Bolstered by a franchise-best 6-1 start since relocating, it appears offseason rumors foretelling the Thunder’s downfall are greatly exaggerated. On Monday night, the home-standing Thunder rolled through an overmatched Miami Heat offering, 97-85.
OKC’s attack was spearheaded by standout reserve Enes Kanter’s second-consecutive 20-10 effort (24 points, 10 rebounds). In addition, precocious talent Domantas Sabonis (15) and backcourt stars Victor Oladipo (17) and Russell Westbrook (14) contributed strong performances.
James Johnson’s 18-point outing led the now 2-4 Heat. Other Miami players to reach twin-figures include: Willie Reed, Goran Dragic, and Luke Babbit (eleven each). Tyler Johnson added ten.
A balanced Oklahoma City Thunder iteration stormed from the gate, quickly amassing a 16-8 edge. All five Thunder starters scored during this flurry. Meanwhile, as Miami’s known quantities misfired, unheralded wings Luke Babbit (7 points) and James Johnson (7 points) kept the opening-quarter competitive. Ultimately, though, OKC concluded the first-quarter with a 39-28 lead due to palpable team synergy — and Enes Kanter’s ten points and five rebounds.
Searching for ways to overturn an eleven-point deficit, Miami’s creditable defense flexed its muscle during an improved second-period display. Overall, the Heat limited OKC to just 16 points in the quarter. At intermission, Miami pulled within eight, 55-47.
Sensing a burgeoning possibility of being upset on their home floor, Oklahoma City quelled such sentiment with an inspired 20-0 run to begin the third. Superstar Russell Westbrook led an inexorable charge that saw OKC establish an 83-61 advantage heading into the final period of play.
With the Thunder bench emptied, Miami proffered one final effort to create a competitive margin. However, Oklahoma City failed to comply, slamming the door on a Heat rally-job to claim a hard-fought 97-85 victory.
On an uplifting evening for OKC basketball, the team’s supporting cast overcame an at times sub-par performance from Russell Westbrook. Big-men Domantas Sabonis and Enes Kanter’s double-double offerings owned the night. Sabonis’ accelerated acclimation progressed with career-best totals of 15 points and ten rebounds.
Oklahoma City’s strong suit continues to be evident on the defensive end. A staunch OKC collective held Miami to just 85 points on 37 percent shooting.
Coach Billy Donovan deserves praise for extracting every ounce of talent and cohesion thus far from his still-developing group.
The Thunder resume a five-game home-stand Wednesday vs. Toronto.