Russell does it again! This man is just incredible. If you thought his fourth quarter Monday night against the Mavs was amazing, he might have just done you one better tonight in Orlando. The Thunder found themselves down double digits again late in the fourth quarter, and from the flow of the game, it didn’t look like they had enough juice to pull this one off.
*Insert Russell Westbrook*
Russ started the Thunder run with his fourth 3 of the night to bring the Thunder back within single digits. He got some help from an Andre Roberson tip-in, but everything else was pretty much all Russell. With the Thunder down 2, the Magic seemingly turned it over out of bounds (sound familiar), but the call was overturned. The Thunder sent Nikola Vucevic to the line to stop the clock, and Vuc made the first, but the second one hit the front of the rim, the rebound went to Russ and with the Thunder down 3, he did this…
With the game tied at 102, the Magic were unable to capitalize on the final possession before the buzzer and the Thunder were headed to overtime on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook. In overtime, the Thunder came out hot with a few quick makes and then did enough to hold off the Magic and win this one, 114 – 106, with Russell Westbrook recording the highest scoring triple-double in NBA history – 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
Let’s take a look at how this game played out…
Both teams started out the game incredibly sloppy on offense. However, the Thunder did bring the energy and aggressiveness early, as they were able to turn defense into offense and get out in front. The game was looking to be well in hand for OKC, but as we all know as Thunder fans… looks can be deceiving. And that’s when the turnover epidemic began. The main culprit during this stretch was Russell Westbrook. The Thunder’s game plan seemed to be to try to dominate in the post early-on as the Magic give up the 7th most points in the paint in the NBA. This seemed like a solid strategy with the likes of Taj, Steve and Enes down low, but with multiple sloppy entry passes from Russ, and decent post denial defense from the Magic, this is where a majority of the early turnovers came from.
Luckily for the Thunder, the Magic struggled from the field early, going 8 for 22 in the first, and not getting consistent offense from anyone. Both teams half-court offenses were putrid in the first quarter and it was just overall poor basketball early on.
In the second, with Nikola Vucevic taking a seat on the bench with a couple of fouls, Bismack Biyombo checked into the game and unleashed absolute havoc on the Thunder on both sides of the floor. He finished the quarter with 10 points, dominating the glass and really frustrating Kanter on defense. Biyombo’ 9 first half rebounds helped the Magic to finish +14 in the rebounding column at the break. The Magic, who are 23rd in the league in rpg, not only dominated the glass, but dominated the inside scoring game with 32 points in the paint at the half.
Russ was doing a great job of scoring (21 on 8 of 13 shooting), as the Thunder weren’t getting much offense from anyone else (surprise, surprise), but he just seemed to be trying to do too much. The Thunder headed to the locker room down 49 – 44.
Things didn’t get any better for the Thunder in the third quarter. It was actually eerily similar to the second quarter Monday against the Mavs until about halfway through. The Thunder went for a long stretches without scoring, but the one bright spot was they were a lot more careful with the basketball, with only on turnover in the quarter.
Evan Fournier (24p-6r-5a) and Elfrid Payton (11p-6r-8a) led the way for the Magic in the third. Fournier hitting some tough shots, and Payton able to get into the lane and finish at the rim.
And then we have the fourth quarter. It really looked like the Thunder were going to lose this one, a bad loss on the road, until Russ went full Russ and took down the home team.
Man, the Thunder sure do have a knack for playing down to their competition. The Magic, who had been eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to the Raptors on Monday, are a team who many think will go the “tanking” route down the final stretch of the season. Well, they didn’t seem to be in tank-mode tonight as they gave the Thunder all they could handle. Luckily, the Thunder have Russell Westbrook, and when he gets into that zone late in games, he’s almost impossible to stop.
- I saw before the game that Victor Oladipo has the highest 3-point percentage in the NBA during the month of March at 56.5%. He unfortunately went 1 of 6 from deep tonight.
- Thunder alum Jeff Green was out tonight for the Magic with back spasms. He’s missed the Magic’s last three games.
- On his first game back in Orlando since being traded to the Thunder, Victor Oladipo received a video tribute during the first quarter. The Magic twitter account also tweeted this:
- This seemed to ruffle some people’s feathers on twitter, bringing up the fact that Harden and KD didn’t get tribute videos from the Thunder on their returns to OKC. I know the Thunder are a young organization, but I don’t think they have done videos for anyone. I especially wouldn’t expect them to make an exception for Kevin Durant.
- Despite Biyombo’s rebounding clinic he put on in the second quarter the Thunder ended the game +4 in the rebounding column, thanks to Adams, Kanter, Roberson and Westbrook.
- Sabonis saw 11 minutes tonight after being a DNP – Coach’s Decision on Monday night.
- Mario Hezonja has been playing a lot better since he’s seen more time at the 4. With Green’s injury, he’s also been seeing more minutes. He didn’t have an amazing statistical night, but he shows some flashes of talent as he’s a solid ball handler and pretty decent passer. Hopefully he keeps getting some chances to show what he can do.
- Terrence Ross had a solid offensive night for the Magic going for 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting. He seems to be finding his rhythm with the Orlando team after struggling for a bit after his trade from Toronto.
- Kanter’s passing out of the post in general, but specifically out of double teams, had looked really good for a stretch, but just hasn’t been the same as of late. He finished with zero assists tonight and had a couple bad turnovers early.
- The Thunder finished the first half with only 5 assists. Their ball movement was non-existent, they couldn’t get anything going in their half-court sets.
- After a poor showing early on in this one, Enes really stepped it up and went to work down low on the Magic bigs. He scored 15 of his 17 points and grabbed 7 of his 10 rebounds in the second half.
- The Thunder had a poor shooting night overall, 42.2% from the field and 30.3% from 3.
- Abrines hasn’t been shooting well from deep as of late. He went 2 of 6 tonight, but I really like the fact that he doesn’t get timid after a few misses. He will go out there and keep shooting and he eventually knocks them down. They also are normally good shots, so it’s not like he’s forcing anything up.
- It might be time for a haircut when it looks to be affecting your shot:
- Norris Cole saw some minutes in the second half. I thought he played alright. Didn’t do anything to hurt the team and played better defense on D.J. Augustin than Semaj did in the first half. I think Billy needs to start giving some of Semaj’s minutes to Norris as we wind down the season. Norris has the playoff experience, and if he can play defense like he did tonight, I think he’s the better option than Semaj.
- Roberson, as he did in the Mavs game, played some incredible defense late. Again, it goes unnoticed with the show that Russ put on, but just something to note.
- That’s Russ’ 38th triple-double on the season, he’s now 3 behind the Big O.
- Doug McDermott only saw 3 minutes tonight. I know his off-ball defense hasn’t been great, but I think he deserves more minutes than that, especially with the lack of shooting on this Thunder roster.
- That being said, I am glad that Jerami Grant got 19 minutes tonight. His box score won’t blow you away, but he really brought energy off the bench, had two incredible blocks and was a +30!!!! for the game.
- Russ had 7 turnovers in the first half and didn’t have another throughout the rest of regulation and overtime.
- Russ got some MVP chants from the away crowd tonight.
- In other news, Thunder assistant Anthony Grant is apparently a candidate for the Dayton head coaching job.
Next Up: Home against the Spurs on Friday at 7:00 CST.