In the Oklahoma City Thunder's first game without Kevin Durant, they had little trouble dealing with the Philadelphia 76ers, 102-85. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder's charge with his second triple-double in a row. What made this triple-double special was Westbrook's 17 boards, the highest total of his career. Anthony Morrow, starting in place of Kevin Durant, helped out with 12 points of his own.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn't get such a good game out of their main offensive star, Jahlil Okafor. In fact, Okafor had the worst shooting night of his young rookie season, hitting just 17% of his attempts. Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka deserve the credit for taking turns on Okafor defensively. Okafor couldn't do much to establish close position down low. Meanwhile, Okafor's young post partner of the future, Nerlens Noel, shot just 33% and turned the ball over four times.
Why did the Thunder win this game?
You can basically boil this one down to a 9-0 Thunder run during a crucial two minute stretch of the fourth quarter. The 76ers had played a decent game up to that point, and were only trailing the Thunder by 10 points with seven minutes to go. But Russell Westbrook decided he had enough, and hit a pull up three in transition. Brett Brown responded with a timeout, and directed his team to attack the basket. On the next two consecutive plays, the Thunder were able to break up the Sixer pick and roll by committing an extra man. Both resulted in quick fast break scores. At that point, Philadelphia panicked and starting taking some quick jumpers. The Thunder took advantage by moving the rebound for a couple of quick easy shots on the other end. Basically, OKC was able to psyche out a young team at the right time.
That short run was the entire game in a nutshell. The Thunder had 24 fast break points, while the Sixers only had 3. Basically, the Thunder were able to take advantage of the offensive opportunities that the Sixers gave them.
Why didn't the Thunder run away with this one earlier?
The Sixers deserve a bit of credit for limiting the Thunder's two stars, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. The duo combined for 38% from the field, which is a bit below their average. But the Thunder were offensively limited on the bench as well. Dion Waiters shot only 31%, and Kyle Singler missed all five of his shots. In fact, the only Thunder player that had a spectacular offensive game, Enes Kanter, was limited to just 19 minutes of action. This lack of production from all of the Thunder's players made for a pretty scrappy game overall.
On the offensive end, the Sixers were able to exploit various weaknesses. For example, the combination of Enes Kanter and Nick Collison was terrible at defending the paint during the first quarter. Furthermore, the Thunder struggled to keep the Sixers off the offensive boards at times. Philadelphia had 16 second chance points on 12 rebounds. Worse still, Philadelphia pretty consistently got to the line with hard drives to the basket. Lastly, OKC struggled at defending the Sixers when they moved the ball from side to side. But I think all of these weaknesses were acceptable, because the Thunder were so focused on protecting the rim. When it's all said and done, the Sixers only shot 42% in the paint. It would have to be a hot night from three to make up for a shooting percentage that poor.
- The Thunder are now third in the Western Conference! Savor it while you can!
- With 3:15 to go in the first quarter, the lights went out in the arena for about 5 seconds. INTENSE
- Coach Donovan wants his bench in a rhythm when KD comes back. That's his alleged reason for starting Anthony Morrow. Honestly, I just thought it was because Donovan didn't respect Stauskas as an offensive threat. In any case, Morrow's performance today was certainly a strong case in his favor. I'm still skeptical as to whether Morrow starting a good long term move, simply because Roberson is so effective as a shooting guard.
- Westbrook, on Kanter's coast to coast dunk: "That's the first time I've seen him dunk in a while, which is great."
- Nick Collison got time over Mitch McGary tonight. The two appear to be interchangeable as the team's backup power forward at this point. In the post game presser, Donovan said, "Part of the reason of going with Nick is just to kind of stabilize our team. Going with a veteran guy. I felt like we needed to get some stops, and I felt like he did a really good job coming off the bench and getting back control of the game." Indeed, Collison was even able to have an impact on the offensive end, hitting two timely jumpers during the course of the game.
- Donovan ran a lineup with Ibaka at center and Collison at PF for the final 2:47 of the second, it went 7-8 because the Sixers kept getting to the line. Meh.
- Both of Russell Westbrook's threes were in the fourth quarter.
- Steve Novak made a cameo and hit a three. I want this to happen when it matters, just for the hilarity.
- The Thunder had 20 assists tonight, 3 below their average. In a blowout victory in the first game without KD, that's not a good sign. I would like to see OKC get deeper into their offense at times.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, whose rebounding cannot be overstated
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, who gave really solid minutes out of nowhere
Thunder Blunder: Kyle Singler, 0fer
Thunder Plunderer: Christian Wood, whose jumper is a lot more reliable than I thought it was
Next Game: Versus the Boston Celtics, Sunday, November 15th, 6 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!