(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
When you’re riding a winning streak, sometimes it seems like the wins almost fall in your lap. You do everything to lose, you don’t play your game, you get out-hustled, you get out-shot, but yet, you’ve got more points on the scoreboard than the other guy. And that was pretty much the case tonight in New York as Oklahoma City beat the Knicks 121-118 in overtime, stretching the win streak out to a league-high eight.
The Thunder wasn’t great tonight. They were flat from the start, missed free throws, turned the ball over, played bad defense and didn’t execute offensively. It helps they were playing subpar New York squad, but this was a game the Knicks looked to have. But somehow, someway, OKC stayed on the high side yet again.
How did we get there? Well first, OKC made up six points with under a minute left, keyed by Jeff Green knocking down a monstrous contested 3. Honestly, before that shot went up, I had already given up. I actually had 150 words written as if OKC had lost. But Uncle Jeff hits the big shot, Russell Westbrook makes a layup and after Eddie House made two free throws, Kevin Durant canned a 3 that tied the game and sent it to an extra five minutes.
One quick aside on that big shot: What a perfectly executed play. Westbrook is dribbling at the top of the key. He takes the ball to his right and Nick Collison comes to set an on-ball. So it looks like it’s going to be a screen-and-roll with Westbrook and Collison as Durant plays decoy on the left wing. But Collison feints the screen and runs to the top of the key as KD runs his man into Nick. Westbrook delivers the ball on time and bing bam boom, Durant knocks it down to tie the game. THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about.
Then in overtime, KD scored seven of the Thunder’s 16, including ANOTHER mega bucket, this one coming with 20 seconds left that put the Thunder up one, 119-118. There was no brilliant play this time. Just Durant getting an iso at the top of the key and using his length to hit a tough jumper over Wilson Chandler. KD has missed some of those shots this year, but we knew he’d start making them. He was going to grow up and take over. And the most incredible part is that he was struggling shooting the ball for the first 47 minutes of the game. Yet, he hits the two biggest shots. This type of performance is everything an MVP is about. Even when you don’t have it completely going, you score 36 points, grab five rebounds and hit two HUGE shots that take your team to a win.
Not to be overlooked was the big play of Westbrook and Nick Collison. First, Westbrook. Russ basically carried the Thunder for a large portion of the game, as he dropped a 31-10-9, just missing the triple-double by a rebound. And Nick Collison played a major part, taking three charges, including one with OKC down one with a minute left. And then the possession following, Collison tipped in a Westbrook miss that put the Thunder up one. Durant was excellent down the stretch, Russ was great throughout and the Thunder role players stepped up in every way.
- After Durant knocked down the tough jumper over Chandler to give OKC a lead, Mrs. DT cued up the new “Where Clutch Happens” commercial on her phone. I knew I had to knock it down. She’s a nerd, but it fit.
- It looked like a good crowd at MSG tonight, but boy were they quiet. I realize Knick fans haven’t had a ton to cheer for but there really wasn’t any outburst of noise at any point. They did chant “We want T-Mac!” once, which was kind of neat.
- If you want a possession to pinpoint how much KD’s defense has improved this season, watch the one with 6:45 left in the first quarter. He stayed right on Danilo Gallinari’s hip as The Rooster ran off screens, then recovered and forced a pass when Gallinari got the ball and never let his man get away from him. He used his length and quickness perfectly.
- McGrady was in old school form tonight, scoring 26 on 10-17 shooting. He had 19 at halftime, but only seven in the second half and overtime. Some of that was because he played much less in the last 29 minutes. But a lot of that had to do with Thabo absolutely locking on. Sefolosha sat out most of the first half after getting poked in the eye, but put on some Amare-style rec specs and played the rest of the game.
- OKC tried to give the game away at the free throw line. The Thunder hit just 30-41 for the night, but Durant was 14-15.
- KD went 10-25 from the floor en route to his 36. His jumper was just off. I say it all the time, but it’s funny how it can feel like he’s so off, yet dropping 36 points. He’s taken awesome offense to a whole other level. That’s 27 straight games of 25 points or more, which ties him with Allen Iverson.
- It’s becoming pretty clear, if your first name is James and you play a sport, you will at some point be referred to as “Big Game James.” Harden was good, especially in the first half. Big Game James had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench in 31 minutes.
- Eddie House is extremely easy to dislike. That’s all.
- I love the look on player’s faces when KD pulls the rip move on them. It’s like they don’t realize what has happened. They know they fouled but it’s like they want to complain because it’s not fair or something.
- If you want Exhibit A for Jeff Green’s value, pull out this tape. He hit two enormous 3s, grabbed 11 rebounds, scored 16 points and played solid defense throughout the game. He’s rarely flashy, but almost always solid.
- The Thunder is now 27-7 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
- Brian Davis’ new favorite saying is, “Return to sender” after a block. Not horrible. Except when he tries to sing it like Elvis, which has only happened once.
- If you watched this game, you know exactly what I mean when I say it felt off. It just felt like the Thunder should’ve been down 20. It just felt like OKC shouldn’t have had a chance. It just felt like a loss. Yet they won. The times, they are a-changin’.
Like I said, when you’re winning, it all kind of just falls in your lap, but it lands there because you make your own breaks. And that’s what OKC did tonight. In a game they definitely should have lost, the Thunder won. I think this is what Nick Collison meant this summer when he said the team had to learn how to win. These are the type of games it never seems like my team wins. Down six, a minute to go and they come back and win it. When it’s working, it’s working.
Next up: OKC will take some heavy legs on the road again, taking on Minnesota Sunday night.