If we’re allowed to use last night’s game as an indicator to how the Thunder will fare without Russell Westbrook, then it looks as though we have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Reggie Jackson warms up before the game. Jackson finished with 16 points.
The Rockets didn’t even look like they belonged on the same court as the Thunder last night. Although, to be fair, the Rockets were playing their fourth game in five nights, so they were already running on tired legs.
Thabo Sefolosha looks for an outlet as Dwight Howard gives chase. Sefolosha finished his night with 13 points.
How bad was the Rockets’ night last night? Well, the Thunder started the game with a 13-0 run. The Rockets didn’t even log their first points until Dwight Howard hit a turnaround hook shot with 5:27 remaining in the first. There were absolutely zero ties or lead changes in the game, as the Rockets were just too fatigued to make any significant cuts into the Thunder lead. When all was said and done, the Rockets found themselves on the wrong end of a 117-86 drubbing that dropped their record to 21-12, while improving the Thunder to 25-5.
Kevin Durant slams it down as Omri Casspi watches helplessly. Durant finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Casspi dropped 15 from the Rockets bench.
Kevin Durant went off last night, posting 33 points and 13 rebounds. He was the only player on either team to manage a double-double. Thabo Sefolosha dropped 13 points last night, and Reggie Jackson was good for 16 as the starting point guard. Add Jeremy Lamb’s career-high 22 points from the bench, and the entire combo proved too much for the Rockets to surmount.
Jeremy Lamb squares off against Aaron Brooks. Lamb dropped a career-high 22 points from the Thunder bench, while Brooks chipped in 17 from the Rockets bench.
Chandler Parsons was the only Rockets starter to even manage double digits in points with his 15. Bench players Aaron Brooks and Omri Casspi combined for 32 from the Rockets bench (Brooks: 17 points, Casspi: 15 points), which was only 8 points less than the combined scoring total of all five Rockets starters.
This was just the kind of night the Rockets were having. Chandler Parsons goes for a lay-up, only to be met by a Durant block from behind. Parsons was the only starter to double for the Rockets, finishing with 15 points.
Now the Thunder can rest tonight before welcoming the Portland Trail Blazers to OKC. The Thunder’s last game against them didn’t go so well, as they dropped a Dec. 4th contest in Portland 111-104. Therefore, you know the Thunder are itching to return the favor. The game tips off at 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.
It was the one bit of news no Thunder fan wanted to hear, yet it happened anyway. Russell Westbrook’s knee injury is the gift that keeps on giving … him extra time off.
I think we all had the same look on our faces as Kevin Durant did here when we heard the news of Westbrook’s surgery. Durant ended his night with 34 points and 12 rebounds.
Apparently Westbrook keeps having problems with “water on the knee”, which is the common term for knee effusion. Knee effusion is the medical condition of having your knee swell or inflame due to excess synovial fluid. When this occurs in other moving joints, it’s referred to as hydrarthrosis. I’m not sure if there was any pain involved, but the swelling apparently has Westbrook concerned enough to opt for a third surgery.
I guess Westbrook will have to get used to his new role as bench cheerleader. Here, Durant gives an example of bench cheerleading done right.
It’s obvious why Thunder fans are concerned. Westbrook’s contributions to the team are significant. The worst beating the Thunder took all year happened Nov. 1st, when the Timberwolves laid down a 100-81 beating in Minnesota. This was the last game Westbrook was out due to a surgical procedure performed in early October. With Westbrook out, you already know the Bobcats were looking to take advantage. And it’s not like the Bobcats are a sub-par squad either. Coming into this contest, they were merely one game shy of .500.
Durant attempts to drive around Anthony Tolliver as Kendrick Perkins sets the pick. Perkins decided he wanted to be a major contributor last night, pulling down 10 boards.
They kept it close too. The 1st quarter saw 2 ties and 2 lead changes. The largest lead for either team was the Thunder’s 6.
Thabo Sefolosha attempts to score, only to find Gerald Henderson’s smothering defense in his way. Sefolosha finished with 10 points. Henderson added 14 points for the Bobcats.
The 2nd quarter saw the Bobcats reach a 6-point lead as well, but at halftime, 6 still stood as the largest lead of the game for either team.
Josh McRoberts attempts the jam, and runs into a Serge Ibaka block instead. Ibaka finished with 12 points, while McRoberts posted 13 for the Bobcats.
The 3rd quarter saw a bit of Thunder pull-away, as a 10-3 run to start the 3rd quarter extended the Thunder lead to 13 (52-39). The Bobcats, however, had no intentions of rolling over and playing dead. They spent the rest of the 3rd chipping away at the Thunder lead to the point where the Thunder were only enjoying a 2-point advantage (62-60) going into the final quarter.
Ibaka attempts to shoot over Al Jefferson. Jefferson finished with a 16-point 11-rebound double-double.
You certainly have to give the Bobcats an A for effort. They even managed to tie the game at 62-all with 10:49 to play in the game. You also have to give the Thunder an A for their ability to keep their composure. This isn’t the first double-digit lead they’ve squandered this year, and their ability to win after blowing a big lead is about 50/50. That means that while they escape some games with wins, nearly the entirety of this year’s losses have come after blowing massive leads.
