The Thunder haven’t started a season with a 6-1 record since 2004 when they were the Seattle Supersonics, but the early success of the team raises more questions than answers.
Some of those questions:
- Seriously though, what is the ceiling for this team? Is there any chance the Thunder are a title contender this year or are they stuck for now with the brand as “one piece away”? Steven Adams did recently say he liked the Anime One Piece, but hopefully that’s not some awful ironic foreshadowing of this team.
- Are we gonna be able to pay Andre Roberson next season and for the Thunder specifically—is he worth the big contract he’s due for or will that stymie the team financially?
- Is Kyle Singler going to ever get a normal haircut?
- Is the defensive identity for this team real? Can we maintain being an elite defense in the NBA when we’re giving big minutes to three rookies and Enes Kanter?
- Can the Thunder continue playing at a high level for 82 games with Westbrook playing with all time NBA usage rate?
- Are we sure Enes Kanter shouldn’t be playing more?
- What does this team do if Russell Westbrook misses even a single game?
Unfortunately most of these questions can only be answered with time, except the Singler question, we pretty much know the answer already.
The Thunder won this game by dominating the Heat in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook sparked a 20-0 run by scoring 8 straight points. That’s not a typo. Going from a 4 point lead to a 24 point lead put this game out of reach for the Heat. Hassan Whiteside had a season low tonight in the scoring category with only 5 points. James Johnson led the Heat in scoring with 18 points, which is pretty indicative of the Heat’s loss tonight. If James Johnson is leading your team in scoring for the night, you’re probably gonna have a bad night. No offense intended to James Johnson. The keys to tonight’s decisive victory for the Thunder were being plus 12 in the assist category, plus 8 in the rebounding category, playing really solid team defense and Enes being a menace.
Enes Kanter dominated tonight with 24 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in only twenty minutes. If Enes hovers around this level of productivity, he should be a strong contender to win sixth man of the year. He won’t shoot 83% from the field in every game like tonight, but he’s making a strong case for getting more minutes this season.
Domantis Sabonis looked great tonight with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The rookie from Gonzaga recorded his first double-double of his career and tied a Thunder rookie record with four 3 pointers made in the game. Sabonis committed four personal fouls, but played great team defense. Domas didn’t record a block or a steal, but he was still a very active defender tonight and is showing signs of his potential of being a solid two way player.
- Dion Waiters made his triumphant return tonight. Though he struggled mightily on offense with only 2 points in twenty-six minutes, he still is loved in Oklahoma City. Waiters was met with cheers from the crowd when his name was called in the starting lineup for the Heat. Though he’s not as beloved in Oklahoma as The Great Kendrick Perkins, he still is a Thunder fan favorite. Waiters Island lives, AND ONEEEEEEEEE!
- No Thunder player dunked tonight. Thanks a lot Whiteside.
- Andre Roberson playing defense is so fun to watch. He recorded 3 steals tonight and didn’t look completely lost on offense. He’s often part of the underlying offensive problem when we lose games, but he’s also almost always a big reason we win games. He’s in a contract year and it’s tough to know what the future will hold for Roberson, but the defensive tone he helps set for our team is contagious.
- The away jerseys tonight for the Heat were just awful. They should burn those jerseys, pun intended.
- Steven Adams is a tough guy in case you forgot. He had to go to the locker room tonight to get his hand checked out, but of course he came back in the game. He’s the biggest reason why Whiteside scored only 5 points.
- Alex Abrines trimmed his facial hair, that’s notable for sure. He only scored 5 points tonight and didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but it’s good to see him get playing time. He’s still a rookie in the NBA and will need real minutes like he got tonight to help him craft his game.
- Kanter and Richardson got double techs tonight and Kanter agitated Willie Reed enough that Reed got a flagrant 1 called on him late in the third quarter after he gave Kanter a shove.
- I’m convinced that Kyle Singler and Luke Babbitt are either best friends, worst enemies, or possibly they’re the same person. Just putting that out there.
Next up: Home against the Raptors on Wednesday