For the first time since the season started, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have a losing record as they improved to 17-17 with a 109-102 home victory against the Washington Wizards. In a contest that was tightly contested throughout (13 lead changes and 16 ties), the Thunder managed to pull away thanks to big buckets by Kevin Durant down the stretch, including a three-point play where he was fouled while finishing an alley-oop layup from Russell Westbrook. That play gave Oklahoma City a 107-98 lead with under 2 minutes to play and the Thunder were able to hold on for the victory.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
This game was very reminiscent of the kind of thing we saw night after night from Durant last season. KD simply took over at the right times, which was evident when he erased a 6-point Wizards lead just before the end of the third quarter by hitting two straight three pointers in the final minute. It's easy to see why Washington has been so good this season, since they had a contributions from not only their stars but their role players as well.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The main difference that decided the game relied mostly on Durant's clutch playmaking as well as the Wizards' stars being held in check during the 4th quarter. John Wall (14 points and 12 assists) and Bradley Beal (21 points and 10 rebounds) both recorded double doubles, but only managed a combined 5 points in the final 12 minutes. Washington also recorded 5 turnovers (to Oklahoma City's zero) in the last quarter, including a very costly one when they trailed by 3 with just 40 seconds left to play. John Wall threw a soft pass that was intercepted by a streaking Russell Westbrook, who failed to finish the contested fastbreak layup but Serge Ibaka trailed the play and his hustle rewarded him with an easy rebound and layup to essentially seal the Thunder's victory.
Veteran players on both teams stepped up off of the bench big time tonight. Andre Miller pitched in 15 points for the Wizards while Nick Collison showed some flashes of youth for the Thunder with his 10 points and 5 rebounds. Kendrick Perkins was also called on to replace an injured Steven Adams in the 1st quarter and responded extremely well, scoring 6 points and grabbing 4 boards in his 27 minutes. On top of that, Perk just looked plain spry out there tonight, moving well and playing good defense to limit Washington's production in the paint.
Overall, the Thunder bench provided a huge boost tonight, accounting for 40 of OKC's 109 points. Both Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook did struggle a bit with their shots tonight, going a combined 12-for-33 from the field. However, they also combined for 14 assists (6 for Westbrook and 8 for Jackson), and made shots when they counted in the second half to help contribute to this solid win.
Oh, and in case you missed it:
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 34 points, 8 rebounds, 12-18 shooting (4-7 from three)
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5-7 shooting
Thunder Blunder: None this game
Thunder Plunderer: Andre Miller, 15 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds, 38 years old, 15 years of NBA service
Next game: @ Golden State Warriors on Monday, 1/5 at 9:30 PM CDT