clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thunder Views: Russ being Russ, clutch time, and passionate Melo

New, comments

Our first thriller of the year, plus the first answer to everyone’s favorite question.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In a wild game of runs, the Thunder came up short thanks to an Andrew Wiggins buzzer beater (and a questionable screen at half court). Wiggins was unbelievable last night, which provokes the idea of watching him play for the next 10+ years. If that doesn’t excite you as an NBA fan, I don’t know what will.

In terms of the Thunder, they weren’t the most consistent bunch against the T-Wolves, but considering this was the second night of a back-to-back, that shouldn’t be the most surprising thing ever. A positive point? They were much better offensively against Minnesota than they were in Utah (see points in the paint). The storylines in OKC’s heartbreaker are endless. I’ll do my best to go about them as briefly as possible, but my apologies if this turns into a 10,000 word novel (it won’t, I promise).

Spotlight

I could focus on a number of things from last night, but I think it’s best to keep it simple.

Russ looked like MVP Russ for the first time this season. He was nearly perfect in the fourth quarter, creating open space for his teammates, while also scoring at will. In a game where the OK3 (I’ve decided I’m not really a fan of the nickname, but maybe it’ll grow on me) didn’t have the most complete performance, Westbrook stepped up in clutch time and took charge.

This is important for a few reasons. For one, it showed that the three of them can work fluidly, even when one of them is controlling the pace. The floor doesn’t have to be completely balanced. Towards the back end of this game, everything was running through Russ, and that was just fine. The final five minutes was some of the best ball we’ve seen these three play together. Secondly, the Thunder finally got to experience their first “clutch time” minutes of the season. Everyone keeps asking who will take the final shot on this team. Last night, both Russ and Melo handled the two big time shots, which is a telling sign for the future. If these three are playing smoothly with one another, they’ll open each other up with some great looks. Whoever has the best one will most likely be putting up that final shot.

I was a big fan of Russ taking charge in the fourth, and it was clear that Anthony and George were as well. I’m sure it won’t be like that in every close game, but it was nice to see one option play out in the effective manner that it did — even if it wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Quick Rumbles

  • Josh Huestis received some rare meaningful minutes last night. This could’ve been a result of Terrance Ferguson’s ankle injury, but Huestis was effective in his 14 minutes of action.
  • Speaking of Ferguson, the rookie injured his ankle in warm ups, but appeared on the bench with a mild ankle sprain. He was available to play according to the Thunder.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns set a questionable screen to free up Wiggins’ last second shot. It appears as though Towns steps into the screen, which looked to shake up Paul George. The final play is below, so you can take a look for yourself, but we’ll hear the NBA’s ruling at some point today. Looked pretty illegal if you ask me.
  • Steven Adams had a battle with Karl-Anthony Towns from start to finish on Sunday. Both big men finished with double-doubles. 17 points and 13 rebounds for Adams. 27 and 12 for KAT.
  • Melo caring about basketball is something we didn’t see much of in NYC. Tonight we did and it was great:
  • Adams could totally be a dual sport athlete:
  • Andre Roberson got to the line once tonight, but things didn’t go too well:
  • Paul George was solid in starting the break last night. He’ll be a huge factor for OKC’s transition offense throughout this season.
  • I may have done too many bullet points, but here’s the crazy sequence of plays that pushed the Thunder to 1-2 on the year:

A Look Ahead

This matchup was unbelievably entertaining. Lucky for us, the Thunder and T-Wolves play again this Friday in Minnesota. If you were unable to catch last night’s game, try and watch Friday’s sequel, you won’t be disappointed.

Before traveling to Minneapolis, the Thunder face off with Paul George’s old squad, the Indiana Pacers, on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The reunion will obviously be the lead headline in this one, but Thunder fans will also be seeing a familiar face in Victor Oladipo. He’s led Indiana in scoring in all three of their games so far this season.

The Pacers face the T-Wolves on Tuesday night before traveling to OKC, so they could experience some of second night woes of a back-to-back set. Indiana sits at 1-2 on the year as well.