The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Washington Wizards, 126-115. In former Thunder head coach Scott Brooks’ first return to the stadium where he led so many squads to victories but never quite over the hump, his new Wizards team nearly pulled off the upset. Trailing by double-digits for most of the game, Washington earned a focused comeback as OKC faltered and Washington held a 7 point lead with 3:10 remaining. However, as they have so many times this season so far, the Thunder refocused on both ends of the court and outscored the Wizards 13-6 down the stretch, tying up the game with a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining to send it into overtime.
In OT, the aforementioned Westbrook, previously having struggled for much of the night, scored 14 of the Thunder’s 21 points in the extra period, finishing with a final stat line of 35-14-11 with 2 steals (and 5 turnovers). The outcome created a weird bookend of a night, with OKC dominating the 1st quarter and OT while floundering in the kiddy pool for much of the middle.
What happened, and why were the underperforming Wizards almost able to pull off the upset, especially after OKC got off to a great start? Two things, I think. 1) Westbrook kept gravitating toward knockout punch mode during the middle quarters, which led to a lot of rushed offense and bad shots; and 2) OKC seemed to forget for a while the fact that their margin for winning and losing is still relatively small, allowing a weaker Wizards team to hang around and nearly get the win.
The Thunder really should have controlled this game throughout with their huge advantages in the middle, as the combination of Steven Adams (12 points), Enes Kanter (14 points), and Domantas Sabonis (10 points) on a collective 14-21 shooting was overwhelming the undersized Washington front line. Coupled with that, Victor Oladipo had another stellar game, finishing with 25 points on 10-16 shooting with 6 rebounds and 6 assists, including 5-9 from 3-point range. The team compiled 28 assists, shot 48.4% from the floor, and 40% from 3-point range.
However, with the offense going very Scott Brooks-ish, combined with Westbrook trying to go full honey badger on John Wall when he really just needed to keep setting up his bigs, it was the Thunder who needed end-game heroics once again. And once again, they answered the bell. This team closes well. I don’t know why, I don’t get it, and I never would have guessed Westbrook would turn into a clutch end-game shooter, but there you go. And here he comes.
- The Thunder went to an interesting 3-guard line-up down the stretch, playing Westbrook, Oladipo, and Semaj Christon together to counter the Wizards, and it worked surprisingly well. The key was that all three of them committed to sound perimeter defense, which eliminated a lot of the driving lanes that the guards had been exploiting in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
- I understand why Enes Kanter was a defensive liability against the guard oriented Wizards offense, but it seemed to me this was one of the rare cases where his offensive output would have surpassed his defensive struggles, since Washington has no real rim protectors.
- Random thought - small forward Kelly Oubre (12 points, 6 rebounds) was the 15th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Number 14? Cameron Payne.
- Anthony Morrow cooled off a bit, but his being on the court is causing significant offensive gravity issues for defenses, and that is likely a reason why he played 31 minutes and finished the game with a team-high +20.
- Westbrook’s game-tying 3-pointer would have made Dion proud.
- Andre Roberson, another fine all-around game, although he picked up a couple cheap-o fouls that limited his effectiveness. Regardless, he stepped up and hit a huge 3-pointer (2-3 on the night) that triggered the comeback with 3 minutes remaining.
- That’s 4 wins in a row (and 4 triple-doubles in a row), albeit against weak competition. And finally, a few days of rest for the Thunder, as that is now 4 OT games out of the first 20 in this young season.
- Henry McKenna 10 year small batch, in case you were wondering.