The Oklahoma City Thunder silenced the Pistons on the road, 110-83. The Thunder, led by Steven Adams and Jerami Grant, took it to the Pistons’ interior by combining for 36 points on 12-14 shooting, outplaying their Detroit counterparts Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, who finished with a combined 33 but shot a poor 13-32 combined. The Thunder win their third straight and one of their most complete and convincing victories in the season so far.
The Thunder led the Pistons nearly throughout, jumping out to an early 1st quarter lead on the broad shoulders of Steven Adams, who won his head-to-head matchup against Pistons big man, Andre Drummond. Adams’ 21 points were a team-high, largely a byproduct of the Thunder’s ability to break down the Detroit exterior defense. On the other end, he prevented Drummond from going to his post-up game which has had such an impact against other teams. Drummond was held to only 13 points and 6 rebounds, none offensive, along with 2 shots blocked courtesy of Mr. Adams, and one courtesy this guy:
Terrance Ferguson's ankle looks okay. pic.twitter.com/CFtJe788PL— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 4, 2018
(welcome back, Terrance!)
The Thunder’s defensive identity fully manifested in the 3rd quarter. Once again, just like many times before, they took a small lead and vaporized any chance their opponent might have to make it a game. Ten minutes into the 3rd, Detroit had only managed 14 points in the quarter and watched a Thunder 10 point lead balloon into 29, all but ending the contest. OKC held the Pistons to 35% shooting in the quarter and 1-8 from three.
I usually like to peruse opposing teams’ sites after games just to see how their fans were feeling about the progression of action. While I don’t encourage gloating or anything, if you check out their gamethread you’ll see an opposing team’s outstanding fanbase, and one which has a really good team to cheer for this season, come out of this loss with a thorough respect for the defense they just witnessed by OKC.
And of course, what I love most about watching this defense is how easy it makes everything else. Funny that.
- I understand that we’re all a little gun shy in lavishing Billy Donovan with praise, but two things really stood out to me, one micro, and one macro. The micro element, which jumped out at me late, was that a game after Alex Abrines shot a career-best 7-11 from 3-point range in 26 minutes of action, was on the court tonight for only 7 minutes through 3 quarters and had taken one shot. And it wasn’t exactly like OKC was lighting it up from long range. Donovan consciously scaled down Abrines’ minutes knowing that he had a better matchup with the returning Terrance Ferguson, who while only scoring a bucket of his own, was instrumental in helping limit the Pistons to shooting 6-32 from 3-point range.
- The macro element is how, a year ago and even into this season when OKC was struggling a bit, many of us lamented how Donovan had a poorly-crafted defense too reliant on the unique skillset of Andre Roberson. Robes was responsible for cleaning up so many messes; it was inconceivable how OKC might actually maintain defensive respectability. What Donovan has done, and his players have excelled at it, is revamp the system so it is no longer on one man’s cleanup duty from a multitude of defensive breakdowns. This game was an outstanding defensive performance, and it didn’t require any one Thunder player to go above and beyond his normal performance level.
- Do you get the feeling this team has begun to take on a little of Paul George’s persona? To be sure Russ will always have his fingerprint on everything, but the way the team has systematically taken down the last three teams, largely in the same methodical way, resembles how George doesn’t force much of anything. He moves within the rhythms of the game on both ends and leaves his mark.
- Speaking of which, I think one of the elements of why George’s vibe seems to permeate the team is because Westbrook is surrendering a lot of playmaking duties to him. It does seem like, at least for the time being, Westbrook doesn’t feel like he has to turn every single pass into an assist. It’s far more likely to see him dish out 6-8 per game, and he had 6 dimes tonight, while PG had 4, Ferguson had 4, and Schroder had 6. This is the kind of “letting go” that we’ve talked about, and Westbrook is doing it, and it is turning his team into a systematic engine which doesn’t need explosive scoring from any one player to completely reck another team, like we saw tonight. OKC never even looked like they were playing that well on offense, but still shot 51% from the floor.
All that said, Westbrook is still essentially averaging a triple-double so far this season.
Final word goes to a nasal Steven Adams:
Steven Adams interviews never disappoint. pic.twitter.com/sJYIQfhbew— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) December 4, 2018