The Oklahoma City Thunder continued their recent offensive outburst with a dominant 105-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Since their previous matchup with Memphis on Jan. 31 - an 85-74 loss - the Thunder are averaging 113.2 points per game. Memphis came into the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA.
Once again, the Thunder were led by Kevin Durant, who finally seemed like he was getting fully healthy and back into his rhythm. That was before he tweaked something late in the game, and ended up limping to the locker room once he was pulled with the game already decided. He finished with 26 points on 9-15 shooting and 10 rebounds, but his health obviously becomes the concern. If the limping is tied to something serious, he could still pull out of the All-Star Game. The Thunder are off until next Thursday, and if the past week and half are any indication, a healthy Kevin Durant will be key to the playoff push in the second half.
UPDATE: If Thunder officials are to be trusted, the limp shouldn't be a major concern:
Scott Brooks says Kevin Durant's right foot is a little sore. "We wouldn't put him out there if it wasn't just sore," Brooks said.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 12, 2015
Brooks said the team has been "proactive with imaging," so it sounds like they're confident it's nothing more than soreness.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 12, 2015
Of course, no truly dominant Thunder performance is complete without the other half of the Thunder duo doing his part, as well. Russell Westbrook certainly carried his weight, despite a poor shooting night. He finished with 24 points on just 4-15 shooting, and narrowly missed a triple-double with 9 rebounds and 9 assists. He was a perfect 15-15 from the free throw line.
The Grizzlies hung around for the first quarter and a half - largely because of Zach Randolph, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but on just 5-15 shooting. And as the Thunder starters checked back in for their usual 2nd-quarter rotation, they simply overwhelmed a Grizzlies team that was on the second night of a back-to-back.
Even though Randolph's line was impressive, the Thunder interior of Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison deserve credit for the way they slowed down the two-headed monster of Randolph and Marc Gasol. The two finished a combined 7-25 for 24 points. Ibaka took an elbow to the nose early in the game and was bleeding pretty badly with a nose laceration, but he eventually returned and battled defensively.
Collison turned back the clock and had his best performance in some time, finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds, including 2-2 from 3-point range. It was a team win in the truest sense of the cliche.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
So remember like a week and a half ago when people were freaking out how things weren't really getting better in OKC, and maybe the NBA had kind of figured out how to beat them? Yeah, turns out that may have been a bit premature.
A win like this is a great sign for the Thunder for many reasons. Sure, it was a lot more important to them than it was to Memphis, and sure, they were at home taking on a team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. Still, the Thunder haven't really had a wire-to-wire win over a good team in quite some time. On top of that, they had that swagger to them that has been noticeably absent during their low points.
It seems so simple and obvious to point out, but it's getting pretty hard to deny that this team just needed to be whole again. Durant finally looks to be somewhat back in his groove (assuming the limp isn't serious), and he's back to making confident plays and dominating every facet of the game. In turn, Westbrook seems to appreciate how much space Durant's presence creates for him, and he is doing a much better job at letting the game come to him. Sure, his shot was off, but that free throw total isn't just the result of generous refs - it was Westbrook seeing space and attacking and not allowing the Grizzlies (or any defense for that matter) key in on any one thing.
The Thunder are starting to look like a terrifying 8-seed, and the scariest part for the rest of the league is just how confident they seem to be in themselves. They know they can beat anybody in the league again, no matter what record or seed they may be.
What does this WIN mean for the Thunder going forward?
It's officially the All-Star Break, and considering all of the injuries, they sit at 28-25 and just a half-game back of the 8-seed (tied in the loss column). Think of what a roller-coaster this has been, how depleted the Thunder looked at times, and how much it seemed like all hope was lost.
To their credit, the players and coaches never wavered, saying all along that they believed and that they would be OK once they got healthy. Well, here they are, and whether or not they believed that all along, it's impossible not to believe it now.
The Thunder just stomped one of the best teams in the NBA, and didn't just look like a playoff team in their own right in doing so - they looked like a legitimate contender.
Thunder Wonder: Russin Durestbrook: 50 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison: 15 points, 9 rebounds
Thunder Blunder: Mitch McGary: Reality check against Gasol and Randolph: 0/3, 0 points, 2 rebounds, fouled out
Thunder Plunderer: Zach Randolph: 16 points and 10 rebounds
Next game: All-Star Break! Thunder return to action Thursday, Feb. 19 vs. Dallas Mavericks at 7PM CDT