Right at the buzzer, Russell Westbrook dragged himself over to the bench and plopped down. Billy Donovan stopped and said something to him, and Westbrook shook his head and sat there, just huffing. He stayed there, doing his postgame sideline interview with Lesley McCaslin sitting. He was totally gassed.
Westbrook: 27 points, 18 rebounds, 14 assists.
That’s three straight. That’s 45 for his career. If Joffrey Lauvergne hits an open shot, Westbrook’s got a triple-double in the first half. He did this one in under 20 minutes, and then just built on it. The guy is ridiculously ridiculous.
But you know all of that already. So let’s talk about what’s really quite a nice win for the Thunder.
When they went down double-digits in the first quarter, it really had the look and feel of one of those coast to a sad loss kind of games. The second unit is actually what sparked a small comeback, with Anthony Morrow hitting some 3s, and when Westbrook came back in, they actually took a lead to half. The third was very solid, but two spots really stood out in the fourth to me: the first four minutes and the last four minutes. The bench group didn’t score in the first four minutes, because they aren’t good at that, but they kept getting stops. By the time Westbrook came back, OKC’s lead of seven had only been reduced by one. That’s a big win.
The last four minutes, the Knicks had closed the gap to 101-99, but behind tremendous individual defense, specifically from Andre Roberson, and some offensive rebounding from Enes Kanter, OKC outscored the Knicks 11-4 down the stretch. One of of the biggest shots: Roberson with a corner 3, early in the shot clock to put OKC up five.
The last two weeks weren’t good for the Thunder, but these last three games are certainly a very positive step. The Knicks aren’t great, but they’ve been playing pretty decently, and to go on the road and win is an excellent thing. To win three straight in response to losing seven of nine, is, well, good.
- (Yes, Westbrook had seven turnovers. But his turnovers really aren’t that backbreaking, and they almost seem to be a necessary collateral damage for him engineer almost all of OKC’s offense.)
- Enes Kanter played some ballgame. This was a great example of what I’ve been saying: In specific matchups, he’s as effective as any player OKC’s got (non-Westbrook division). It’s all about the ability to keep him on the floor and when that happens, he inhales rebounds, is lethal as a pick-and-roll option with Westbrook and just pads the scoreboard. It’s just about finding a way to keep him on the floor.
- When the ball is going in, Anthony Morrow is very helpful.
- OKC’s bench: 48 points.
- Steven Adams is looking more like the player we thought he’d be this season. Post-ups, better in the pick-and-roll, better rebounding.
- I mean, Andre Roberson’s defense tonight. It looked like he really did his homework on Melo. He anticipated a lot of Melo’s moves and just contested everything. I would say, with the way Roberson played on the other end, this might’ve been his best regular season game yet.
- Westbrook’s got a run of three straight triple-doubles going, but he’s an assist and two rebounds away from seven straight.
- Is Westbrook trying for triple-doubles? Or are they just happening? He’s obviously trying for them, but the question is whether or not they’re hurting the Thunder. At times, yes, because he’ll hunt an assist and force a pass rather than moving the ball to an open man and then trusting the ball to come back. That’s where so many of his turnovers come from, trying to force a pass that leads directly to a bucket. The rebounds, I don’t have a problem with. It’s good for the offense when Westbrook rebounds because it leads to transition.
- Here’s the thing: Some people see it as Westbrook rebound hunting, that he’s just trying to stat-grab. But what makes him different from so many players is he tries to rebound every miss. He just goes and gets them. Sometimes, sure, it’s at the expense of leaving a man that may end back up with the ball on a long rebound or something. But he’s going after them.
- Jerami Grant has one move. I think it’s supposed to be a eurostep, but it’s really just two slow, long steps that don’t do anything. Any everyone in the league seems to have this move very much figured out.
- I think it’s a positive thing that Oladipo didn’t play very well (8 points, 4 assists, 4-11 shooting) and the Thunder won.
- Domas Sabonis had a very rookie night.
- Thunder free throw shooting is quietly becoming a problem. They were 12-18 tonight, and just have some very bad foul shooters.
Next up: Home against Scott Brooks and the Wizards on Wednesday