The Gregorian calender’s third month has served as both a harsh and revitalizing revelation for Oklahoma City Thunder basketball.
Billy Donovan’s crew began the season’s penultimate 31 days by dropping four-consecutive to sub .500 competition. As hope faded, however, Oklahoma City stormed back to amass a current unbeaten run of equal duration.
More so, two of these reclamation victories came away from Chesapeake Energy Arena — a sore spot for OKC — with last night’s win occurring in Toronto vs. the playoff-bound Raptors.
Behind 17.5 assists per, Russell Westbrook energized OKC’s 63 assist, 2-0 road trip. Furthermore, opposite Toronto, Westbrook (24 pts, 16 ast, 12 rebs) amassed triple-double #34 while infusing an offense that saw ten Thunder finish with 5+ points.
When all cleared north of the border, OKC’s 123-102 triumph proclaimed how far this team has ascended since March 2.
With this in mind, the following is a glance at four additional observations from OKC’s final meeting of the season vs. Eastern Conference rival Toronto (39-29).
- Westbrook’s measured dominance:
While dishing eleven first-half assists, with many coming in spectacular open-court fashion, Russell Westbrook asserted total control of his team’s offensive outpouring versus Dwane Casey’s estimable collective.
During this brief, but successful road sojourn it seemed Westbrook reached an understanding of how to perfectly distribute his considerable scoring/passing faculties to best suit his team’s needs.
What an assist from Russell Westbrook. pic.twitter.com/FJRhSXn1UV— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 17, 2017
The Thunder is now 28-6 when Westbrook triple-doubles.
2. Victor Oladipo’s two-way performance:
Combined with his unyielding defense, Oladipo’s outside shooting and relentless rim attacks have greatly aided OKC’s recent cause.
Oladipo added 23 points and 3-3 3PM while regularly finishing above-the-rim vs. the Raptors.
The 6’4 guard’s stock is rising at just the right time.
3. OKC three-point shooting:
An added function of the team’s 33 assists was a strong 14-of-25 display from deep. Seven Thunder contributed a made three, as Westbrook (4-8) and Oladipo (3-3) led the pack.
Though not constructed as an outside shooting entity, of late, the Thunder has shown enough improvement in that crucial area to keep teams honest. When OKC’s perimeter game flows, naturally, avenues to the rim become available for either Westbrook drives or assists.
4. Andre Roberson’s hounding defense:
With All-Star Kyle Lowry sidelined, OKC’s main defensive objective became limiting prolific scorer DeMar DeRozan’s (27.1 ppg) output.
During OKC’s failed Nov. 9 meeting against Toronto, DeRozan poured in 37 points as his team upended OKC at “The Peake” 112-102.
However, Thursday evening, Andre Roberson became an ever-present thorn in the three-time All Star’s side. As Roberson (13 pts, 3 ast, 2 stls) contested every DeRozan angle and shot, Toronto’s leading scorer finished with 22 points— 5 below his season’s average.
Due to performances such as the above-mentioned, Roberson has left no doubt concerning his laurels as an All-NBA defender.
Thunder fans need to start an ANDRE ROBERSON-1st team all defense campaign. #Hedeservesit— Antonio Daniels (@adaniels33) March 16, 2017
Now the voting panel just needs to make things official at the season’s end.
Quote of the night:
DeMar DeRozan on Oklahoma City’s 48-minute advance:
"That team (Oklahoma City) played with a sense of urgency. "Everything you can think of from the get-go, we didn't do -- and the score told that."
While ten games above .500 for the second time this season, Oklahoma City returns home Saturday vs. Sacramento in hopes of gaining a fifth-straight W.