The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 113-96. Recording their 3rd consecutive win in this season without a loss, the Thunder played their best game so far in controlling the talented but young Lakers throughout much of the game. The Thunder were once again led by Russell Westbrook, who recorded his 2nd triple-double of the season.
Russell Westbrook is the first player since Magic in 1982-83 to have a triple-double in two of the first three games.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) October 31, 2016
I have to admit, I laughed out loud. Which got an odd look from my wife, who was watching some lame Hallmark Christmas movie (don’t ask). But when Westbrook signed off on the night and they flashed his final stat line: 33-16-12 (and 7 TO’s), I laughed. It is from the ridiculous to the sublime (or from the sublime to the ridiculous); Westbrook’s ability to completely chew up lesser guard competition borders on the absurd. The best that most of them can do is to try and get him on the other end of the court, but with the way his offense is now so multifaceted, lesser teams simply cannot catch up.
Russell Westbrook is the first player in NBA history to have 100 points, 30 boards & 30 assists in first three games of season. (Elias)— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) October 31, 2016
Aside from Westbrook’s dominance over the Lakers, this was the most complete that we have seen the Thunder this season on both ends of the court. To be sure OKC was aided by some poor shooting by the Lakers, particularly from the perimeter (7-32 from 3-point range), but any time the Lakers began to make a push, such as when Lakers guard Nick Young scored 6 straight points in 9 seconds in the 4th quarter to cut the Thunder lead to 4, Westbrook immediately righted the ship and his aggressive control (or controlled aggression), coupled with stellar execution, pushed the Lakers right back into a game of pursuit.
Prior to the beginning of the season, I read our comrade at Daily Thunder Royce Young’s fearless predictions and arrived at this one, and thought it extremely fair:
The Thunder will have a losing record in two possession games. This is going to be their big problem, methinks. Westbrook isn’t a very good clutch time player, and there’s a question of if he’ll have enough trust to distribute the ball to others in big spots. I could see the Thunder losing a lot of four and five-point games.
That seemed entirely reasonable, given that without #35’s reliable clutch shot-making in 4th quarters, Westbrook and his much lower shooting percentages would be left to shoulder much of the burden, especially in close games. However, we have seen quite the opposite through 3 games. In games 1 & 2, OKC trailed for much of them before crushing the 76ers in the 4th, 34-22, slowing down the Suns 25-19 to force OT, and finally tonight, blasting L.A. 36-25 in the 4th to win by 17. In fact, once the Lakers cut the lead to 4 with 4:43 remaining, the Thunder outscored them 18-5 to close it out. It is only through 3 games, but this unexpected focus with games on the line is one of the best positives so far.
A few remaining bullet points:
- Steven Adams got back on track tonight after tussling with the great Tyson Chandler, who did much to slow down Adams’ performance on Friday night. Adams is at his best when he’s getting in and out of the high PnR quickly, which both opens up lanes for him to catch lobs as well as allows Westbrook to turn the corner and either attack or find shooters on the weak side.
- To celebrate Enes Kanter Day, Enes recorded a 16-6 in 22 minutes, which is pretty much the par for the course for Kanter. Which really means that every game day is Enes Kanter Day.
- Stache Bros update: 30 points, 18 rebounds on 14-22 shooting.
- We witnessed some effective Thunder 3-point offense tonight. Now you might be shocked since OKC only shot a solid but uninspiring 9-26 from long range (34.6%), but the shots that were coming were quality looks. Particularly in the 3rd quarter, OKC was consistently producing open shots for their shooters. Unfortunately, they were missing most of them. In total the team shot 2-10 in the quarter, with Victor Oladipo shooting 1-4, Ersan Ilyasava shooting 0-2, Andre Roberson shooting 0-2, and Kyle Singler missing his lone attempt. But for the most part, they were good looks, either coming out of designed sets or drive-and-kicks that created a ton of open space. These shots will be there, and OKC needs to have the personnel out there to make sure they don’t waste the opportunities (Morrow? Abrines?).
- Props to Semaj Christon, who I just kind of like out there because he’s a big, strong guard who can push his way around on offense and generates good looks for himself and his shooters. I am under no illusions - he probably will never get quite good enough to earn a starting job anywhere, but there are enough strengths in his game that his role as a backup PG makes a ton of sense, especially if he can control his turnovers. That said, he might have one of the worst free throw shooting mechanics by a guard I’ve ever seen. Don’t waste those opportunities, Semaj!
- James E. Pepper 1776 Rye, in case you were wondering.