The score was 53-48 in the third quarter, and the Thunder were completely a mess during a possession. With Kevin Durant holding the ball some 40 feet from the basket and nothing happening, Billy Donovan called for a timeout with 12 on the shot clock. Durant flipped the ball in the air and Donovan took off griping at… someone.
It was hard to figure out who it was directed at — Andre Roberson? … Russell Westbrook??? — but it appeared Donovan was upset with the officials.
The Thunder came out of the timeout, ran a slick set play and Westbrook hit Roberson for a backdoor oop. After that, the Thunder went on a 13-2 run and essentially put the Heat away.
Westbrook was excellent — 13 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists in 34 minutes — and Durant was solid — 24 and 10 in 31 minutes, but the real standout was Serge Ibaka. Not only was he significant on the offensive end — 19 points on 9-15 shooting plus seven rebounds, but he completely ate up Chris Bosh. Bosh shot 5-16, scoring just 12 points with four rebounds.
The other thing: Ibaka was huge in smallball, creating a major issue for the Heat to try and match up with. If they wanted to play Hassan Whiteside, he had to guard Ibaka 15 feet and out, pulling him away from the paint to contest shots. And a number of times, Whiteside fell asleep, leaving Ibaka wide open for midrange jumpers. Miami tried to go back to big, but either OKC’s size beat them up, or Durant guarded Bosh equally as well, and the Thunder had a big advantage the other way. There really was just no lever to pull for Erik Spoelstra.
This was definitely the Thunder’s most impressive win in weeks, since they beat the Clippers on Dec. 21. Maybe you could say the Hornets in Charlotte by 19, but they were down a couple of players there. The Heat were missing Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts and Beno Udrih, which hurt them, especially Dragic, but still, that’s a pretty solid team they had out there.
But defensively, that was a strong showing, with that being the fewest points allowed this season. The Thunder were active, engaged and swarming. That’s what they’re capable of, but as we’re all tired of repeating over and over, it’s about duplicating that kind of effort on a consistent basis. They have it in them.
- Two other guys I thought were especially good defensively: Kyle Singler and Andre Roberson. Singler was extremely active, coming up with four deflections by my count, and Roberson hounded Dwyane Wade (despite Wade scoring 22 on 9-15 shooting). Roberson blocked shots, forced turnovers and got deflections.
- Shhhhh Dion Waiters has been shooting it moderately well the last four games shhhhh. These last three home games: 18, 20 and 18 points. He’s hit 7-of-14 from 3 in his last four. He’s been doing some things, and most importantly, I think, playing smarter.
- Donovan said he felt this was the “most complete” defensive game of the season.
- A game with Russell Westbrook is basically that scene from The Wire with Bunk and McNulty. He says the f-word about 500 times, but they all mean something different. I wonder if he’s ever like, “Nina, see you later, love you. F—!”
- Westbrook curiously came back in the game with about eight minutes remaining in the fourth, despite the Thunder up 20. He got three rebounds and then checked back out with four remaining. Those three rebounds gave him his fifth triple-double of the season.
- It’s funny how many people I see griping about sometimes not playing, when if you’re paying attention, you can see exactly why. If anything, this is (supposedly) what so many of those same gripers wanted from Scott Brooks, with more game to game adjusting. Donovan routinely alters the rotation based on the opponent. Tonight it was Singler in the rotation to help play more smallball, with Nick Collison and Anthony Morrow sitting. Not exactly hard to understand it, unless all you watch basketball for is to see the ball go through the basket.
- Maybe it’s because people just aren’t used to this sort of nightly shuffling.
- Durant said this morning he felt like the previous game against the Heat was preseason, because the Thunder have changed so much since then. “So long ago. We’re just a totally different team in my opinion. We do things differently now. So I look at that as preseason.”
- Westbrook is for real about this not getting techs from arguing thing. He got clearly fouled by Gerald Green in the first quarter and wanted to completely blow his top, but instead crossed his arms and stood under the basket stomping his feet. Like he decided to put himself in timeout and count to 10 first.
- Durant: “I always like raising up for 3s. That’s just part of who I am. I think I was born that way. I feel like every shot I shoot is a good one, and I’ve put in so much work and I trust in that work when I let it go. So it’s just a matter of me making it after that.”
- Rookies are rookies and they go through the ups and downs, but man, Justise Winslow wasn’t there tonight.
- Durant on Roberson: “That’s what’s good about Dre. He doesn’t really feed into what everybody has to say or what everybody thinks his role should be. He just goes out there an does what coach needs him to do. That’s what great teammates do.”
- Westbrook was asked postgame about Dwyane Wade and how he’s had to reinvent his game at age 34. That’s something I’ve wondered about myself. Westbrook just talked about staying in the moment and being thankful for being able to play the game right now, but still, it is something fascinating to think about.
Next up: At the Nuggets on Tuesday