Durant shoots over Tolliver and Kemba Walker. Walker ended his night with 18 points.
In this game, a just over four-minute span between 5:35 and 1:33 saw Kevin Durant practically hold off the Bobcats on his own. In a one-possession game, with the score 76-74, Durant drains a 3-ball to hold them off. After a Gerald Henderson driving reverse lay-up brings the Bobcats back to within 3 (79-76), Durant drains another 3-ball to back them off, then adds 2 with 2:16 to play. Henderson drained another jumper to pull the Bobcats back within 6 (84-78), but Durant answered back at the other end, extending the Thunder lead to 8 with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining. While the Bobcats were able to pull within 1 (86-85) with 14.8 seconds to play, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha free throws sealed the deal, and the Thunder escaped Time Warner Cable Arena with an 89-85 victory. This win improves the Thunder to 24-5, while dropping the Bobcats to 14-16.
Reggie Jackson finishes the nasty dunk. Jackson posted 10 points in his new starting role.
The good news for the Thunder last night is that every starter managed to double in at least one stat category. And even though Jackson has to replace Westbrook at the starting PG position, Jeremy Lamb makes sure the Thunder log their bench points. Durant became the double-double man in Westbrook’s absence, logging 34 points and 12 rebounds. Serge Ibaka and Sefolosha added 12 points apiece, while Jackson and Lamb threw down 10 apiece. Kendrick Perkins obviously didn’t want to be left out of the action. He terrorized the boards last night, pulling down 10 rebounds.
Jeremy Lamb attempts to finish the lay-up as Ben Gordon defends. Lamb dropped 10 from the Thunder bench.
As close as this game was, you know a few Bobcats managed to pad their stats. Al Jefferson was the Bobcats’ double-double beast last night, dropping 16 points and grabbing 11 boards. Kemba Walker led all Bobcats scorers with 18, while Henderson posted 14, and Josh McRoberts contributed 13.
Al Jefferson with the pull-up jumper.
Now the Thunder head back home to greet an old familiar face, as they will be hosting James Harden and the Rockets tomorrow night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be brought to you via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.
If you’re anything like me, you probably tuned into the game yesterday afternoon and saw the alternate uniforms the teams were wearing. You were probably thinking to yourself, “This is a first for me.” They reminded me of soccer-style jerseys to be honest. And after seeing them, I will be looking to procure one for myself. So if any readers here find out where to buy them before I do, feel free to give me a heads up on where you found them and how much the sellers are charging.
Kevin Durant finished his Christmas Day with 29 points.
Apparently, wearing alternate uniforms really seems to jinx the Knicks. They’re now 0-1 in their alternate sleeved orange shirts, after going 0-6 in their alternate orange jerseys. Although I seriously doubt their choice of attire would have affected the outcome in any positive way for the Knicks.
Tim Hardaway Jr. goes up as Jeremy Lamb looks to meet him with a hand in his face. Hardaway dropped 21 points from the Knicks bench, while Lamb posted 13 from the Thunder bench.
Carmelo Anthony was out with a sprained left ankle, Ray Felton was nursing a groin injury, Pablo Prigioini missed the game due to a toe injury, and Metta World Peace sat out with a sore left knee. The Knicks were severely short-handed, and knew they were in for a world of hurt due to the fact that the team coming into Madison Square Garden had rattled off 17 wins in their last 19 games.
Serge Ibaka reacts to a Tyson Chandler foul. Ibaka posted 24 points by game’s end.
The Knicks tried to keep it close early, as they were only down 6 (35-29) going into the second. Although an 11-0 Thunder run started at the end of the first quarter went into the second, and once the Thunder went ahead by 11 (44-33), the bottom fell out completely for the Knicks. By game’s end, the Thunder gave the Knicks a 123-94 beating. I’m sure the Knicks were hoping for a better gift.
Russell Westbrook became the 5th player in NBA history to post a Christmas Day triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Russell Westbrook joined some pretty elite company yesterday by becoming only the 5th player in NBA history to record a Christmas Day triple-double. He finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. This now allows him to be mentioned in the same breath as Billy Cunningham, John Havlicek, LeBron James, and Oscar Robinson (who actually managed the feat on four separate Christmas Day occasions). Kevin Durant chipped in 29 points, while Serge Ibaka dropped 24. Reggie Jackson was good for 18 off of the Thunder bench, while Jeremy Lamb contributed 13.
Reggie Jackson shoots with Amar’e Stoudemire’s hand in his face. Jackson finished with 18 points off of the Thunder bench. Stoudemire dropped 22 from the Knicks bench.
While this was the worst Christmas Day loss the Knicks have been forced to endure, some players took advantage of the absences. J.R. Smith was the only starter to manage a double, with his 20 points. However, bench players Amar’e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down a combined 43 (Stoudemire: 22 points, Hardaway Jr.: 21 points).
J.R. Smith was the only Knicks starter to manage a double, finishing with 20 points.
It’s back on the road again for the Thunder, as Friday they will take the court at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC to face the Bobcats. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.
Well, it was bound to happen at some point in the season. It happens to the best teams in any organization.
Amir Johnson shoots over Serge Ibaka. Amir Johnson had the only double-double for either side, posting 17 points and 13 rebounds.
