The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Brooklyn Nets at home, 110-99. The Thunder used a big 4th quarter run to pull away from a Nets team that, despite struggling this season, played competitively through 3 quarters. After the Nets tied the game at 85-all with 8:23 to go in the 4th, the Thunder went beyond the arc repeatedly, nailing 5 3-pointers in a 3 minute span to turn a tie ball game into a 13 point cushion. The Thunder held Brooklyn at bay the rest of the night to improve their record on the season to 10-6 with their winning streak now sitting at 3 games.
The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined for 57 points on only 34 shots, 18 assists, 12 rebounds, 5 steals, and 3 blocks. Dion Waiters led the bench attack, recording 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
The Nets were led by center Brook Lopez, who finished with 26 points and 8 rebounds.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
This game definitely had a 'pre-holiday' feel to it. Meaning, the Thunder played as if they were trying to get through the game quicker than they should have in order to wrap things up before Thanksgiving tomorrow.
The Thunder relied on a number of short bursts throughout the game and in particular the second half, only to see their leads evaporate behind hasty activity that often resulted in turnovers and rushed shots. Functionally, it looked as if the Thunder, with their superior athleticism at a number of positions, often times tried to run through their new and improved offensive sets quicker than their practiced hands had prepared. The result was a number of possessions, by both the first and second teams, where the idea of a great play was unfolding, only for the action to occur too quickly, and mistimed passes and cuts resulted in turnovers (19 overall).
Despite these hiccups throughout, which kept the game closer than it should have been, the Thunder righted the ship when good teams should. Their mid-4th quarter run encapsulated all the things that make OKC unique - Westbrook's motor and fast decision-making, Durant's long-range shooting, and the team's ability to cover the court end to end faster than nearly every other team.
In the end, OKC is not yet good enough for a 'business as usual' approach that waxes inferior competition (such as we see in Cleveland and Golden State), but even so, their B- game was enough to still defeat a lottery-level Nets team by double digits.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Westbrook served as the catalyst for nearly every big run on the night. His ability to break down any defender that Brooklyn threw his way, and yet still have the presence of mind to look for the pass instead of his own shot, is the primary reason why OKC pulled away in the 4th. In his final 8 minutes of play, Westbrook finished with 5 of his 13 assists, 4 of which came one after another and led to either a 3-pointer or a dunk.
Yet even more notable to me was the fact that Westbrook was making a concerted effort on defense to stay within the framework of the team's defensive goals. To be sure, there were a few plays where Westbrook got lost, but by and large, his defense on the point man, which was often veteran PG Jarrett Jack, was stellar. He fought through screens, ICE'd the pick and roll, didn't reach for cheap steals, and largely neutralized Jack, who finished with only 9 points and the same number of turnovers as assists (3).
The Thunder's interior defense still left a little to be desired, allowing 64 points in the paint, but their perimeter defense was some of the best that we've seen from them all season long, and Westbrook's focus was a big reason why.
On to the next challenge, and a welcome home for one particular R. Jackson. We'll see you then.
Happy Thanksgiving, Thunder fans!
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 27 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks
Thunder Blunder: Steven Adams, 4 points, 4 rebounds in 22 minutes
Thunder Plunderer: Brook Lopez, 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists
Next game: vs Detroit Pistons on Friday, Nov. 27th at 7PM CDT