Things are happening in OKC.
After last night’s win in Utah, that’s four straight for the Thunder. Russ racked up his league-leading 11th triple double, while Paul George had 26 points and was masterful once again on defense. Let’s not forget about Melo. He finished with 16 points on the night, but continued to adapt into his stretch role.
Pretty great, right? Want to hear something even better? The Thunder won the third quarter. I know, that brings me joy too. On the second night of a back to back out in Utah, they managed to outscore the Jazz 29-21 in the third frame.
The real storyline from Saturday night was OKC’s defensive prominence. It’s nothing new to most Thunder fans, but it needs to be noted because it’s how Billy Donovan’s club is winning games.
The Thunder shot 44% from the field against Utah and were missing the efficiency that they enjoyed against Atlanta on Friday night. Not a great clip, but that doesn’t matter when you play defense like OKC has been.
Paul George has been the catalyst to their defensive strength all year long, and Saturday night was no different. He had 6 steals amongst countless deflections that aren’t always easy to keep track of, but with a 24 second shot clock, every time you force the offense to reset, you’re gaining an advantage. The Thunder would ultimately score 20 points off turnovers. Defense is one thing, and capitalizing on it at the other end is another. George was tremendous in both regards yesterday.
PG being active and tenacious on defense is unbelievably important. Last night he was just that, as the Jazz 22 points or less in each of their first three quarters. This was a solid adjustment after giving up 117 points on Friday night to the Atlanta Hawks.
On night’s where shots aren’t falling consistently, this defense brings energy to a formerly deflated group.
- The Thunder have now won 10 of 13 and head into their Christmas Day matchup with a full head of steam.
- This was Westbrook’s 90th career triple double (27-10-10). Since Russ entered the league, all Jazz players combined have zero.
- Melo finished with 16p, 6r, and 3a. He looks more and more comfortable in his stretch role every game, even when the shots aren’t falling.
- No numbers here, but tonight was a great win for the Thunder. The second night of a back to back on the road is never easy, but they grinded this one out.
- Saturday was OKC’s last meeting with Utah, and Westbrook made sure to chat with Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell after the game. Pretty cool clip:
Thunder wrap up the win. OK3 gives love to rookie Donovan Mitchell — including Russell Westbrook, who rarely ever does such a thing. pic.twitter.com/6AM4IJzzfG— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 24, 2017
Donovan Mitchell said he grew up watching Russell Westbrook: "For that to— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) December 24, 2017
happen was pretty special. He just told me to keep going.”
A Look Ahead
The Thunder head into their big Christmas Day matchup with the Rockets on a season-high four-game winning streak. Houston sits at 25-6 on the season.
OKC follows up this matchup with games against Toronto (23-8) and Milwaukee (17-14). Tough week for the Thunder, but intriguing nonetheless.