This was one of those regular season games that, at least to me, seemed somewhat iffy going in, but after watching it was completely insignificant and exactly what we should’ve expected. The Heat, without Goran Dragic and the NBA’s Best Player Dion Waiters, aren’t very good. Even full strength, they aren’t.
The Thunder are pretty good, and Russell Westbrook very well might actually be the NBA’s best current player. Add in the fact that Steven Adams just abuses Hassan Whiteside, and this game became quite simple.
What’s notable, outside of another Westbrook triple-double (29-17-11 in 37 minutes), is the Thunder bench once again playing an extremely solid game. In this four-game win streak, the Thunder bench is averaging 46 points a game, and that’s what they scored again tonight. Enes Kanter continues to anchor it, with the offense running through and around him (33 minutes, 19 points on 9-16 shooting). Add in Jerami Grant’s athleticism on both ends, Semaj Christon just doing a good job bringing the ball up and getting the set started, Joffrey Lauvergne’s passing and movement and suddenly, Alex Abrines’ marksmanship, and this group appears to have something decent.
Now, with Victor Oladipo coming back soon, as well as Cameron Payne, things will change a bit. It might take a bit of time to re-adjust, but there’s a foundation laid, and the Thunder second unit is a far cry from the trainwreck it was early in the season.
The ability for that group to just hold a lead, much less build on it, is a big development for this team. With Westbrook on the floor, the Thunder have been an upper tier team, at least statistically. The problems have been a lot in when he’s on the bench. With the bench sustaining, the Thunder look like a much more coherent, quality group.
- Per Stats and Info, at 23:51, this was Westbrook’s third-fastest triple-double of the season. The fact this is the third-fastest is almost more impressive than the time.
- Alex Abrines is apparently the real deal. He’s finding shots, and taking them with confidence. When Victor Oladipo returns, I’m pretty certain it’ll be him with the regular rotation minutes and not Morrow.
- Grant has been a tremendous addition. I don’t think Presti is getting enough credit for that one. He got a young, controllable asset for an older unrestricted free agent. And in a lot of ways, Grant has made the Thunder better.
- Again: Adams just straight up dominated Whiteside tonight.
- Is it just me, or do teams shoot 99 percent from 3 with the shot clock expiring against the Thunder?
- Wayne Ellington runs around and takes shots like he’s a good shooter. He’s not a very good shooter.
- The Thunder’s next two games will be very test-ish. At the Grizzlies on Thursday, then home against the Clippers on New Year’s Eve. The Clippers have having some health issues, but these two games carry importance. The Thunder are sandwiched between the Grizzlies and Clippers in the standings, and tiebreaker stuff is up for grabs. Plus, these are good teams and it would be good for the Thunder to beat some good teams.
Next up: At the Grizzlies on Thursday