westbrook is driving to the hoop and OH MY GOD HE JUST DUNKED SO HARD AHH HIDE THE CHILDREN. (his hand looks fine).
  • Huge and-1 from KD on a beautiful pass off the screen and roll by Westbrook. He's so much stronger than he looks.
  • Westbrook has been excellent all night, but he just had another once of those Westbrook possessions where he holds on to the ball the whole time, settles for a jumper, and misses. Can't have those, at least not late in the game.
  • A Kyle Singler 3 cut the lead to 93-92, but Kevin Durant answered on the other end with a 3 of his own. That's what they had been missing in all those close games early in the season, and man it's nice to have that guy back that can answer so effortlessly.
  • LOL - Detroit had a good look at a layup to tie in the final seconds but passed it out to Josh Smith for a 3. He missed, because he's Josh Smith. Bullet dodged. Game over. Phew.

Last thing... Kevin Durant is Awesome, Vol. 6,753:

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Chris's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Russin Durestbrook: 50 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists.

Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka: 13 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks.

Thunder Blunder: Steven Adams for only grabbing one rebound

Thunder Plunderer: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 19 points, 5 assists.

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Next game: vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday @ 7PM CDT.