I’ll be telling my grandkids about the events of February 26, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The night Alex Abrines morphed into a slashing rim protector. The night a normally stagnant bench exploded for 48 points. And of course, the night Russell Westbrook missed a triple-double, not because of rebounds, but because of points.
It was weird, memorable, and rather enjoyable, all at the same time.
The second unit was the most important part of last night’s win, so I’m going to focus on that. But before I do, I want to make two quick notes.
First - Russ. I thought I was seeing things last night, as Westbrook gave up the ball TWICE while Orlando was trying to foul. He was just two points away from a triple-double, and Russ was PASSING THE BALL. This happened TWICE. Now I want everyone to go find the nearest “Russ only cares about stats” supporter, and read them the above sentences.
Second - Paul George scored 26 points last night on 9/20 shooting and there was Twitter chatter of him falling into a slump. This really shows how ridiculous his numbers were prior to the all-star break. PG was great tonight, and no, he’s not slumping, his 3-point shot is just descending from the fiery stratosphere where it has lived over the past few weeks. But the fact the people are even considering that says something about his early February dominance.
The second unit was terrific tonight, as four players came off the bench to score in double figures. Their ball movement and defense was the boost OKC needed to find a win against a below-average Magic squad. Abrines and Raymond Felton led the charge, but let’s start with the Spanish guard.
Abrines finished with 12 points in 21 minutes of play, but more importantly, Monday was another example of his trending improvements. His defense has been the most notable change, and that used to make him a liability on the floor. As of late, Abrines has raised his game in terms of help defense and toughness. The toughness and newfound physicality was certainly shown last night. Right before our eyes, a rim protector was born, and it was beautiful.
Thunder goes on 10-2 run in Q2. Señor Abrines caps it with a block and trey pic.twitter.com/gk9LFRHw1s— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 27, 2018
He capped off a great night with an even better tweet.
Raymond Felton continued to do what he does best as a bucket getter — he finished with 13 points. Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson (played by Idris Elba), added on 11 and 10, respectively.
Without Andre Roberson, OKC is going to be in a lot of scratch-and-crawl games like last night. If the bench can continue to be productive and give them a lift, it’ll be a huge difference maker down the stretch. Monday night was a great start.
- With the Pelicans beating Phoenix, the Thunder now sit in 7th place in the West.
- Seeds 3 through 7 in the Western Conference are currently separated by 1.5 games.
- Here’s Russ on missing out of a triple-double thanks to points:
Russell Westbrook on if he ever thought he’d miss out on a triple-double because of points: pic.twitter.com/kdBpxcDL13— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 27, 2018
- He finished with 8 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.
- Steven Adams was productive underneath per usual. He had 16 and 8 in the win.
- OKC had 6 players in double figures. Russ and Melo had 8 and 9, respectively. You won’t see that very often.
- This was cool:
This is an example of supreme athleticism. Great pass from Paul George too. pic.twitter.com/TJwxeMljH0— Dave DuFour (@DaveDuFourNBA) February 27, 2018
- For the first time in a while, OKC was better with Terrance Ferguson on the floor.
- It might not feel like it, but the Thunder have won 3 of 4.
A Look Ahead
The Thunder begin a three-game road trip on Wednesday night as they head to Dallas to face off against the Mavericks.
OKC then flies to Phoenix for the front end of a back-to-back that concludes on Saturday night in Portland. This makes it all the more important to get a win on Wednesday night.