Steven Adams controls the game
The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to overcome a 20 point deficit tonight, eventually convincingly winning the game 109-97. Steven Adams was the big story of the game, playing a whopping 42 minutes and virtually taking control of the game at the rim. His statline of 13 points and 16 boards is nice, but it doesn't even begin to describe how he effected this game.
I mean, in the first 10 minutes of this game, Adams was absolutely destroyed by Markieff Morris. Morris shot 7-8 for 16 points during that time, using his speed and range to give Adams fits. Adams managed to recover during the rest of the game, though. Markieff would only shoot 3-12 during that stretch, as Adams did a much better job of just staying a step closer when he needed to. Adams was also a ferocious rim protector during the second half in particular. I counted 8 separate possessions where Steven's D near the rim was absolutely key. Simply put, the Suns couldn't beat Adams down the floor, and their offense was too simplistic to look past him.
One quarter is all Westbrook needs
Russell Westbrook scored the Thunder's final 15 points of the second quarter. In other words, Westbrook kept OKC's butts in this game when things were looking dreadful. Russ scored his points in transition, posting up, getting to the line, getting his own offensive board, and hitting a three off a screen. The sheer variety of ways in which he scored during that short stretch is a testament to just how difficult buckets were to come by for Russ during the rest of the game.
Without Westbrook's second quarter surge, he shot 5 of 19 on the night. Russ had a hard time getting going early on, as he was slapped with a technical not even a minute into the game. The referee took umbrage to the way Russ addressed him. You see, Marcus Morris raked Kyle Singler across the face while Singler was running baseline, and unintentionally tripped over Singler's head while Singler was down. Russ was outraged that it wasn't an immediate flagrant.
The incident may have upset Westbrook's rhythm somewhat, as he finished the first quarter 2 of 7 with 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Westbrook's shot selection was on par with his average, as he generally worked in the pick and roll and on post ups. But the two off the dribble threes he took weren't fantastic. The third quarter was basically the same story as the first for Russ, as he went 2 of 7 again and got the shots he wanted, but didn't get all of them to go down.
This might be the point where you'd think that I'd mention a great Westbrook fourth quarter run. But there was no need, as the Thunder bench had already built an 11 point lead by the time Russ entered with 6 minutes left in the fourth.
The bench pulls it out in the clutch
A lineup of Adams-Singler-Waiters-Morrow-Augustin managed to pull a 13-0 run during the mid-fourth quarter, decimating an already frustrated Suns team. That lineup played fantastic defense, triggering a few scores on the break. The offense was really swell to watch too, as it took more than one pass to get every half court three that they hit. I saw a little bit of motion offense from them that the Thunder didn't break out for the rest of the game, so that was interesting.
In my eyes, two things made that lineup work. The first was Kyle Singler, who is always in the right spot on offense and plays completely unselfishly. Singler was a four year man at Duke, so it makes sense. Singler also had the speed necessary to keep up with the Morris twins on the perimeter defensively in the fourth. The other thing that really made the Thunder's fourth quarter lineup work was the relentless pressure that they played on D. Brooks ordered Waiters, Morrow, and Augustin to body their man as soon as they crossed half-court, and it really gutted the Suns ability to run at the rim. It sounds weird, but the Suns get a lot of surprise drives just by starting them from half-court, and the pressure in the fourth quarter stopped all of that nonsense.
How the Suns' offense began to set
The Suns had a great deal of success getting into the paint during the first half, scoring 32. But Phoenix would only score 14 points in the paint during the second half. It was clear to me that Scott Brooks made an adjustment going into the second half, ordering the Thunder to make a concerted effort to protect the rim AND the corner three. Just check out the Suns shot chart from the first two quarters, and compare it to the one from the third:
By the time the fourth rolled around, the Suns weren't making the passes that they were before. Phoenix had only 6 assists in the entire second half, after 17 in the first half. I mean, all eight Suns that played in the second quarter managed to score in that quarter. But the ball movement just stopped, and Phoenix resorted to chucking. Brandon Knight was probably the worst offender in the third quarter, going 0-4 before a nasty ankle sprain took him out of the game. Markieff Morris was a worse 0-6, but at least his shots came within the flow of the offense.
- What to say about Dion Waiters? His shot selection was eh. Dion pretty much gets to the right spots now, but sometimes takes shots at the wrong times. At least defenders respect him, and he's getting to the rim in transition. All he needs to learn how to do now is finish.
- I'm kinda disappointed that Kanter didn't have a better offensive game. Considering Kanter's a lot bigger than anybody the Suns would have at four, you'd expect him to be able to post up and score. But it just didn't happen a lot, and Kanter wasn't very effective in limited opportunities. For now he'll just stick to the extremely effective pick and roll, I guess.
- I loved in the late first/early second when the Thunder were sustaining their offense by getting to the line on weak-side drives. If OKC can actually move the ball from side to side when Augustin is in, whomever gets the ball will likely be in great position to score.
- D.J. Augustin had three three point field goals in the fourth, but he also had three key defensive deflections that gave the Thunder possession. Great job of spacing the floor when the Thunder need it and running offense.
- Despite the huge comeback, OKC shot between 43-50% in each quarter. Phoenix shot 62% in the first, 52% in the second, 29% in the third, and 38% in the fourth. Talk about different worlds....
- Adams fell to the floor on two consecutive plays in the fourth, and once on another play in the fourth as well.
- Anthony Morrow. Two clutch threes in the fourth, and another game where he shoots absurdly well. 4-6.
- OKC has now won the battle of the boards in 12 of their last 13, with San Antonio being the exception.
Thunder Wonder: Steven Adams, because I'm a Kiwi homer
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, the one man offense
Thunder Blunder: Mitch McGary, no field goal attempts against the Suns? Comeon, man. Great celebrations, though.
Thunder Plunderer: T.J. Warren, a dynamo scoring force from anywhere inside 12 feet
Next Game: Versus the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, April 1st, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!