Friday night, the upgraded Oklahoma City Thunder held court 110-93 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
From the opening tip, Russell Westbrook (17 pts, 18 rebs, 17 ast) dictated pace as Oklahoma City assisted on ten of its eleven first-quarter baskets. Minus late-game scratch Victor Oladipo (back spasms), Westbrook exhibited a patented ease of manner in attaining his 28th triple-double of the season.
The Thunder is 22-6 when Russell reaches twin-figures in points/rebounds/assists. Meanwhile, emerging rookie Alex Abrines (19) made the most of his first-career start. Also, in an impressive team effort, Andre Roberson (19 pts, 7 rebs), Steven Adams (15), and newcomer Taj Gibson (12) each shined.
Due to the uplifting performances of trade-deadline acquisitions Gibson and Doug McDermott (8 pts, 4 rebs), GM Sam Presti has enhanced his already noted status as master architect.
Regarding Oklahoma City’s newest duo, Coach Billy Donovan opted to bring McDermott and Gibson into the fray cautiously by utilizing both in an effective reserve capacity.
As Oklahoma City began its remaining 25 game slate on a positive note, the Los Angeles Lakers (19-40) continued a prolonged slide.
Though Luke Walton’s young group displayed consistent effort, much more was needed from the purple and gold.
Overall, OKC held LAL to an ineffectual 39/20/42/ shooting split. Second-year standout D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 29 points, as Jordan Clarkson (14), and Julius Randle (13 pts, 11 rebs) worked to remain within striking distance until a third-quarter meltdown decided matters.
Oklahoma City’s three-point shooting (10-24) and whirring ball movement (28 assists on 44 made baskets) highlighted a night that saw the anticipated return of Enes Kanter (4 pts, 7 rebs, 18 mins) combine with the dawning of a new era in Oklahoma City Thunder basketball.
Victorious, OKC is now 33-25. The Thunder remain at home for a Sunday evening encounter with Boogie and the Brow’s New Orleans Pelicans.
- Westbrook’s opening-quarter floor generalship: “The Brodie” amassed seven first-stanza assists to involve his teammates — most notably Abrines— as OKC set an uninterrupted offensive flow.
- Alex Abrines: The rookie continues to impress (7-13 FGM, 5-11 3PM). Abrines and McDermott’s combined floor-spacing prowess will boost the two-man game of Russ and Adams.
- Gibson/McDermott’s debut: On short turnaround following a last-minute trade from Chicago, OKC’s newest contributors combined for 20 points, eight rebounds, and 9-of-21 shooting to bolster OKC’s reserve game.
- Enes Kanter’s return: Kanter looked on the mend as he rejoined the team well ahead of schedule.
- Team three-point shooting and ball movement: The offense flowed smoothly tonight against a porous Lakers defense. Although, anytime Oklahoma City connects on 41.7% of its attempts from deep, that is a great sign.
- Andre Roberson’s outside shooting: Robes was three-of-three from deep: No, that is not a typo. Congrats Andre, no one is more deserving.
- Semaj Christon: With Cameron Payne removed from the picture, Christon (0 pts, 3 turnovers, -2 +/-) did little to avail himself from his detractors. Presti should definitely use his open roster space to find a serviceable back-up PG.
- Jerami Grant’s plus/minus: Though Grant (3-3 FGM, 7 pts, 2 rebs, 1 steal, 1 blk) looked great from a raw-stat perspective, his egregiously high -19 +/- was cause for concern.
- Turnovers: 17 turnovers against a non-lottery team would probably become problematic. Though OKC has new players in tow, this type of sloppy play will be fully exploited by a responsible defensive unit.
Nonetheless, tonight proved to be an inspiriting step forward within a restructured Thunder Nation.
Also of note: Oklahoma City is amid a three-game home-stand, which concludes Tuesday night vs. Northwest Division leading Utah.