The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to be back in dominant form, having just smashed the Sacramento Kings, 131-116. Russell Westbrook had a triple-double with 7:43 to go in the third quarter, finishing with an impressive 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. Kevin Durant was nearly as involved, scoring 27 and dishing 6 assists of his own.
But tonight is more notable for two big performances off the Thunder's bench. Enes Kanter was a perfect 11 of 11 from the field enroute to 23 points. Lots of points for Kanter in transition, in the pick and roll, and on post-ups. Dion Waiters was equally as impressive, busting out for a 22 point performance, shooting 8 of 11 from the field. There appears to be a role for Waiters on this team, as he was able to do his work on the weak side and in transition. Waiters mid-range shot was effective around screens, he got to the rim, and the corner three was there as well.
The Kings couldn't get similar production out of their stars, or their bench. DeMarcus Cousins was impressive on the stat sheet, going for 35 points on 42% shooting. But Cousins was less impressive in the second half of the game, shooting just 5 of 15. It's quite possible that Cousins was hindered by injury. Cousins rolled his ankle on the second play of the third quarter and had to exit the game for about four minutes. But the Thunder were able to throw Adams, Kanter, and Ibaka at Cousins throughout various points of the second half. Even Collison came in to help out for a spell, though not directly on Cousins. After the game, Kanter said that his strategy against Cousins was to "be physical".
Rondo quarterbacked the Kings to 12 assists and had 11 points, but shot just 0-4 outside the paint. The Kings had four other players in double figures, but none of them were consistent go-to options. Omri Cassipi was hitting open threes and running in transition. Darren Collison hit some shots around screens. Ben McLemore hit a couple of threes, and mid-range kicks from Rondo. Even Quincy Acy was running the floor, getting energy points. But in the end, the Kings could only go to Cousins and Rondo. And the duo layed a collective fourth quarter egg.
Box Score | Play-by-Play/Shot Chart | Popcorn Machine | Russell Westbrook vs. Rajon Rondo PG Duel Highlights | Kevin Durant 26 Pts Full Highlights | Enes Kanter 23 Pts Full Highlights | DeMarcus Cousins 35 Pts Full Highlights
Why did the Thunder win this game?
With 11:18 to go in the fourth, the Kings were only down 7. But by the 4:58 mark, the Thunder's lead was 23. During this time, only Rondo and Cousins really touched the ball with any intent on the Kings offense. Sacramento got stale. The Thunder were getting so many opportunities in transition that their ballhandling problems weren't coming back to bite them.
But you could look at this game in another way, too. It's obvious to me that the Kings lost emotional control of this game. First off, the Kings were called for four delay of game violations, resulting in three Thunder technical free throws. Here's two of the violations by Rondo, both of which were of maximum silliness.
Here's the other delay of game, this time by Cousins. This one was more like a technical. Check out Boogie's reaction as Adams hooks his shoe. Cousins was soooo close to decking Adams with his fist.
Besides that, DeMarcus Cousins and Quincy Acy had a technical foul each, both of which resulted in Thunder technical free throws. Here's Cousins' technical, which came after a KD rebound.
If all of this weren't enough, Darren Collison committed a clear path foul on Dion Waiters, giving Waiters 2 FT. The Thunder got the ball back, and KD set up a Waiters three.
All of those errors combined for a good chunk of points and emotional energy, I'd say. Life is tough for the Kings without Rudy Gay.
- Really liked what I saw from Serge Ibaka tonight. I know, Ibaka was 4 of 12. But Ibaka will miss from long range, it happens. And I like that the Thunder trusted Ibaka when the Kings left him open. Most importantly, Ibaka posted up the smaller matchup twice and succeeded. Once getting mclemore near the rim, and another time scoring a hook on James Anderson. As always, Ibaka's defense was solid. Definitely a couple stops of Boogie at the rim. Ibaka left Acy/Bellinelli unchecked sometimes, but it was all in the name of guarding Boogie.
