It finally happened on Monday night in Miami. After a season full of ups and downs, the Thunder officially clinched a playoff spot for the 8th time in the last 9 seasons. With two nights remaining in the regular season, we still are unsure of OKC’s first round opponent, but the concern of missing the postseason is now a feeling of the past.
The Thunder got off to a slow start last night, trailing 23-5 in the early going. They didn’t hit a field goal until the 4:47 mark of the first quarter. OKC would answer with a 16-6 run to get back into this one, but it was the fourth quarter that really stuck out.
(Far too many things to focus on, so we’ll take a look at multiple elements from Monday’s win)
We saw the opposite of the first frame in the final 12 minutes, as OKC’s bench unit gave the Thunder a spark to kickstart the fourth. It was exactly the boost that Billy Donovan was looking for, as they did everything well on both sides of the ball and were able to hand over the game to the starters with a lead. To say the starters kept up the strong play would be an understatement.
The Thunder outscored Miami 39-12 in the fourth quarter in what was arguably their strongest closing effort of the season. The 27-point scoring margin in the fourth quarter was a Thunder franchise record. Russell Westbrook controlled the tempo to perfection and opened up the floor for his teammates. Corey Brewer was a +29. Carmelo Anthony got back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. NICK COLLISON PLAYED. Everything about the fourth quarter was tremendous.
The contributions came from up and down the roster. Jerami Grant was ridiculously efficient again, finishing with 17 points on just 6 shots, including a crazy layup in the game’s closing that evoked this response from world famous Steven Adams:
He’s been everything you could ask for in a sixth man. Billy Donovan will surely lean on him off the bench in the postseason.
As for Westbrook, the reigning MVP had his internal calculator cooking on Monday night, as he grabbed nearly every rebound available inside of American Airlines Arena. Russ came into yesterday needing 12 assists and 34 rebounds over the final two games to average a triple-double. He finished last night with 13 assists and 18 rebounds in addition to 23 points. I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll attempt to grab the remaining 16 rebounds in the first five minutes of Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies.
- Paul George finished with 27 points on 7/19 shooting.
- It’s worth mentioning again how efficient Jerami Grant was tonight. 17 points on 4/6 shooting is a perfect snapshot of his last 2 1⁄2 months.
- Alex Abrines left Monday’s game with concussion-like symptoms.
- Terrance Ferguson logged 10 solid minutes in place of Abrines. He looked comfortable on both sides of the ball and finished with a big three pointer to help keep OKC close while they were struggling offensively.
- Relevant playoff update: The Denver Nuggets escaped with a win against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, while the Timberwolves defeated the Memphis Grizzlies. Denver plays in Minnesota on Wednesday with a playoff spot on the line. That’ll be must-watch television.
A Look Ahead
The Thunder conclude their regular season against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. With a win, they can clinch no worse than the 6-seed.