Despite a competitive first half, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to absolutely obliterate the Memphis Grizzlies last night, 125-88. It was the Thunder's biggest victory of the season in terms of sheer points. Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC, recording a season high 16 assists. The final stat line says that Russ scored only 13 points, but when you consider that he only played 25 minutes and took only 7 shots, you understand why. After the Thunder blew this game wide open in the third, their stars simply weren't needed to complete the game.
But really, it was an amazing night from Kevin Durant as well. Durant finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in one of his all around best performances of the season. To be fair, Durant had the matchup advantage on his opponent most of the time. During the first quarter, Durant somehow managed to play against Matt Barnes and Vince Carter. Then, in the second quarter, Durant got significant time against Zach Randolph. Those matchups alone should explain Durant's insane efficiency. The rest of Durant's game, as usual, came in transition and via amazing shots.
Why did the Thunder win this game?
The Grizzlies were a complete mess. Marc Gasol was the player holding the Grizz together throughout the entire first quarter. But Gasol's success only came because he was matched up with Enes Kanter. The Thunder countered by benching Kanter and going with Ibaka/Collison in the second quarter. That lineup treaded water. But by the time Memphis' plodding starting front line returned to the game in the late second, the Thunder went small with just Ibaka. This made it easy for the Thunder to push the pace. OKC finished the final five minutes of the second shooting 8 of 9, and all of their makes were assisted upon.
The third quarter was an entirely different story. The Thunder brought out their standard starters, and this time Steven Adams was able to stay in the game. This allowed the Thunder to stay in front of the Grizzlies defensively. Because the Grizz have so few three point threats in their offense, they're toast if they can't get to the bucket. It was also obvious that the Thunder had a bit of a speed advantage, forcing 10 turnovers in total during the third quarter. The Thunder scored 10 points directly off of those turnovers, further explaining the Thunder's advantage.
When you get right down to it, the Thunder front line was built to foil a team like the Grizzlies. And when Mike Conley goes 0 of 7 like he did tonight, it's going to be impossible for the rest of the team's offense to make up for it. Furthermore, the added presence of KD gives a new dimension to OKC's game that wasn't there when the Grizzlies won earlier this season.
Why did Westbrook have a season high in assists?
It was apparent that the Grizzlies were challenging Westbrook to pass on nearly every possession of the first half. If Westbrook wasn't being doubled around a screen, one of the Grizzly bigs was certainly watching to see if he came into the paint. Westbrook used this to his advantage, finishing the first half with 12 assists and 4 shots. The second half saw the Grizzlies move to single-covering Russ with Conley. Westbrook took immediate advantage on three consecutive plays, prompting the Grizzlies to put Lee back on Russ. By then the Thunder had amassed a lead though, and all Westbrook needed to do was score in transition and run the offense.
- This was the type of performance we really need out of Serge Ibaka. Love the job Ibaka did shutting down Gasol in the second half, and love how he was able to finish on the pick and roll.
- Steven Adams completely shut down Zach Randolph, and I'm glad he was able to avoid foul trouble in the second half. Adams was only 1-5 from the floor, but three of his misses came on offensive rebounds. So, totally forgivable.
- Dion Waiters was the entire bench offense today, and he was completely out of control. I can't say I necessarily agree with him taking any of the shots that he took. Even the shots that were counted as "assists" to Dion were taken off the dribble near defenders. But if Waiters wants to continue charging to the rim, stepping back for long twos, and spotting up for deep threes, there's nothing stopping him.
- Andre Roberson was a big part of the third quarter run, contributing all of his 7 points and 2 steals during that time. Dre's best play was when he surprised Jeff Green with a baseline alley-oop cut to the rim.
- It was easy to miss Nick Collison, but he turned in an extremely solid performance. The numbers aren't there, but the sheer fact that we could rely on him to stabilize the defense was important to our victory.
- D.J. Augustin has an excellent repertoire with Kevin Durant. Tonight, we saw Augustin hit back to back threes from Durant at the end of the first quarter. But Augustin's defense on Chalmers in the second quarter was pretty bad, and allowed the Grizzlies to stay in the game for a bit. Augustin simply didn't have the body to bother Chalmers' shots near the rim, and sometimes tried to make up for it by fouling.
- Not a great game from Enes Kanter, who missed two free throws and went scoreless during his first half stint. All the positive stats came during garbage time.
- Morrow hit a shot during the second, but was extremely quiet during his time on the floor. The rest of the Thunder were scoring well, so it didn't matter.
- Kyle Singler, Steve Novak, and Cameron Payne got garbage time tonight. Singler had an impressive fast break dunk, Payne made an open three, and Novak hit an extremely contested three from the corner. Not much else to write home about.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, the scoring machine
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, who continues to impress me, and I've been writing about him since 2008!
Thunder Blunder: Enes Kanter, for the poor first quarter
Thunder Plunderer: Mario Chalmers, 19 Points on 6-8 shooting
Next Game: Versus the Atlanta Hawks, Thursday, December 10th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!