- Russell Westbrook's three point game was on point tonight, as he hit 2 of 3. Against the Warriors, Westbrook was good from three as well. It's a shot that Westbrook can get really easily, so I hope that it continues to become more reliable. Westbrook was also 2 of 3 from cotton shot range tonight, and had a couple of layups as well. No post-ups though. Big shout out to Westbrook for curbing his turnovers though. 6 in the first half, only 1 in the second half. I saw Westbrook lose his man at least once on defense, but I'm probably just nitpicking.
- Kyle Singler had a surprisingly good game. Nothing was particularly impressive-looking, but things did happen. Three open threes from Singler, a tip in, and a nice transition pass to Kanter. Defensively I saw Singler make a stop near the rim, but I also saw him get in the way of a Collison charge on Boogie, as well as let Bellinelli slide past him. Nevertheless, probably one of the best Singler games of the year.
- Steven Adams, due to foul trouble, only had 14 minutes tonight. Should the game have been close, adams would surely have gotten the crunch time minutes on Cousins. Unfortunately four of Adams five fouls were on Cousins, with the other one coming on a Rondo drive. Tough to call those on Adams, and frustrations clearly flared between Adams and Boogie. Early in the third, Adams collapsed to the floor on a rebound. Adams then clipped Cousins' shoe with his arm, dragging Cousins. Adams was called for the common foul, but it drew a valuable technical out of Boogie. OFfensively, Adams had a dunk in transition and a putback. Missed short flip shot, lost the ball trying to recover it.
- Kevin Durant took 15 of his 17 shots at least 10 feet away from the rim. Since Durant had the height advantage on his matchup, and the Kings have no shortage of paint protecting bigs, it makes sense. Still, aside from a couple of turnarounds or faceups in mismatches with Bellinelli/Cauley-Stein, Durant was primarily a distributor tonight. Lots of touch passes out of double teams before the defense could react.
- Andre Roberson scored on a lob running from the corner, missed a tough layup in traffic, and bricked a couple of open corner threes. Defensively, I saw Roberson deter McLemore a couple times. Kind of a pedestrian background game for him.
- Randy Foye's most impressive moment probably came when he blocked a Darren Collison shot on the perimeter. It looked really cold. Foye knocked down a pair of corner threes, one from KD and one from Westbrook. There were five other Foye threes that didn't hit, and most of them were early in the shot clock. But none of them were pull-up threes, so we're all good. Foye was also a decent distributor, finding KD, Kanter, and Ibaka for scores. Only one turnover, on a stripped ball. Defensively Foye was decent. A couple of Collison perimeter stops, and a post up stop of Acy. But Rondo got the bast of Foye on a drive twice.
- Dion Waiters stopped a Kosta Koufos post up AND a Willie Cauley-Stein post up. Those were two 7 footers posting up a 6'4" guard. That's grittiness right there.
- Nick Collison came in, took a charge, lost the ball on offense. I'm glad he's not buried on the bench.
- Cam Payne's campaign for minutes might as well be over. Right before Super Tuesday, too. Oh well. I really thought Payne was positive for the team, but Donovan appears set on making Durant and Foye the backup PGs.
- Mitch McGary cameo, solid reverse layup.
- The Thunder set a season record for three pointers taken, at 34. (They made 41% of them)
- The Kings forced OKC into an ugly 21 team turnovers. Basically, Sacramento trapped a lot, encouraging OKC to pass to the open man and get a shot off early. The Kings paid in kind, as the Thunder had 28 assists (6 above their average).
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, whose triple-doubling knows no bounds
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter, with a statement game against an All-Star caliber big
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, gotta hit your jumpers
Thunder Plunderer: DeMarcus Cousins, 35 points don't lie, ever
Next Game: At the Los Angeles Clippers, Wednesday, March 2nd, 9:30 PM Central Standard Time.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!