The Oklahoma City Thunder traveled all around the country this past week, playing some memorable games, some ugly games, and some downright bizarre games. But they ended the week 2-1 against some tough competition. Let’s dive in.
What Went Down
Warriors 116, Thunder 115 – Thursday, Nov. 14
After a heart wrenching loss to the Clippers on Wednesday, the Thunder probably were hoping for an easy rest. But their week only got harder, as they had to play the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena. In what will probably go down as one of the games of the year, the Warriors edged the Thunder late on some last-second miracles.
For such an offensive clinic of a game, Kevin Durant ended up struggling. He only dropped 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but found his way onto the shat sheet with seven rebounds and eight assists. Because of Kendrick Perkins‘ absence, Durant was forced to play at the 4 for long stretches on the game. This meant he had to guard David Lee on the low block. Lee took advantage of this matchup, adding 20 points himself.
Speaking of Kendrick Perkins, the guy who started in place of him, Steven Adams, didn’t have his best game. He looked lost out there, evidenced by his mere 14 minutes of playing time. Scott Brooks was forced to rely on Nick Collison to help shut down the Warriors attack and it didn’t really help. But Collison’s frontcourt partner, Serge Ibaka, had himself another solid game. He was cooking from mid-range, adding 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 42 minutes. Russell Westbrook‘s presence has really elevated Ibaka’s game, which will be huge for the Thunder moving forward.
The Thunder backcourt held their own against the explosive Warriors backcourt. Mind you, it’s basically impossible to beat the Warriors when their shots fall, but the Thunder were damn near close. Russell was his normal recklessly glorious self, contributing 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting. Interestingly, he didn’t get to the foul line that much, with only five free throws. But against one of the best jump shooting teams, he held his own. Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb were solid off the bench and Lamb found some nice open looks from outside, which he turned into three 3-pointers. I’m telling you, Russell will only help Jeremy Lamb continue to break out.
But the Warriors shot 60.9 percent from behind the arc. That’s bananas. When Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson cook like that, you’ll be lucky to hang with them. But as the clock ticked down, Russell hit a shot all the way from Berkeley, which looked to win the game for the Thunder.
But Andre Iguodala was not down for losing and hit an insane game-winner with no time left.
All in all, a disappointing loss. But boy was that fun.
Thunder 92, Bucks 79 - Saturday, Nov. 16
In a significantly less exciting affair, the Thunder continued their road trip with a victory in Milwaukee over an ugly Bucks squad. Due to injuries, the Bucks rolled out just a downright gross starting lineup. Khris Middleton and Nate Wolters should not be starting on an NBA squad. But they played the Thunder close the entire game, going into the half knotted at 40. The leader of this early Bucks charge was O.J. Mayo, who contributed 22 points. But the Thunder did not let them stay around.
The leader of the charge for OKC was Serge Ibaka. He continued his hot streak with his fourth double-double in six games. Although a 15-20-4 stat line isn’t that impressive playing against a team like Milwaukee that will create plenty of rebounding chances, he’s been excellent recently. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played like normal, adding 24 and 26, respectively. But they didn’t look as good as they did against Golden State on offense. They settled for a lot of jump shots, but got away with it because they’re just such a better team than the Bucks.
Due to an injury, Thabo Sefolosha did not play, giving rookie Andre Roberson his first NBA start. He didn’t do much, with only two points in 13 minutes. But the backcourt bench tandem of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb held their own. Jackson looked better than Lamb, but if there’s ever a game for Lamb to jack up some shots, it was this one.
While it wasn’t pretty, a win is a win. That’s the type of game that a good team cannot lose. The Bucks hung around for a little longer than I would have liked, but the Thunder escaped Wisconsin with a victory.
Thunder 115, Nuggets 113 – Monday, Nov. 18
That was a bizarre game. The Thunder scraped a two-point victory from the hands of a Nuggets team that just wouldn’t go away.
Kevin Durant is soooo good. Honestly, I forget sometimes how prolific of a scorer he is. He put up 38 points, with 13 of them being off free throws. His scoring helped the Thunder come back from a 14-point deficit late in the game. Russell Westbrook added 30 points as well, while doing things like this:
This game was reminiscent of previous Thunder days where it was just so clear that Durant and Westbrook were far and away the best players on the court. They’ve yet to have a game where they dominated the scoring like this so far this season and it was nice to see them break out.
Serge Ibaka had a weird night, with only six points and seven rebounds in a full 31 minutes. But he had a few huuge offensive rebounds late in the game as the Thunder completed the comeback and looked generally solid while not putting up big numbers. Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams both were pretty terrible, combining for only two points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. Their lack of a dominant center really hindered them this game.
The Nuggets led for most of the game, but the Thunder slowly but surely chipped away. The Thunder have let teams hang around for long stretches during games so far this season, but eventually put them away. They did it against Washington and did it on Monday. It’s remarkably stressful to watch, but the Heat have done it for years now. It’s how great teams survive during the grueling regular season.
The last minute of this game was filled with wackiness. For example, Ty Lawson accidentally made a free throw that he tried to intentionally miss. And Reggie Jackson also contributed to this odd final minute. Jackson received the ball on an inbounds with about 15 seconds left and Durant screamed for the ball, anticipating the oncoming intentional foul. But Jackson held the ball, took the foul and stoically walked down the court and made the two free throws. It was a strange, perhaps unwarranted expression of confidence, but it paid off.
GIF of the Week
The Oklahoma City Thunder have three games ahead of them next week all at home and two of them will be barometers for this season as a whole. They host the Clippers and Spurs, two of the best teams in the Western Conference. If they can split those two games, I’ll be happy. If they eke out wins against both teams, oh man. We shall see.