In an extremely satisfying blowout triggered by a late third quarter run, the Oklahoma City Thunder have defeated the Miami Heat, 99-74. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 24 points, using great transition play and mismatches on defense to do his dirty work. Russell Westbrook was the main star of the show though, registering his fifth triple-double of the season. Despite some trouble shooting the ball early in the game, Westbrook never had any problems getting into the lane and drawing the defense. Westbrook's 15 assists and mere threee turnovers are by far the most impressive part of his statline. Five of those assists went to Durant, four to Ibaka, three to Adams, two to Roberson, and one to Waiters. In every sense, Westbrook orchestrated the Thunder's performance on the floor tonight.
Defensively, it was a great performance from Andre Roberson. With Dragic out, Wade became Miami's primary ball handler. This meant Wade was constantly attacking off the dribble, and had his way with Roberson in the first half. I remember a couple of particularly tough floaters. But Roberson really stepped it up in the second half, where Wade was only able to score four points.
Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka also played a pivotal role in this game. Wade was able to score so effectively in the first half because Enes Kanter was committing serious mistakes on the offensive and defensive end. During Kanters brief first half appearance as a power forward, Kanter was blocked twice and Wade scored six points in the paint. But take away those two makes, and the Heat shot just 7-22 on the night. That was all Adams and Ibaka. The Heat were constantly running pick and rolls for Whiteside and Bosh, all the while trying to get their guards in the paint. The Thunder counteracted it by staying deep, and having their defenders switch around screens. The Heat simply didn't have the personnel to take advantage of the resulting mismatches.
Dion Waiters awakens from his slumber
Just a fantastic night for Dion Waiters. I really liked how Dion played off of other players in the first half. Every shot Waiters took was off of a pass or immediately around a screen. There were no moments for Dion to make bad decisions, because he was given a set role within the offense.
And yet, I have to praise Waiters' decision making in the second half. There was that really nice assist to Kyle Singler off the drive. Then there were more points at the rim, or off of a mid-range screen. No more Dion ISO ball, no more Dion stepbacks. Just Neon Deon in a sunset orange uniform.
Waiters, post-game: "Just in a good rhythm. Just attacking, keeping the defense on their heels. You know, I'm going downhill*. I'm in a great place right now, as far as mentally. I'm just playing basketball and having fun doing it."
*"Going downhill" means running towards the basket with momentum
- OKC shot 3 of 13 from three in the first half, and were only up by 2. I think these stats go hand in hand, as the Heat really wanted the Thunder to waste possessions by taking quick shots. The Heat would always leave the perimeter kinda open, and encourage the Thunder to take that shot. But OKC was more deliberate and less trigger happy in the second half, as the team shot 4 of 9.
- Whiteside's statline looks impressive, as he shot 7 of 9. But three of those shots were jumpers which he doesn't normally make. So I like how Adams stayed low on those plays to protect the paint.
- Gerald Green checked into the game in the second quarter and immediately hit a three. Donovan saw enough, and immediately matched up Singler on him. Green didn't score for the rest of the game, and Singler would provide some solid defense of Luol Deng later. Heck, Singler even hit a three in the fourth!
- I touched a bit on Kanter's bad defense. But his offense was even worse in the second half. The Heat always seemed to know the exact moment Kanter would hoist a shot in the post. And the mid-range shot didn't go. Kanter really got it going in the fourth quarter though....against Udonis Haslem and Amare Stoudemire.
- Andre Roberson was a big part of the third quarter run. Another one of those set plays where he dunks out of the corner, a score in transition, and a score while playing pick and roll with Steven Adams. Also, Roberson literally grabbed the ball right after the tip-off and forced a re-tip with Deng. Gotta love Roberson's hustle.
- Tyler Johnson was barking at the referees all game, trying to get foul calls. It eventually caught up with him in the third quarter, as he got a technical for it. Westbrook almost got angry early on, but Ibaka calmed him down.
- Payne missed all three of his attempts tonight. The three Payne took was decently open, and he missed a couple of his trademark tough floaters as well. But Payne had two assists and no turnovers tonight. And the two assists got Waiters and Kanter going in the fourth, as OKC put away any last hopes of the Heat catching up.
- I really liked KD's play tonight. Durant definitely didn't do too well in one-on-one situations, and struggled to handle the ball a bit as well. But that's just because the Heat are so good as pressure, and KD needs space to work. But here's what was important: KD did a great job of protecting the rim more than once tonight, providing help D as a big man rolled to the rim. Also, Deng, Durant's matchup, was 0-5.
- Mitch McGary made an end of game cameo, and hit a turnaround shot.
- I saw Morrow hit a halfcourt shot at halftime. It was immediately followed by a McGary three from at least six feet behind the line.
- OKC fans sing happy birthday to Dwyane Wade pre-game.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, best point guard in the NBA
Thunder Down Under: KD, the transition monster
Thunder Blunder: Enes Kanter, who luckily won't have to see Hassan Whiteside every night
Thunder Plunderer: Dwyane Wade, 22 points on his birthday
Next Game: At the Denver Nuggets, Tuesday January 19th, 8 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!