No matter how hard you try, and no matter how much it screams from the back of your mind that no team should be overlooked, you’re just not going to get as jacked for certain teams as you will for others. That’s why the threat of the trapdoor constantly looms for even the best of squads. That’s the philosophy behind the NFL phrase, “Any given Sunday”. That’s probably also the biggest reason why you rarely see winless seasons by teams in any organization, because even the mightiest teams find themselves caught by at least one trapdoor game per season. It almost never fails.
Jonas Valanciunas puts one over Kendrick Perkins. Valanciunas finished with 17 points.
The Raptors successfully trapdoored the Thunder last night, after the Thunder had narrowly avoided an Orlando Magic trapdoor exactly one week prior.
John Salmons chases a loose ball out of bounds as Raptors coach Dwane Casey looks on. Salmons finished with 14 points from the Raptor bench.
I’m not sure what it is about the back-to-back nights, but I’m beginning to notice that if the Thunder have any weaknesses this season, one of their biggest is their performance when asked to play back-to-back nights. Out of four total back-to-backs this season, the Thunder have only swept one. Not only that, but the Clippers-Warriors back-to-back resulted in the Thunder dropping both games. Grant Long said last night that it’s hard to look for ways to improve when you’re winning games. Well, I think I’ve found an area they need to focus on.
DeMar DeRozan attempts to drive past Jeremy Lamb. DeRozan dropped 17 for the game.
The 1st quarter stayed close pretty much the entire way. The largest lead for either team was 4, which is actually what the Raptors were leading by heading into quarter #2 (25-21).
Salmons and Ibaka.
The 2nd quarter stayed close as well. The Thunder’s largest lead was 5, while the Raptors extended their’s to 7 at one point. By halftime, the Raptors had outscored the Thunder for the second straight quarter, and were enjoying a 62-56 advantage.
Kyle Lowry squares off with Derek Fisher. Lowry’s 22 points led the Raptors in scoring.
The 3rd quarter saw some serious clamp-down by the Thunder defense, as shortly after the Raptors went up 9 early in the quarter (65-56), the Thunder rattled off a 12-2 run to reclaim the lead 68-67 with just under 8 minutes remaining in the period. After 4 subsequent unanswered Raptor points, the Thunder started a 14-0 run that pushed their lead to 11 (82-71) with just over 3 minutes left in the quarter. By quarter’s end, the Thunder had held the Raptors to a mere 13 points for the quarter, and were entering the 4th up 84-75.
Russell Westbrook jacks one up over Lowry. Westbrook led all scorers with 27.
Then it was the Raptors who decided to clamp down defensively. Halfway through the final quarter, the Raptor’s hit a 10-0 run to allow them to claim a 98-93 lead. The Thunder simply failed to respond, as they only managed to score 14 points for the entire quarter. The Raptors become the first team to escape Chesapeake Energy Arena with the victory this season by a score of 104-98. This win makes it four consecutive on the road for the Raptors, who improve to 11-14 for the year, while dropping the Thunder to 22-5.
Lowry goes for the long 2 as Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha defend.
Just looking at the box score, it seems like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the only Thunder players who bothered to show up last night. Westbrook’s 27 points, and Durant’s 24 points were the only stats the Thunder reached double digits in last night.
Kevin Durant attempts an awkward looking lay-in. Durant finished with 24 points.
By contrast, five Raptor players reached double-digit points, and Amir Johnson was my vote for Player of the Game with his 17 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Lowry’s 22 points led the Raptors in scoring, while DeMar DeRozan dropped 17, Jonas Valanciunas added 13, and John Salmons contributed 14 from the Raptor bench.
Valanciunas skys for the jam as Nick Collison defends.
They only have a couple of days to lick their wounds, as Christmas Day features a road contest against the New York Knicks. The game comes to us from the world-famous Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm CST, and will be broadcast via ABC and WWLS The Sports Animal.
This one wasn’t quite the pasting that other teams have been forced to endure at the hands of the Thunder. But, a win is a win, and I’ll take it either way.
Russell Westbrook looks for an outlet pass, as Tony Parker trails. Westbrook’s 31 points led all scorers, while Parker’s 23 led all Spurs scorers.
In the first meeting of the season between these two squads, it was the Spurs entering Chesapeake Energy Arena on a major winning streak. Their win streak was at 11 games, then was subsequently snapped as the Thunder claimed a 94-88 victory. This time, the Thunder were entering AT&T Center with an 8-game winning streak, and you already know Gregg Popovich and Co. were itching to end a fairly big winning streak themselves. This December has been a dominant one for the Thunder, as they are currently 11-1 for this month once last night’s win is factored into the equation.
Serge Ibaka with the nasty dunk, as Tim Duncan opts to not foul. Ibaka finished with a 14-point 14-rebound double-double, as Duncan ended his night with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double of his own.
The 1st quarter didn’t start off very promising, however. The Spurs were even able to claim a 5-point lead (13-8) halfway through the opening quarter. The Thunder were able to bounce back to tie the game at 21-all to end the 1st.
“Big Fundamental” Tim Duncan squares off against Kendrick Perkins.
