Steven Adams is wearing a world-class Christmas sweater pic.twitter.com/QxjKFwei1O— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 26, 2017
If you can’t tell from Steven Adams’ perfect postgame attire, things are going pretty damn well in OKC. Five straight wins and 11 of the their 14 has the Thunder sitting as the fifth seed in the West. Even more impressive? They’ve won 4 games in 6 nights. They’re clearly finding their groove, and seem to be having fun while doing so.
Thunder nation was treated to a wonderful Christmas yesterday with OKC’s best game of the season thus far. When I initially wrote that, by “best,” I meant entertaining. However, as I think about it more and more, it was the Thunder’s best performance as well. Taking into account the circumstances and opponent, I think that’s a pretty easy call. This was their best win. It was a complete game, where they outplayed the Rockets down the stretch with sharp execution. Spacing, ball movement, and third quarter production! It’s all so much fun.
Against a top 10 defense, OKC’s starters shot 75% from the floor during the second half. That’s Russ self-correcting, Paul George finding rhythm from the tip on both ends, and Melo easing into his stretch role.
Westbrook was 0-6 in the first quarter and 2-10 to start the night. He’d hit 10 of his next 14 to finish with 31 points and 11 assists. George had 24 points on 8-15 shooting, with his defense creating a large portion of that line. Melo continued to embrace his role; he was 8-12 FG with 20 points.
Some will say it’s thanks to more Westbrook pick and rolls, while others will say OKC’s shots are just finally falling. I’ll let you decide what the difference has been over the last few weeks.
Against one of the toughest teams in the league, OKC’s defense was terrific, keeping their rotations tight and swift. Houston forces you to bring it on each and every possession. If you don’t, chances are they’ll nail you with a three or an open dunk. The Thunder take off many plays on the defensive end yesterday.
We also saw Billy Donovan use his depth against an elite opponent. Nervous about Andre Roberson going to the line in a close game? No problem. Donovan showed he can send him to the bench and move Paul George over to James Harden. Perks of having multiple defensive stoppers on the same roster.
More importantly, the Thunder were defending effectively without excessive fouling (albeit OKC did get tagged multiple times fouling a 3-point shooter). Sometimes this can get overlooked, but against a team like Houston, it’s extremely important.
The combination of Roberson and George alone can carry a team’s defensive effort, but Donovan has this group in a collective mindset where everything begins with defending, and it’s fantastic.
- Steven Adams not only dominated the sweater game, but also finished with 15 and 10. His unbelievably valuable presence continues to be prevalent for the Thunder.
- Andre Roberson was tremendous on defense yesterday, coming up with big play after big play to seal the deal. With 21 seconds left, he blocked a Harden three, and then finished the job with a layup at the other end. Here’s the clip:
- More tremendous Roberson defense:
- He also banked in a free throw, much to the delight of Russ:
Andre Roberson banks in a free-throw. Russell Westbrook is all for it. pic.twitter.com/QiO8HcfmnM— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 26, 2017
- After a brutal start to the year, the Thunder are now 10-1 in crunch-time games.
- Westbrook was feeling very festive after this one:
FINAL. The Thunder beat the Houston Rockets 112-107.— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 26, 2017
“Merry Christmas!” pic.twitter.com/rPECAjXjab
- Watching Russ light up when talking about his son Noah is pretty great.
- Melo began yesterday’s game with no sleeves on, before tossing them on during one of the firsts timeouts. When asked about it postgame, he had this response:
Melo and his green hat didn’t want to say why he wasn’t wearing sleeves to start he game: pic.twitter.com/dfhVHf79vN— Royce Young (@royceyoung) December 26, 2017
A Look Ahead
OKC looks for their sixth win in a row on Wednesday night as they welcome the Toronto Raptors to the ‘Peake. Toronto plays tonight in Dallas, but the Raptors are currently riding a six game win streak.
If Toronto defeats the Mavs tonight, Wednesday’s matchup will be a battle between the two longest active win streaks in the NBA.