It would be easy for the Thunder to play with low energy or play lazy defense against Philly tonight, but right out of the gate it was clear that wasn’t going to be case. In the first quarter alone, OKC blocked 5 shots and that exceptional effort-level was contagious throughout the night. The Thunder ended the game +29 in total rebounds, +12 for offensive rebounds, +26 for point in the paint and +13 for fast break points.
Russell Westbrook earned his 35th triple-double of the season. Russ ended the night with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists and 2 blocks on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Westbrook has just been unstoppable this season and Philly didn’t have a chance trying to slow him down. He’s seven triple-doubles away from breaking the single-season record and I’m convinced that he’ll be able to do it. He was determined to get his teammates involved offensively in this game and he did a great job. The Thunder aren’t getting out of the first round if Westbrook is the only offensive threat and his ability to play-make is an easy way for him to make his teammates better.
Enes Kanter thrives in games like this. Kanter had a great night with 24 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in only 20 minutes. If Enes played for a lottery team like Philly, he would be averaging 20 and 10 easily. He’s so productive on the offensive end and dominates whenever the opposing Center plays lazy defense. Okafor and Kanter should just play 1-on-1 for 48 minutes – Kanter would win, but it would be fun to watch.
Nik Stauskas went for 20 points and hit five three-pointers, he was really the only bright spot tonight offensively for Philly. I really enjoy the Sixers despite how bad they’ve been for the past five seasons or so. The roster they have now is really scrappy and they actually have interesting depth at almost every position. The prospects they’ve accumulated are playing really hard this season, with the obvious exception of Jahlil Okafor. When Embiid was healthy, the Sixers looked like an NBA team again and their players didn’t look miserable on the court. They’re loaded with future draft picks and I expect Philly to surprise a lot of people the next few seasons. I trust the process.
The Thunder get three days off before hitting a three-game road trip in four nights. Tonight was a good bounce back game for the team and they’ll need all the momentum they can get against the Rockets on Sunday. The Thunder have been very competitive against Houston this season and there’s a good chance they might be seeing the Rockets in the first round.
- Nick Collison is the best. He came in during the fourth quarter when the game was decided and within seconds he got an easy assist with a nice back door pass. He only played 8 minutes, but it was an amazing 8 minutes to watch. He finished the night with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block. His basketball IQ is through the roof and I’m just happy he’s on this roster. I would totally be okay with a Nick Collison statue outside of the Chesapeake Arena one day. Never change Nick.
- I know Jahlil Okafor hasn’t had a great NBA career so far, but I’m not writing him off yet by any means. He’s a terrible defensive player, but he’s also only 21 years old. I think he’ll have a place in the NBA for quite some time and will eventually be a serviceable NBA player on the right team.
- This is a game where I would’ve rolled the dice and played Josh Huestis. This was a blowout game by the fourth quarter and I don’t see why Huestis can’t guard a guy like Shawn Long, who logged 15 minutes for the 7th game of his NBA career. I just think there’s an NBA prospect that’s just being wasted on the bench and I don’t see any harm in playing the guy.
- Quietly solid game from both McDermott and Oladipo. McDermott went for 13 points and Oladipo had 18 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
- Dario Saric struggled a bit tonight for the Sixers going 4-of-14 and was -23. He’s been solid this year and will likely end up as Rookie of the Year. I don’t think this is a Michael-Carter Williams situation either, Saric is likely to have a really productive NBA career. He may have struggled offensively, but still ended the night with 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks.
- Brett Brown has the patience of Job.