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Thunder Views: Angry Russ, Lockdown Defense, and a Kick in the Beals

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Don’t look now, but OKC has the longest winning streak in the league.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

That’s 6 in a row now for the Thunder. They’re 20-8 over the last 28 games after starting just 8-12 in their first 20. The chemistry and mantra seems to be solidified for Billy Donovan’s group as they near the mid-century mark of the season.

After Thursday night’s win, we found out that Russell Westbrook was under the impression that he had been picked last in the All-Star draft earlier that night, and in the funniest way possible, while wearing the most unbelievable shirt possible.

So while in that mindset, Russ went out and dropped a casual 46 points on the Washington Wizards, in addition to 6 rebounds and 6 assists. It was another tremendous performance from the reigning MVP, who scored 21 points on 9/11 shooting in the fourth quarter. He went into full takeover mode, setting the up-tempo pace all by himself during the final frame. It’s an adjustment for guys like Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to step aside and watch another star take the reins, but they seem to have adapted to their new roles, still stepping up to make crucial plays to hold off the Wizards’ hot shooting.

Offensive numbers are fun, and Westbrook surely showed that last night, but Paul George and Steven Adams might have something to say about that.

Spotlight

George and Adams manage to make defense enjoyable to watch. These two are total menaces for opponents, and last night was no different. I’m not throwing shade at Andre Roberson here, as an argument can be made for any of these three as OKC’s top defender. However Thursday night was a prime example of the deadly combination that these two have become.

Washington is a team that loves to run pick-and-roll sets with John Wall and Marcin Gortat. Although they haven’t done it a ton in recent games, it was not even an option on Thursday night. The switches and rotations that these two complete at the top of the key make it impossible for teams to run any pick and rolls at them. Their quickness and length is invaluable and more often then not produces a deflection or steal.

Teams have difficulty operating on the perimeter due to Roberson and George, and when they try to go inside, Adams is waiting for them. It’s a near-perfect formula in today’s NBA, and it’s proving its worth over the last few weeks.

As a whole, OKC’s defense was active and energetic all night, which really overwhelmed Washington (except for Bradley Beal) for a majority of this one.

Quick Rumbles

  • George was effective on the offensive end as well on Thursday, finishing with 18 points on 6/19 shooting.
  • Adams dominated the offensive glass. 7 of his 10 boards came when the Thunder had the ball. He also added 12 points.
  • Terrance Ferguson played 24 minutes last night and looked very confident, finishing with 11 points on 4/8 shooting. This seems relevant:
  • It was great to see him get some of his swagger back, and his teammates were certainly behind him, even to the point where Melo passed up an open catch-and-shoot three to assist on a Ferguson three.
  • Steven Adams channeled a little unintentional Draymond last night:

Right in the BEALS

  • Since December 1, the Thunder own the third best record in the league at 20-8.
  • Minnesota lost at Golden State last night, which means the Thunder are now tied for the four spot in the West.
  • Washington is 0-9 all time at OKC.
  • Also, two more Russ notes:

First, he did this:

Second, his attire at the ‘Peake on Thursday was interesting to say the least. TNT was able to catch a funny interaction as he entered the building before last night’s game, claiming his son had ripped his shirt.

A Look Ahead

The Thunder head to Detroit next for a Saturday evening matchup. OKC hasn’t won there since 2014. They’ll look to end that skid, while extending their current winning streak to 7 games.