The 2nd quarter was when the Thunder began to pull away. Even Popovich himself was quoted as saying, “Our demise was the 2nd quarter. We gave up 40 points.” Yes. The Spurs defense went AWOL in the 2nd, and allowed the Thunder 40 points in that one quarter alone. No other quarter even saw as much as 30 scored for either team, so Popovich is right to place the blame for the loss on lack of 2nd quarter defense. It was probably the largest contributor to the Spurs’ loss, as they entered halftime with a 61-50 deficit.
Kevin Durant looks to pop one over Danny Green. Durant finished with 17 points.
The third quarter was the cruise control quarter, as the Thunder and Spurs stood toe-to-toe for the entirety of it. The Spurs only outscored the Thunder by 2 heading into the 4th, but that allowed them to cut the lead to single digits (85-76). And with the way the Thunder have been handily dispatching opponents all season, a 9-point deficit actually sparked hope for the Spurs. The Thunder’s ability to win hasn’t been the surprising part of this season. The surprising part is the level of dominance over lesser teams that the Thunder have beaten this year. A lot of Thunder games are usually decided by the beginning of the 4th quarter.
Boris Diaw looking like he’s about to post up Nick Collison. Diaw dropped 14 off of the Spurs’ bench.
This one was anything but decided, as the Spurs opened the 4th on a 6-0 run that pulled them to within 3 of the lead (85-82). With the Spurs’ deficit at 4 following a Tiago Splitter dunk (90-86), the Thunder sparked a 6-0 run of their own to re-extend the lead to 10 (96-86). The Spurs tried as hard as they could, but after pulling within 9 on a Manu Ginobili 3-ball (106-97) with less than 2:30 to play, the Thunder ended the game on a 7-3 run that helped the Thunder claim the victory by the final score of 113-100. The win puts the Thunder’s record at 22-4 for the year, while dropping the Spurs to 21-6. The Thunder are now 2-0 for the season series, and their 22-4 record stands as the best in the NBA for either conference at this time.
KD drives the lane.
Serge Ibaka got a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double that certainly contributed to the win. Russell Westbrook led all scorers to take the floor with his 31 points. Kevin Durant dropped 17, and yet was surprisingly outscored by bench player Reggie Jackson’s 21. Although to be fair, Jackson actually saw more floor time than Thabo Sefolosha or Kendrick Perkins, with over 30 minutes logged.
Reggie Jackson made it happen when he got off of the bench. He finished with 21 points.
You knew Tim Duncan was going to get his numbers (17 points, 10 assists as the Spurs’ only double-double man.) Tony Parker was the Spurs’ leading scorer with 23. And although Marco Belinelli finished with 17 points, they all came in the first half, as Belinelli was subsequently left scoreless in the second half. Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili combined for 25 bench points for the Spurs (Diaw: 14 points, Ginobili: 11 points.)
Manu Ginobili drives past Derek Fisher as Steven Adams trails. Ginobili finished with 11 points off of the Spurs bench.
Tonight’s game might be over before it’s even started. The Toronto Raptors come to town to try to snap the largest current home winning streak in the NBA, as the Thunder look to set a franchise record by opening with their 14th straight home victory. Although the Raptors have been playing better lately, and are seeking their 4th straight road victory for the first time in 12 seasons. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.
A familiar sight inside “The ‘Peake”. Fans of opposing teams might as well get used to seeing this.
That’s the magic number for this year’s Thunder squad. 13, as in 13 consecutive home victories to open the season. 13 ties a franchise record that was set back in the ’76-’77 season when the team was still the Seattle Supersonics. The next season saw the Sonics make an NBA Finals appearance. The following season, the Sonics brought an NBA Championship to Seattle.
Russell Westbrook shoots over D.J. Augustin. Westbrook finished his night with a 20-point 10-assist double-double. Augustin posted 15 points for the Bulls.
Therefore, it makes sense that the Seattle residents were a more than a little miffed to hear that their NBA team was packing up and skipping town. Before that NBA Championship, the only professional sports championship Seattle had seen was when the Seattle Metropolitans won the 1917 Stanley Cup in the days of the PCHL, just before the NHL opened its inaugural season. Although since the move, Seattle’s MLS franchise, the Seattle Sounders FC have claimed three straight U.S. Open Cup Championships from ’09-’11.
Kevin Durant goes for the lay-in as Augustin watches, powerless to stop him.
It’s been five years since the Thunder came to town, and yet the days of the inaugural 23-59 OKC “Blunder” seem like a lifetime ago. The team has managed to improve their record every season since showing up in OKC. Again, they finished 23-59 in their first year, which was the only year they missed the playoffs since relocation.
Thabo Sefolosha squares off with Mike Dunleavy. Sefolosha finished with 10 points. Dunleavy added 11 points to the Bulls’ total.
The next year saw a drastic improvement of 27 wins, finishing with a 50-32 record. That postseason saw them push the Lakers to 6 games in the opening round before Pau Gasol’s last-second tip-in closed the door on what was considered, at the time, a miracle season. It’s funny, yet not all that surprising that the Thunder weren’t expected to match that production the following season, and yet they continued to improve.
Reggie Jackson leaves Tony Snell in the dust. Jackson contributed 18 points off of the Thunder bench. Snell dropped 10 off of the Bulls bench.
