The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Washington Wizards at home, 121-112. On the day where All-Star teams were announced to the public, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal showed that not only are they an integral part of the event, but can make it special.
Halfway through this game, we thought we were in for a defensive battle, as OKC led at the half, 54-40 after holding the Wiz to 36% shooting, and everyone not named Beal were disastrous from the field. Yet after an all too familiar turd quarter by the Thunder, where at one point their lead slipped to a single point, everything started to shift from defense to offense. The Wiz, though coming into the game struggling, finished the 2nd half shooting 61% from the floor and 13-22 from 3-point range, putting up 38 points in the final frame. Beal led the way with a scorching performance where he barely missed, finishing with 27 points in the 2nd half (41 overall), including 6-9 from 3-point range.
And yet, it wasn’t quite enough, because league MVP Westbrook did one better. Attacking the rim over and over again, Westbrook bested Beal’s 2nd half performance with 29 of his own, shooting 12-17 from the floor, which included a phenomenal 9-11 in the 4th alone for 21 points.
While we won’t look back on this game with the same memories as we received from the Thunder’s win over Cleveland, this one was a different kind of special. We got to see two elite offensive players go head to head, light up the scoreboard, and make each possession and shot matter. And in the end, it was OKC’s leader who showed his quality is above reproach.
- But let us not forget the 1st half defense, because it had some bite to it. At times the Wiz looked like they had no idea how to even get the ball past the free throw line.
- The bench once again came to play, steadying the ship in both halves. What I liked most was that they seemed to understand the basic premise of how to attack the Wizards’ soft interior better than the starters did. While Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were chucking their way to a 5-16 1st half, the bench kept working the ball inside to draw fouls and set up Jerami Grant at the rim.
- Speaking of Grant, he finished with a strong game, scoring 10 points on 3-4 shooting. Aside from one ill-advised three, he stayed within his strengths.
- Grant’s bench counterpart Terrance Ferguson also finished with a solid game, scoring 11 points, including 3-6 from 3-point range. While he still needs to work on his shot discretion, his shooting mechanics and quick trigger remind me a bit of Eddie Johnson from years’ past. Plus, he’s got springs jammed up his butt. The kid can sky (similar in build to Zach LaVine), but also has a nose for making the right play, something the similarly physically gifted Josh Huestis lacks.
- Notable - Andre Roberson sat for the final 7 minutes while Ferguson got the nod. It could be one part fear out of Wiz coach Scott Brooks resorting to hack-a-Robes to get back in the game, but also it could be that it looked like Robes may have tweaked his knee after one collision earlier in the half. Stay tuned.
- Even though Melo struggled from the floor early, I liked how he regrouped himself after a strong stretch from Patrick Patterson. Instead of hunting for his shot the way he did in the 1st half, Melo descended from PLANET LOVETRON and had two big dunks in the 4th quarter, and hit Kid Ferguson for a critical 3-pointer late to keep the Wiz at arm’s length. Great recovery.
- OKC is now a season-best 8 games over .500 and winners of 6 in a row with 3 games left in the month, including one against these very same Wizards.
Next game: @ Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Jan. 27th at 4PM CST
post script: Sometimes the Twitter gets it right (and props to friend of WTLC, James Holas)
Russ busted the Wizard's ass then left the arena flashing underboob— James Holas (@SnottieDrippen) January 26, 2018
Who is starting the All-Star game again? pic.twitter.com/iDaWPy7XPM— RKAnthony (@RKAnthonyWTLC) January 26, 2018
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?