The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Miami Heat on the road, 106-94. Fueled by Russell Westbrook’s 15th triple-double of the season, OKC controlled the game from the outset over a shorthanded Heat team that was missing Goran Dragic and former Thunder guard Dion Waiters. Oklahoma City was never seriously threatened despite playing most of the game with a Baywatch slow-running level intensity. Which is not to say that OKC was bad, not by a long shot. Their collective abilities rise by the game, and is because of this that the game largely turned into an anti-climactic affair. Once the Thunder established in the 1st quarter that their A-level play was significantly better than what Miami could muster, the rest of the game was spent playing keep-away with a straight-arm conviction that would make Gumby proud. And Westbrook? The first man to complete 30 triple-doubles in a calendar year since Oscar Robertson? Ho hum...
Russell Westbrook is now 3 triple doubles short of the 18 he registered in what was considered an incredible campaign last season.— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) December 28, 2016
This game, aside from Westbrook’s control over the affair, was largely about the Thunder’s inside game and their bench play. The Stache Bros Steven Adams and Enes Kanter combined for 34 and 16 (11 offensive) on 16-26 shooting. Hassan Whiteside, the Heat’s shot-blocking center, registered 4 of them on the night, but any time the Thunder could force the Miami defense to move around a little bit, it left Adams/Kanter open for easy shots at the rim.
The bench overall continued its torrid play in large part because of Kanter’s expanding role in creating offense for himself and others. In particular, he and rookie Alex Abrines are continuing to build great inside-outside chemistry, as Kanter finished with 14 of his 16 points in the paint, while Abrines was once again the Thunder’s best 3-point shooter, connecting on 4-7 and finishing with 14 points overall. Jerian Grant chipped in with 10 points as well, and Kyle Singler played.
I know that we all would love it if OKC would come out and blow out a team like this by 30, and they probably could have if that were the goal. But right now, it isn’t. Right now, the goal is to win games they have to win with a base effort, continue to figure things out, get a little bit better each time, and move on. If OKC can win a game convincingly in this season of revival while playing C+/B- basketball, to me that is far more a tell-tale sign of their improvement and ceiling than if they routed a weak Miami team by 35.
The win is OKC’s 4th in a row, pushing their record to 20-12, moving them into 5th place in the Western Conference as 2016 nears its end.
Bookers, in case you were wondering. No, this game did not justify Bookers, but hey, Bookers justifies itself.