The next season saw the Thunder claim their first Northwest Division Championship of the OKC era, and improve on the win total once again, finishing 55-27. The postseason featured a Western Conference Finals appearance against the Dallas Mavericks, but over-reliance on jump shooting had them ousted from the playoffs after 5 games. Although now even the NBA analysts themselves were noticing a trend: The Thunder just get better every year.
Joakim Noah is challenged by Serge Ibaka. Noah finished with a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double. Ibaka’s numbers probably would have been better if he didn’t play most of the game in foul trouble.
Although the following season didn’t feature as many victories in the regular season (47-19), it didn’t feature as many losses either, as they only played a total of 68 games in the strike-shortened NBA season. This postseason actually saw the Thunder capture the Western Conference Championship, but they ended up running into a Heat squad that had their number, and wound up ousted after 5 games. As the Thunder never seemed to regress, many felt that the NBA Championship was the next logical step last season.
Carlos Boozer battles Steven Adams for the loose ball. Boozer finished with 10 points.
It possibly could have been too, as the Thunder finished with a 60-22 record, and were heading into the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference. Then the Patrick Beverly collision with Russell Westbrook injured Westbrook’s knee. Although the Thunder were still able to make it out of the opening round without Westbrook, they ran into a Grizzlies squad that still remembered their conference semi-finals ousting at the hands of the Thunder in 7 games two seasons ago, and you could just tell they were itching to return the favor. Westbrook’s absence was too much to surmount, and the Grizzlies ended the Thunder’s championship hopes in 5 games.
Taj Gibson backing down Ibaka. Gibson contributed 16 points from the Bulls bench.
This season seems like they’ve managed to improve yet again, despite the fact that there might not be much room for improvement left. They’ve shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling to the point where the next ceiling they hit may not be a glass one. They may just end up on top, point blank. And for every other team in the league, that is a very scary thought to consider.
Buckets were getting scored, and Kendrick Perkins didn’t want to be left out.
The Thunder move to 21-4 with their 107-95 win over the Bulls last night, while the Bulls drop to a dismal 9-16 in the absence of Derrick Rose.
Jeremy Lamb may not have reached double-digits last night, but he looks good here as a trailing Marquis Teague looks on from afar.
Westbrook seems determined to prove his worth to the squad this season, as he posted a double-double of 20 points and 10 assists. Kevin Durant finished with 32 points, and Thabo Sefolosha managed double-digits last night, with 10 points. Reggie Jackson dropped 18 from the Thunder bench.
Reggie Jackson takes flight.
Joakim Noah is easily the Bulls’ best player in Rose’s absence. He notched the only other double-double of the night, with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Although five other Bulls players scored double-digits: D.J. Augustin dropped 15, Mike Dunleavy added 11, Carlos Boozer posted 10, and bench players Tony Snell and Taj Gibson combined for 26 off of the Bulls’ bench (Snell: 10, Gibson: 16).
Westbrook to the rim.
Although I see a true test coming for the Thunder this Saturday. They travel to AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX to take on the Spurs. They took the first meeting of the season by a score of 94-88 back on Nov. 27th. That’s only a 6-point margin of victory, so we probably won’t be seeing starters sitting out of the 4th quarter in this contest. Gregg Popovich always gets his squad to play hard. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.
I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve noticed that most of the Thunder games lack drama this season.
Russell Westbrook before the game. He finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds by game’s end.
Last season, and the season before, while the Thunder were still an amazing squad, the games would still usually come down to the final minutes. Or, at the very least, their opponent would still be in the game in the 4th. It gave the Thunder fanatic hope though. Those close games usually show your team what they’re made of, and shows the team how competitive they can be with the game on the line against a quality opponent. Those close wins gave the Thunder fanatic hope that they could be competitive in the NBA postseason against anyone they happened to draw.
Kevin Durant before the game. Durant finished with 30 points, marking the 12th time he’s dropped 30 or more this season. That stat is tops in the NBA at this time.
Fast-forward to this season. While it didn’t start off well, as the Thunder were sitting with a 5-3 record after the Nov.14th contest at Golden State that saw Andre Iguodala bury the last second shot to steal the victory for the Warriors, the Thunder have since rattled of 15 victories in their last 16 games to put their current record at 20-4 for the season. This is their best start since the Supersonics’ ’93-’94 season, when they started 21-3 in their first 24 games. This season, the Thunder have gone ahead by so much, they can usually play on cruise control by the 4th quarter. Last night’s contest against the Nuggets was no exception.
Serge Ibaka with the nasty jam past J.J. Hickson, as Kenneth Faried watches from behind, and Wilson Chandler watches from behind Kendrick Perkins. Ibaka finished with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double. Hickson had a 20-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Faried and Chandler added 13 points apiece.
Simply put, the Thunder outscored the Nuggets in every single quarter last night. After 1, they were up 29-24 (4-point lead). By halftime, they’d gone up 52-44 (8-point lead). After 3, it was 75-65 (10-point lead), and it ended with a final score of 105-93 (12-point win).
KD with the one-handed floater as a trailing Ty Lawson looks on. Lawson finished with a 17-point 13-assist double-double.
