In Kevin Durant's return to the floor, the Thunder managed to rout the Minnesota Timberwolves, 122-99. The Timberwolves were down by as many as 18 in the first half, and never got closer than 9 in the second half. The reason for that was the Thunder's scorching offense. OKC shot an amazing 11 of 15 from the floor in the first quarter. That kind of solid field goal percentage comes from great ball movement. Indeed, the Thunder had 34 team assists to just 17 team turnovers.
Westbrook near triple-double, KD feeds off of Russ
Individually, Russell Westbrook was the most impressive player on the Thunder's end. Westbrook nearly achieved a triple double, scoring 14 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing 13 assists. Westbrook's third quarter was particularly uncanny. In 12 minutes, Russ managed to register 11 assists. However, Westbrook had two turnovers and was 0-5 from the floor as well. A lot of Westbrook's effectiveness came from effective passing in transition, off of turnovers and long rebounds.
Kevin Durant wasn't as much of a force, but he was still an incredibly efficient and effective player. After a couple of missed jumpers to start the game, Durant started to work on moving the ball a bit more. KD created 3 assists during the rest of the first quarter, and was a major part of OKC's 19-4 run during that time. The third quarter saw Durant become a bit more of his old scoring self. Westbrook assisted on every Durant field goal during the third, doing a good job of finding Durant in the high post. KD's turnaround jumper was in full effect.
Kanter's defense is still atrocious
Here's how Enes Kanter's game went, defensively. For the first 5:55 of the first quarter, Kanter guarded #1 Pick Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns had 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting, as well as an assist. Then, for the next 1:24, Kanter guarded Gorgui Dieng. Dieng went 1 of 2. To start the second quarter, Kanter guarded Gorgui Dieng for 4:19. Dieng scored 6 points, and went 2 of 2 from the floor.
The second half saw Kanter lock in a bit more. It was hard for me to tell from listening on the radio, but I believe he spent some time on Karl Anthony-Towns, and some time on Gorgui Dieng. Kanter managed to register 2 blocks, and limited Towns to 0 points overall. However, Kanter was responsible for allowing at least 2 of Gorgui Dieng's 6 third quarter points. To end the game, Kanter limited Dieng to 0 fourth quarter points in 6 minutes of defensive action.
From the way Pinto was making it sound, Kanter's lack of ability to keep his position in the post allowed Towns to power over him. Furthermore, Dieng's speed allowed him to get free for jumpers. But here's the important question: Was Kanter's offense and rebounding enough to make up for all of his defensive liability? Kanter had 16 points in 27 minutes of action, shooting 8-10 from the floor. All of Kanter's points were in the paint. Combined with Kanter's 6 boards, I'd say his performance comes out as a wash. But Kanter will have to be awful efficient if he wants to be able to make up for such poor defense.
Serge Ibaka takes three attempts from beyond the arc
Even though coach Billy Donovan has told the media that he plans on de-emphasizing Ibaka's three point shot, Ibaka took three attempts from beyond the arc tonight. Two of those threes went in, both from the corner. Elsewhere, Ibaka went 3 of 5 on jumpers and shot 2 of 3 near the rim. Unsurprisingly, six of Serge's 8 baskets came off an assist.
The most difficult stretch of the game for Ibaka came during the second quarter. Ibaka was subbed into a Thunder team that was without Durant, Westbrook, or Kanter. As a result, the Thunder were having a bit more difficulty moving the ball. Without the ball moving, Ibaka went 0-2 over the 6:43 he played in the third. Defensively, Ibaka held up well early on in the second when he was paired with Collison. But after McGary checked in, the Timberwolves scored on 6 of their 9 possessions. This includes an offensive rebound on a free throw by Karl-Anthony Towns, which is an unforgivable fundamental mistake.
Waiters goes from awesome to terrible to awesome
It's hard to get a read on Dion Waiters. Early on, it seemed as if Dion was doing all the right things. He was getting to the line, moving the ball, and hit two threes off the catch. Considering Dion has airballed threes off the catch before, this is a good sign.
The second half saw Dion become a bit more on-ball oriented. This naturally led to a couple of contested long twos, which wasn't fantastic. But Waiters did create three second half assists, and had another score off of a pass. If Waiters can become the off-ball player we all know he can be, OKC will be very dangerous indeed. This game was definitely one of Dion's better ones.
- The Thunder's starting lineup is extremely offensively effective with Kanter. Most centers won't be able to dominate Kanter like Towns can, anyway....at least, I hope.
- Pinto mentioned that a bailout foul is a big no-no in Billy Donovan's system. A bailout foul is when it's late in the shot clock and the shooter isn't in good position to shoot. But the defender fouls them anyway, effectively bailing the offensive player out. (Kanter committed one of these, unsurprisingly.
- Andre Miller is wearing the cornrows again. The early 00s must never die!
- Steve Novak is an interesting weapon. Novak airballed a three at one point and allowed Bjelica to score on the other end. But Novak also hit a three, and nailed a floater after a pump fake at the three point line. Novak is incredibly clutch, so I really don't mind that Donovan is using him.
- McGary is definitely progressing. McGary was 1 of 3 outside the paint, but 3 of 4 inside it. Defensively, McGary had some problems with his assignment in terms of positioning and strength. 3 assists and 3 turnovers isn't ideal, but I like how involved McGary is. Mitch is already more potent than Collison offensively, though I doubt he's more consistent on any level.
- Nemanja Bjelica is a very intriguing player. His speed and shooting ability will allow him to be an effective scorer off the bat. He was surprisingly effective in transition tonight.
- Anthony Morrow with a "quiet" 5 of 10 from the floor, 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. This man knows how and when to shoot. I admit there were a couple times where Morrow hurt OKC on D, but he did manage to register a block.
- Cameron Payne really couldn't get into any sort of rhythm. 3 fouls in the first half, and 3 turnovers overall to go with just 2 assists. Offensively, Payne had trouble escaping the constant pressure of Lorenzo Brown. Nevertheless, Payne did a good job of bouncing back from the bad vibes. Payne hit a corner three to end the second quarter, after two turnovers and three fouls in the prior three minutes. Payne also hit a three and assisted on a three in back to back late fourth quarter possessions.
- Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were really quiet tonight. Wiggins stunk from midrange, and LaVine couldn't get anything going near the rim.
- Hard to tell what happened with Andre Roberson, but his returns on his defense of LaVine are excellent.
- Augustin seemed capable enough. 3 of 8 shooting with 4 assists. Negative plus/minus, but kept the ball moving.
- Didn't hear much of anything about Kyle Singler in 8 minutes of action.