Despite beginning the second half down seven points, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to comfortably cruise to victory over the Detroit Pistons, 103-87. Why did the Pistons collapse so badly? You could look to Reggie Jackson, who shot 2 of 13 from the field during the second half. It was clearly an emotional game for Jackson, who was playing the Thunder for the first time since he was on the team last season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also to blame, going just 1 of 9 in the second half. Otherwise, the Pistons didn't have a very strong defensive performance out of their bench to start the fourth quarter, and D.J. Augustin and Enes Kanter were able to take full advantage.
But I'd be a fool to ignore the great performance out of the Thunder's main star. Kevin Durant was back in his MVP form, scoring 34 points with 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. Included in KD's performance is four three pointers, all of which were assisted. Needless to say, KD's ability to space the floor, take on mismatches, and abuse Ilyasova in one on one situations was essential tonight. Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, had a really tough night against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. 11 turnovers is way too many for Westbrook, who was trying to force the ball inside. The Pistons, amazingly, were able to get Westbrook to commit three separate offensive fouls in the run of play. A couple of the calls were questionable, but Russ fouled out with 4:24 to go nonetheless. Also, Russ had 14 points and 4 assists, so there were definite solid moments.
Overall, it was a very solid game for the Thunder's interior defense. Andre Drummond, who came into the game averaging 18 ppg with 50% shooting, finished tonight with 15 points on 43% shooting. In general, Ibaka, Adams, And Kanter did a good job of getting behind Drummond and getting physical with him, preventing him from getting to the rim. Furthermore, Drummond had only 7 rebounds compared to his season average of 17. Credit KD and Adams, who combined for a whopping 26 rebounds themselves.
How did the Thunder win this game?
I'd point to the 10-4 run that happened in the middle of the fourth quarter. The run put the Thunder up by 12 with 6:20 to go, effectively burying the Pistons for good. Enes Kanter was the main catalyst behind this run, using the offense to get to the rim. The Thunder were particularly effective at moving the ball, finding open looks for Ibaka and KD in the run of play. The defense of Kanter was on showcase during this time as well. Kanter was able to stop Reggie Jackson on a couple of separate mismatches, breaking up Detroit's offense.
Why did the Thunder win this game?
From the second half on, Billy Donovan decided to tighten things up to an 8 man rotation. Gone was Nick Collison, who gives up too much defensively at the three point line. Also gone was Anthony Morrow, whom was 1-3 from the floor and wasn't having a particularly effective night guarding the three, either. In their place was the defensively-focused Andre Roberson, who played 17 minutes straight to begin the second half. Kevin Durant and Dion Waiters filled in the rest of the time. The result was clear, as Detroit shot just 4 of 16 from three in the second half.
I also want to praise D.J. Augustin, who really did a good job of going into scoring mode when the Thunder needed him. Augustin recognized that he's got the advantage the 35 year old Steve Blake, kicking off the fourth quarter with 6 points and an assist to Ibaka. Heck, don't forget about Dion Waiters. Waiters' efficiency wasn't great, but he still had 4 points and 2 assists in the fourth quarter, showing a willingness to defer.
How were the Pistons able to get a first half advantage?
Detroit was able to force the Thunder into 9 first half turnovers. Westbrook and Durant accounted for 8 of those turnovers, as the Thunder's leading duo got a bit too predictable with their passes. 7 Detroit points came off of those turnovers. Also Detroit had some success with Drummond down low, Morris in mismatches, and Caldwell-Pope on the weak side against Waiters. All three of them finished the first half with 9 points each.
- Reggie Jackson got booed at the end of the game, so he took a pointless three as time expired. Before that, Jackson was booed a bit during the first half.
- KD had to deal with a mixture of Morris and Ilyasova, but he definitely preferred Ilyasova.
- KD closed the first and third quarters, and ended up with 38 minutes. Too high? Perhaps....
- Reggie Jackson only played 6 minutes during the entire first half, getting himself in quick foul trouble by guarding Russell Westbrook too close.
- Enes Kanter was not effective against Aron Baynes tonight, clearly struggling to get position. But Kanter's fourth quarter run was a result of him getting matched up with Andre Drummond.
- Ibaka had such a quietly solid game. 14 points on a nearly perfect 7 of 8 shooting, to go with four blocks. Mostly in mid-range, as usual. Ibaka is getting better with the slip screens, though. No three attempts from Ibaka tonight, for only the second time this season.
- Andre Roberson was really effective in guarding Marcus Morris from mid-range, as was KD. Roberson's only make came on a layup during the second play of the game. After that, Dre airballed one corner three. The other attempt was a full-court heave at the end of the third. (I got this wrong earlier, my apologies.)
- Augustin closed out the final 4:24 of the game well, as he assisted on a Dion Waiters shot and didn't allow any points on the other end.
- Shameful cheap shot from Reggie Jackson w/the local media. Memories? "4 yrs & I don't have a ring." Pathetic. Good luck getting 1 in Detroit
- — Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) November 27, 2015
- Billy Donovan called a mid-possession timeout, and then drew up a play that got Westbrook to the rim. Donovan also claimed post-game that he wanted to start the team moving the ball down the stretch.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, because 34 points can't be denied
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter, for that late run
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, 11 TOs, 6 fouls
Thunder Plunderer: Andre Drummond, even at reduced effectiveness he's still good
Next Game: At the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, November 30th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!