Russell Westbrook double-doubled once again for the Thunder, posting 21 points and pulling down 13 boards. Serge Ibaka had a double-double of his own (17 pts, 10 rebs). And Kevin Durant doesn’t need double-doubles when he scores 30 for the game.
Westbrook skys for the sick one-handed throw-down as Evan Fournier watches helplessly.
J.J. Hickson and Ty Lawson posted the double-doubles on the Nuggets’ side of things. (Hickson: 20 pts, 14 rebs. Lawson: 17 pts, 13 assts). Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried dropped 13 points apiece, and Nate Robinson was the only bench player for either side to hit double digits in terms of points, finishing with 12.
Former Thunder bench player Nate Robinson attempts to drop the lay-in over Nick Collison. Robinson was the only bench scorer on either team to manage double digits, finishing with 12.
Now the Thunder head back to OKC to play the Chicago Bulls this Thursday, who are once again without Derrick Rose. Rose will miss the remainder of the season following surgery on his right knee. Tip-off is scheduled for around 7pm CST and will be featured as the first half of TNT’s double-header, with the Spurs-Warriors contest on the back end. The contest will also be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal if you find yourself unable to make it to a TV screen. Or, you can always recap the action right here at Thunder In The Post if you happen to miss it.
I would have liked to provide video of the Serge Ibaka block that salvaged the win for OKC last night, but there was no video of the sort on youtube.
Nikola Vucevic attempts a one-handed floater over Serge Ibaka. Vucevic finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Either way, last night’s contest had the Thunder fanatic a little concerned towards the end.
Arron Afflalo attempts the lay up as Thabo Sefolosha trails. Afflalo ended his night as the leading scorer for the Magic, with 25 points.
I’m not surprised by it however. They were playing a team coming into Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 7-16 record. This game had “trapdoor” written all over it.
Victor Oladipo skys for the lay-in, as Russell Westbrook defends. Oladipo finished with 15 points. Westbrook posted a 20-point, 12 rebound double-double.
The 1st quarter started about how you’d expect. The Thunder opened strong with a 4-0 run, but the Magic just wouldn’t go away. At the 7:23 mark of the 1st, the Magic ripped off a 5-0 run that saw them claim a 3-point lead (14-11). With the lead still at 3 for the Magic (18-15) at the 3:11 mark, the Thunder closed the 1st with a 13-4 run that gave them a 6-point lead (28-22).
Kevin Durant shoots over Nikola Vucevic. Durant led all scorers last night with 28 points.
The 2nd saw quite a bit of back and forth as the Magic were trying to cut the lead. They even tied the game at 45 with 3:38 to play in the half. Luckily, the Thunder seemed to be in the business of closing quarters out well last night. They ripped of an 11-1 run that saw the Thunder take their first double-digit lead of the game (56-46) with 42.8 seconds remaining until halftime. Although the Magic were able to respond with a last-second 3-ball to close the half, the Thunder still entered halftime up 7 (56-49).
Westbrook skys for the dunk as Oladipo watches, powerless to do anything to stop it.
The 3rd quarter basically saw the Thunder playing the fast-paced style they’re notorious for playing. That’s what makes this Thunder team so hard to beat. It’s all of the young, fresh, fast sets of legs our squad features that frustrates other teams, because they either don’t have the foot speed, good footwork, or in some cases even the wind, to keep up. The Thunder had managed to build a 14-point lead (83-69) with just over a minute left in the third. And although the Magic hit a jumper to close the 3rd, the Thunder were entering the 4th quarter up 12 (83-71).
Glen Davis aborts his lay-in attempt over Kendrick Perkins, looking to pass out of it instead. Davis finished with 11 for the Magic.
You could see last night that the 14-point lead was threatening to lull the Thunder to sleep. They did extend the lead to 16 (94-78) with just under 7:30 to play in the game. I’m sure the Thunder thought the win was locked down. The Magic, however, had other ideas. With about 6 minutes remaining in the game, and the Thunder still clutching a 16-point lead (96-80), the Magic go on an immediate 8-0 run to cut the lead to 8 (96-88) with just under 4:30 left on the clock. The Thunder managed a couple of quick buckets to re-extend the lead to 12 (100-88), then the Magic hit another run. This run was a 10-0 run that had brought the Magic to within 2 points (100-98) with only 22.3 seconds remaining. Luckily the Thunder were able to escape with a win, as Kevin Durant hits his second free throw, and Serge Ibaka blocks Nikola Vucevic’s lay-in attempt at almost literally the last second (1.3 seconds on the clock at the time of the block, to be exact). And you could see every Thunder player breathe a sigh of relief when the clock expired. They had just salvaged a 101-98 victory that moved them to 19-4 on the season, and dropped the Magic to a dismal 7-17. The Thunder are still unbeaten at “The ‘Peake” on the season, sporting a very nifty 12-0 record there.
Jameer Nelson contemplates his next move, as Westbrook and Ibaka defend. Nelson dropped 13 points last night.
Kevin Durant’s 28 points led all scorers to take the floor last night. Russell Westbrook notched the Thunder’s lone double-double with 20 points and 12 boards. And Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb provided the bench scoring for which they are becoming rather well-known (Lamb posted 16 points, Jackson dropped 10).
