In what was mostly a close competition throughout, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to pull away from the Dallas Mavericks late, 100-88. The Mavericks were missing four of their five starters, including Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Wes Matthews, and Deron Williams. Nevertheless, the Mavericks were able to get excellent offensive production out of John Jenkins, who led all scorers with 26 points. Zaza Pachulia and Charlie Villanueva were able to help out the Mavs as well, chipping in 21 total points while shooting at 50%.
The difference came during the fourth quarter, when OKC blew things open with a 12-0 run. The Thunder had Kanter, Waiters, and McGary in the game to ignite the run. Meanwhile, the Mavs were playing a lineup of Anderson-Ndour-Wilson-Ashley-Famous. That lineup includes four forwards, no point guard, and no recognizable names. In other words, the Thunder won this game because they wanted to win it, while the Mavericks really didn't.
The real star for Oklahoma City tonight was Russell Westbrook. Russ led all Thunder players with 19 points, shot an efficient 8-13 from the floor, and had 2 steals. Enes Kanter was right behind Westbrook in the scoring column, finishing with 17. The rebounding ability of Kanter was something to behold as well, as he managed 5 offensive rebounds and 11 in total. Morrow and Waiters also hit the double digit column, chipping in 10 points each.
Kevin Durant had 5 turnovers and no assists
It was a really tough night for KD. After an early made three, Durant had some serious trouble creating space for himself. Jumpers were going up off balance, double-teams were having an effect, and KD was even called for a couple of weak offensive fouls. Jeremy Evans covered Kevin Durant for most of the first quarter, while Justin Anderson covered Durant for most of the third quarter. Anderson went to the same high school as Durant, so there was definitely some personal pride at stake there. Defensively, Durant was having some awareness problems as well. I saw two separate plays where Durant was beaten on backdoor cuts to the rim by Evans and Anderson.
At one point in the game, KD was 1 of 8 from the floor with 4 turnovers. I was really worried. How could Durant look so human against such pedestrian defenders? Then, all of a sudden, a sleeping giant woke up. KD performed three consecutive successful drives to the rim in the span of a minute and a half. Only one of these drives was on Justin Anderson, but the whole thing looked impressive enough.
Westbrook punishes smaller guards
It's really been amazing to watch Russell play these first few games. He approaches his offense with such ferocity. Westbrook's trademark shot used to be when he ran to the free throw line and pulled up. Now, Westbrook's most used move is when he puts his butt into his defender, gets a ton of space, and rises for a turnaround bank shot. It's very classic, very cool.
Westbrook was able to do all of his other usual stuff today too. There was a three off the dribble. A couple early steals that got the Thunder out to the lead. A clever drive on a mismatch with Justin Anderson. A couple amazing bursts to the rim around screens. To me, it's becoming more apparent that Westbrook doesn't need a offensive big on the floor in order to score effectively. (As if I didn't know that already.)
- OKC's new mission of guarding the three point line is a success. The Mavericks were 4-22 (18%). I even saw Ibaka close out on a guard near the arc.
- Serge Ibaka was off tonight. Not a single positive stat but rebounds. His shots were just a little bit long, so I'm not too worried yet.
- The Payne-Kanter and Waiters-Kanter pick and roll combos looked amazing. Both sets got into the offense so quickly and effectively.
- Speaking of Enes Kanter, he was really effective with his back to the basket today. I think it's because he had such good post positioning. Also, it's been three games, and tonight signaled Kanter's first shot outside of the paint. And that shot was on the tip of the free throw line. This is definitely going to be a trend.
- Anthony Morrow was a wizard at finding those quick threes. Three of Morrow's four makes came off of short passes on the perimeter. Morrow's other make was an off the dribble step inside the three point line shot.
- Dion Waiters had two needless fouls by wildly going behind player's backs for steals. Waiters also blew an open layup in the fourth and traveled on a jump stop. Amazing game overall, though. Most impressive play was a stepback and-one. The ultimate combination of Dion Waiters memes!
- Mitch McGary is still a bit undisciplined. Mitch allowed the Mavs to get an easy foul on him in transition away from the hoop. The, McGary traveled on the next possession while alone with the ball. But, forget that. McGary had a corner three! It's real! He's also been amazing when passing off the dribble or running in transition.
- Both Waiters and Payne had comeback scores after they were scored upon, which was nice.
- OKC's threes and offensive rebounds were part of the reason behind a early 44-34 lead. But then Donovan ran this really senseless lineup of Augustin-Morrow-Singler-McGary-Kanter. There was no ability to move the ball, and the Thunder offense took a few early bad shots. Meanwhile, the Mavs went on an 11-0 run until Steve Novak came in and hit a three.
- Speaking of Steve Novak, he was 2-2 from behind the three point arc today. One of them was on a really slick pick and pop. Novak did give up at least one offensive rebound though. Always a give and take.
- The backup point guard battle is as wild as ever. Augustin had 8 assists, but he also had 4 turnovers and shot 1-8 from the field. It was apparent that D.J. could move the ball, but it was hard for him to survive when the Thunder were bereft of offense. Cameron Payne was much more successful in limited time. Payne had 8 points on 3-5 shooting with 2 assists in just 8 minutes. Payne's performance tonight was just a flash in the pan, though. These two point guards are looking dead even as it stands.
- Steven Adams was the epitome of hustle tonight. Most impressive to me were Adams assists, where he was able to screen for somebody on the perimeter and make an effortless handoff. Adams was also able to grab a couple offensive boards, one of which was for a score. The only thing that puzzles me about Adams is his ability to hit the first free throw, but miss the second. The second free throw is supposed to be easier!
- Nick Collison wasn't much of a presence, but there was a play where he grabbed an offensive board, set a screen, got the ball back, set another screen, and made an assist. At least, I think that's how it went down. Brian Davis was all over it.
- Enes Kanter left the game with a right ankle sprain during the fourth quarter.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, the fountain of eternal athleticism
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter, our best offensive rebounder ever
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, 0-4 from the field, 2 TOs
Thunder Plunderer: John Jenkins, who can hit any shot off the dribble and around a screen.
Next Game: At the Memphis Grizzlies, Friday, October 16th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.
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