Oklahoma City closes late to catch Miami, 96-91
Not the most exciting game ever. At least for the first three quarters. Kevin Durant was in foul trouble and didn’t play a ton. The Tulsa crowd was a little sparse mainly because of the competing Boise St./Tulsa game (but the official attendance was over 10,000 which is pretty nice). Scott Brooks was tinkering with lineups and a lot of deep bench guys saw action. And it just felt like a preseason game. Lots of whistles, lot of turnovers and quite a bit of sloppy play.
But it picked up very nicely in the final 12. Durant had 18 of his 30 points in the fourth as the starters came in and played well leading Oklahoma City to make up a nine-point deficit to win 96-91. What was good about this game was that it was an ideal demo for closing a tight game. The Thunder needed stops, needed quality execution and needed to make smart plays down the stretch. Check, check and check. Both coaches saw the opportunity to get some serious work in, as the starters played almost all the key minutes. And the Thunder were the ones to finish it out.
The best part? The defense. The Thunder got close by Durant going off. Then hung tight moving between down one and down three for a few minutes. But what won the game was OKC got a few stops, capitalized on the stops and did what needed to be done to win. While just a preseason game, encouraging it is.
A couple quick thoughts:
- Jeff Green was Oklahoma City’s main and really only offensive weapon early, going for 25 points on 9-16 shooting. He hit from outside, posted up a little and had the midrange jumper working. One thing I liked was how aggressive he was offensively when he saw he had a favorable matchup. One possession that comes to mind: Early in the first quarter, Green had Udonis Haslem on him near the baseline. The lane was clear and Green stutter-stepped and took Haslem to the hole with ease. He didn’t finish, but still, nice recognition of a mismatch. I have a feeling Green will have that advantage a lot this year against opposing fours.
- Russell Westbrook put up another complete line (12 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and four turns). Now I know, just 12 points on 3-12 shooting. I don’t know if this is the new Russell Westbrook or he’s just being very conscious on trying to set teammates up in the preseason, but I love the way he’s managing the game. The scoring will come, I have no doubt. So no need to fret. He showed off a nice little jumper tonight which was nice. Just one bonehead play: With 20 seconds left and the Thunder UP (see what I did there?) two, Westbrook got a steal and instead of pulling out the ball and waiting for a foul, he streaked for the bucket throwing up a wild shot. Luckily, Etan Thomas was there to bail him out or otherwise it could have been a very stupid play.
- I may be wrong, but I think OKC had just one turnover in the fourth. If I’m right with that, that’s very good. That was a lot of the reason the Thunder outscored Miami 35-21 in the final frame.
- Byron Mullens finally showed us something tonight. I thought he was solid on the glass, did well rotating on the defensive end and posed a nice threat offensively. His line won’t blow you away (four points, two rebounds) but he was a +14 in 16 minutes and was more active than I’ve seen him. He has potential. He’s just got to tap into it.
- And after all the excitement, Serge Ibaka wasn’t much of a factor tonight. No worries obviously, but it was just a bit of a bummer. Granted, he only got 12 minutes, but but he was a -7, missed the only shot he took, grabbed two rebounds and turned it over once. Not that productive. Also, Michael Beasley kind of showed a few weaknesses in Serge’s defensive game most notably, below average footwork. I was kind of happy to see him coming off the bench so early though. Maybe that’s a sign. Possibly a stretch to think so, but maybe…
- Thabo went 0-2 on the corner 3 and 0-3 overall from deep. I think we got excited too fast.
- KD scored his 30 on 10-16 shooting for the second straight night. This time he just 1-5 from 3, but was 9-10 from the line.
- This was not a well-officiated game. The refs were easily influenced by players, most notably on that play late with Westbrook losing the ball. Just a horrid call. For the most part, the Thunder got a TON of calls. But of course they didn’t take advantage as they shot horribly from the free throw line (30-42). Keep this mind, while OKC attempted 42 foul shots, Miami took just 18. That’s quite a difference right there kids.
Now the most important thing: Where was James Harden? I didn’t hear anything about him being hurt or anything about him sitting out before hand. Brian Davis didn’t really mention anything during the broadcast. Maybe the staff wanted Kyle Weaver to get some minutes and it was planned. That’s fine, but it would have been nice for Harden to get some of those key minutes late too. Did I miss something on Harden?
Anyway, very nice finish for a good win, albeit preseason. The Thunder gets the weekend off and takes on Houston on the road Monday night.