Jeremy Lamb goes for the jump shot as Glen Davis looks on. Lamb was the leading bench scorer for the Thunder last night, with 16 points.
The Magic starters all had good performances. Nikola Vucevic had the lone double-double for the Magic (13 pts, 16 rebs), but every other starter finished in double-digits in scoring as well, led by Arron Afflalo’s 25. Victor Oladipo dropped 15, Jameer Nelson added 13, and Glen Davis posted 11. If you ask me, what killed it for the Magic was their lack of bench scoring. The entire bench for the Magic totalled 21 points, meaning the entire Magic bench was outscored by two Thunder bench players, as Jackson and Lamb combined for 26.
Reggie Jackson goes up against Kyle O’Quinn. Jackson dropped 10 points from the Thunder bench.
The Thunder head to Denver this Tuesday night for a match-up with the Nuggets at The Pepsi Center. Tip off is scheduled for 8pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.
Oklahoma City native, and Putnam City High School standout Xavier Henry. Herny finished with 15 points off of the Lakers bench.
Oklahoma City native Xavier Henry was shown absolutely zero love by his hometown crowd. It’s not anything he did personally that turned the OKC crowd against him. It’s just that when you sign on the dotted line to play for one of the most hated teams in the OKC area, you basically render yourself “the enemy”. Who can blame him though? If you are presented with an opportunity to play for one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history, you’d be an idiot to turn it down.
Wesley Johnson with the emphatic jam. Johnson finished his night with 13 points.
So what is it about the Lakers that get the OKC crowd’s blood boiling? It comes down to simple luck of the draw.
Pau Gasol tries to drive the lane while Steven Adams defends. Gasol finished his night with 14 points.
Back in late April of 2010, the Thunder made their first playoff appearance of the OKC era. Since they were the 8th seed, however, they wound up drawing the 1st seeded Lakers in the first round. The Thunder actually fought valiantly, pushing the series to 6 games before a Pau Gasol tip-in in the final seconds of Game 6 effectively closed the door on the Thunder’s NBA Championship hopes. The OKC crowd just had their first taste of the postseason, and weren’t quite ready to see it end when Gasol finished the series. Needless to say, the Thunder fans still harbor feelings of ill will towards the Lakers franchise for that one tip-in. Well, that and the fact that Kobe Bryant’s attitude really seems to rub OKC fans the wrong way.
On the plus side, OKC fans had one hell of a Friday night. Is there a better way for an OKC fan to spend their Friday evening than to watch the Lakers get absolutely manhandled by the Thunder? If there is, someone needs to fill me in, because I’m obviously unaware of it.
Russell Westbrook skys for the one-hander. Westbrook finished with 19 points and 12 assists.
Not only were the Lakers in a bit of a slump entering Chesapeake Energy Arena having lost their last 2 games, they were also playing short-handed, as Steve Blake was out with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. I doubt his presence would have helped. The Thunder dominated this game from start to finish.
Serge Ibaka showing love to Kevin Durant. Ibaka posted 19 points and 10 rebounds. Durant finished with 31 for the evening.
It seemed to start okay for the Lakers. Even though the Thunder opened the game with a quick 3-ball, the Lakers answered with a 13-4 run that had brought the Laker lead to 6 (13-7) with 7:39 to play in the opening quarter. The problem for the Lakers was that once the Thunder tied the game at 13 less than a minute later, they would lose their lead for good.
Nick Young attempts to dish an assist past Steven Adams. Despite being a bench player, Young led all Lakers scorers with 17.
The Lakers were outscored in every single quarter of last night’s contest. They were outscored by 10 (38-28) in the 1st quarter, and outscored by 5 in each of the subsequent quarters (28-23 in each of the last 3 quarters).
Reggie Jackson, pictured with Steven Adams. Jackson ended his night with 19 points from the Thunder bench.
Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka notched impressive double-doubles last night (Westbrook: 19 pts, 12 assts. Ibaka: 19 pts, 10 rebs). Kevin Durant led all scorers to take the floor last night with 31 points, and Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb combined for 30 bench points (Jackson: 19 pts, Lamb: 11 pts).
Jeremy Lamb, who was good for 11 points off of the Thunder bench.
Pau Gasol and Wesley Johnson were the only Laker starters who managed double digits in points (Gasol: 14 pts, Johnson: 13 pts). Oddly enough, the Lakers had two bench players who outscored those starters. Nick Young dropped 17 points, while Putnam City standout Xavier Henry posted 15. One thing that Henry can rest his hat on is the fact that he was the Lakers’ second leading scorer here in his hometown. Another surprise was that while Kobe Bryant did dish out 13 assists, he only managed a total of 4 points for the game. That marks only the sixth start in Kobe’s entire career where he managed 4 points or less. This marked the third game back for Bryant since his return from an Achilles injury that finished his season last year, and the Lakers are still winless in those games. If you ask me, that injury will be the one that derails Kobe’s career. I think he should retire after the season. It just doesn’t look like he has it anymore.
Kobe Bryant tries to back down Serge Ibaka. While Kobe had 13 assists, he only managed 4 points for the game.
This was a very satisfying win for the Thunder. Now they turn their attention to the Orlando Magic team that’s hitting up Chesapeake Energy Arena for Sunday’s affair. Tip-off time is 6pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.
Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley square off. Both Westbrook and Conley were the leading scorers for their respective teams (Westbrook posted 27 points, as Conley dropped 20.).
If you were to tell me that Westbrook had this particular game circled on his calendar, and that he was chomping at the bit for the chance to hit the floor against this Grizzlies team, I would be inclined to believe you. Although several months have passed since the Grizzlies ousted the Thunder from the Western Conference Semi-Finals in a dominating 4-1 fashion, I wouldn’t doubt Westbrook remembers it like it was yesterday. Sadly however, it isn’t from the experience that Westbrook draws his memory from, as he never got to play a second of the series. A collision with Patrick Beverly during Game 2 of the Thunder-Rockets series had torn the meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee, and effectively ended his season. That one play not only made Patrick Beverly Public Enemy #1 in the state of Oklahoma, but essentially reshaped the entire Western Conference.
Westbrook skys for the lay-in as Jamaal Franklin is reduced to the role of dread-filled spectator.
Last night, Westbrook made sure his presence was felt.
Alternate angle of the Westbrook lay-in attempt.
However, despite the Thunder being without Thabo Sefolosha for the second straight game, the Grizzlies knew they were about to be in for a taste of what the Thunder went though in their last playoff series. What had the Grizzlies concerned was that they would be without Marc Gasol, who is out indefinitely with a sprained MCL, as the low post combo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are one of the Grizzlies’ biggest strengths.
Zach Randolph attempts a fadeaway jumper over Steven Adams. Randolph finished with 17 for the evening.
The Grizzlies started okay, and even held a 10-5 lead with 7:41 to play in the 1st. Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for them, as the Thunder answered immediately with a 16-1 run that pushed the Thunder lead to 10 (21-11) with 3:43 remaining in the opening quarter. Memphis subsequently answered with a 9-2 run that cut the Thunder lead to 3 (23-20) with 1:10 to go in the 1st. Two Kevin Durant free throws, followed by two Mike Conley free throws, put the score at 25-22, and ended the 1st with a 3-point Thunder lead.
Kevin Durant with the nasty dunk as Mike Conley and Kosta Koufos can only watch. Durant finished the game with 18 points, and Koufos dropped 12 for the Grizzlies.
The 2nd quarter started off beautifully for the Thunder, as a Jeremy Lamb alley oop off of a Reggie Jackson assist pushed the Thunder lead to 5 (27-22). But then the Grizzlies responded with an immediate 8-2 run that allowed them to reclaim a 1-point lead (30-29) with 10:21 to play in the first half. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that would be the last lead they would see for the rest of the game, as Jackson reclaimed the lead for the Thunder a mere 14 seconds later off of a running jump shot. Later in the quarter, with the Thunder clinging to a mere 3-point lead (40-37) with 4:19 remaining on the clock, they spark a 17-4 run to end the first half with a 57-42 lead.
Jeremy Lamb jumps up to defend a floater from Jamaal Franklin. Lamb contributed 18 points from the Thunder bench.
This time, the Thunder had no intentions of letting their opponent stick around. The Grizzlies fought as hard as they could, but the Thunder pretty much had this game locked up once they established a 24-point lead (87-63) with 2:11 to play in the 3rd. Durant, Westbrook, and Kendrick Perkins all sat out through the entirety of the 4th quarter, as their presence was no longer required to finish off the Grizzlies. Once the final buzzer sounded, the Thunder walked out of FedEx Forum with a 116-100 victory that improved their record to 17-4, while dropping the Grizzlies below .500 (10-11).
Zach Randolph looks on as Jon Leuer challenges Serge Ibaka. Ibaka finished with 12 points, and Leuer led all Grizzlies bench scorers with 17.
There were no double-doubles whatsoever from either side last night, but they obviously weren’t required for the Thunder. Westbrook’s 27 points led all scorers to take the floor last night, while Durant dropped 18 points, and Serge Ibaka contributed 12. 35 of the Thunder’s bench points came from just two players. Reggie Jackson posted 17 points, as Jeremy Lamb splashed in 18.
Reggie Jackson drives past Nick Calathes. Jackson dropped 17 points coming off of the Thunder bench.
Conley’s 20 points lead the Grizzlies in scoring last night, as Zach Randolph added 17. Center Kosta Koufos managed 12 points, and Jerryd Bayless, the man most NBA draft analysts expected to be picked over Westbrook, threw down 11. Jon Leuer’s 17 points led the Grizzlies in bench scoring. Although the decision to sit Ed Davis over a left ankle sprain, and Quincy Pondexter for a tarsal navicular stress fracture left the Grizzlies bench very short-handed. Most analysts agree that Pondexter is done for the season.
Jerryd Bayless goes for the floater. Bayless finished with 11 points.
This win actually marked the first time all season that the Thunder won the second game of a back-to-back, which surprisingly makes them the last team out of all 30 NBA squads to accomplish the feat this season. It was nice to see them pull that off on the road as well.
Leuer tries for the long 2-pointer as Durant defends.
Now the Thunder head back home to host the Lakers this Friday. The Lakers may not be doing particularly well at the moment, but they are still a team that always requires pre-game preparation. The game will be coming to you from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off time is 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.