In a game that was basically decided by the end of three quarters, the Oklahoma City Thunder overran the New Orleans Pelicans, 121-95. The first quarter of the game was competitive, but the Thunder amassed a 17 point advantage over the course of the second and third quarters.
The main catalysts behind the Thunder run were Durant and Westbrook, of course. Durant was extremely tactical tonight. When Asik and Davis were guarding the rim, Durant went to mid-range shots on the shorter Cunningham. But when Ajinca and Anderson were guarding the rim, Durant would attack the rim. Westbrook did his usual thing, scoring in transition, scoring off the pick and roll, and even had a couple catch and shoot threes. All said and done, Durant had 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting, despite some turnover problems. Westbrook was one rebound away from another triple double, and had 23 points to go with that. I will say Westbrook's defense was disappointing at times, as he would leave Cole and Holiday open for shots. But Westbrook never gave anything up in the post, and only had two turnovers. Really, it was a great night from both of the Thunder's two main stars.
Rating the rest of the team
- But I'd also like to give a big shoutout to Serge Ibaka, who was also instrumental to the Thunder's victory tonight. Ibaka was really aggressive rolling to the basket and on the offensive glass tonight. Four made shots for Serge in the paint, along with one of his traditional threes. Defensively, Ibaka spent some time on Anthony Davis. That was about 50/50, but Ibaka did have a really early block in an isolation situation. But Ibaka was switched onto different defenders a lot, and forced a miss out of Holiday, Anderson, and Cunningham. Basically, Ibaka acted as a very effective rim protector while establishing himself as someone who has multiple ways of scoring the ball. Its what we want Ibaka to be every night.
- Singler had an up and down game, but mostly positive. In the first quarter, Singler forced Ryan Anderson into two misses in the post. Singler would force another miss from Anderson at the three point line during the 3rd. During the 2nd, Singler switched onto Jrue Holiday. Holiday had been hot on offense up to that point, with 8 points. Holiday made the first shot on Singler, but Singler forced a steal a couple possessions later. In the third, Holiday drove to the post on Singler twice. So Singler shut down Anderson, but was mediocre on Holiday. Singler continued to make his name heard on other random possessions throughout the game. A Cole drive was stopped by a Singler rotation at the rim. And Singler hit two threes.
- Dion Waiters was strangely deferent tonight, making a lot of risky passes out of the post. But the drives that Waiters did decide to take were magical. One was a really dizzying spin move to the rim. Another was a power play, where Waiters layed it up through two defenders. Other than those two makes, Waiters missed a couple mid-range shots and threes. Meh.
- Cameron Payne definitely took a couple of questionable shots tonight, but I feel like he was stranded late in the shot clock a lot of the time. Still, 8 assists and 3 turnovers isn't bad at all. Two of those turnovers were just an out of bounds call and a travel. And Payne engineered some plays in the early fourth quarter that helped the Thunder keep their lead and not have to bring the starters back in. Most notably, Payne had a long cross-court pass to Morrow for a 3, as well as a pass to Collison for a score at the rim. More of that, please. I even liked Payne's defense, as he hustled around screens to defend shots. There was one possession where Payne just totally lost Holiday and allowed him to score, but I'll let it slide. More than solid game from Payne.
- Adams was interesting. At times Adams had to deal with Anthony Davis. Davis scored on Adams a couple of times, using his speed to get mid-range jumpers. But there was one possession where Adams blocked Davis twice. Otherwise, an awesome performance. Perfect 2-2 from the field, and 4-4 from the line. 3 offensive boards. Multiple solid screens.
- Collison was so-so. Anderson hit 1 of 3 threes on Collison. Offensively, Collison threw a pass to the post that was stolen. But Collison also made a layup.
- Kanter wasn't too much of a liability on defense tonight. Kanter mostly only had to play against Asik or Ajinca, both of whom aren't real offensive threats. Otherwise, Kanter did his best to meet his assignments in mid-range and in the post. Kanter's scores were his usual stuff. Transition, offensive board, open at the rim when KD is double-teamed.
- Morrow really ate up the defense by taking advantage of pressure. All of Morrow's scores were catch and shoot. One of the shots was a weird 10 foot putback on a broken play. I didn't notice any of Morrow's deficiencies on defense. Very positive night. 50% from the field.
- There were some fun times at the end. Steve Novak entered the game and hit a couple of threes off the pick and pop. Mitch McGary got some time with Payne in the pick and roll. And Kanter got every point he possibly could, even lining up for a three at the top of the arc.
- My big takeaway from this game is that the Thunder are really moving off the ball well. On multiple occasions I saw Thunder players run set plays with lots of off-ball screening, and it worked. I'm describing it really simplistically, but trust me it happened.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, who would have triple-doubled had he played a full game
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, inside scorer
Thunder Blunder: Cameron Payne, poor shooting
Thunder Plunderer: Anthony Davis, 23 points on 14 shots
Next Game: Versus the Indiana Pacers, Friday, February 19th, 7 PM Central Standard Time. Happy All-Star Break!
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!