Oklahoma City Thunder Weekly: Look Who’s Back?!?


He’s baaaack. (NBA.com photo)

The Oklahoma City Thunder had their first real week of grueling regular season activity. It certainly started slow, but Thunder fans were treated with a surprise: Russell Westbrook returned way head of schedule, and provided a huge spark. Let’s dive in.

What Went Down

Timberwolves 100, Thunder 81 – Friday, Nov. 1

That game was worst-case scenario for this year’s OKC Thunder. They were a mess. Offensively, they looked completely out of sync. Kevin Durant scored only 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and sat out for part of the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points, but that was the only offensive bright spot. Reggie Jackson was a train wreck. He turned the ball over seven times, and Ricky Rubio and the T-Wolves made him pay. It seemed like he would find a way into the lane, but had no plan with the ball once he got there. In addition, he was 0-for-5 from behind the arc and attempted some pretty low-percentage 3s in the process. That’s not the offense that will keep them contending for a title this year.

The frontcourt equally struggled. Kendrick Perkins quickly got into foul trouble, causing Scott Brooks to play Steven Adams for 24 big minutes. It was not successful, as Nikola Pekovic manhandled him down low, forcing Adams into foul trouble. Adams had some sloppy defensive rotations and screens and looked like a rookie out there. Serge Ibaka wasn’t sharp on either end of the floor, as he went 3-for-13 from the field (with 4 3-point attempts! – No!) and let Kevin Love prove why he’s one of the best offensive power forwards in the league.

It just wasn’t the Thunder’s day. That’s fine, since it was only game No. 2. But luckily, they got some unexpected extra help for the rest of the week’s games.

Thunder 103, Suns 96 – Sunday, Nov. 3

Thunder fans received quite the surprise on Sunday afternoon. Previously expected to be out four to six weeks, Russell Westbrook returned for the third game of the season! Whoa! Nobody saw that coming, but boy does that make the Thunder’s title chase a lot easier. Just watch his intro, and the effect he had on the rest of his teammates and the fans.

Both teams took a while to heat up, but in the end, the Thunder were too strong. Westbrook was certainly rusty, evident from his poor shooting from the field. But he got to the foul line 14 times, which will be huge as the season progresses. His athleticism will only improve with time and he’ll continue to be his explosive self. Durant also looked a little inconsistent offensively, but wound up with 33 points and 10 rebounds. It’s clear that Durant missed Westbrook and it’ll be great to see the two together again.

An interesting development that came out in this game was Derek Fisher‘s role late in the game. He played the entire fourth quarter. OK, Scott Brooks, we all know that Derek Fisher is the elder statesmen of the NBA and has done great things in his career. But I really don’t like seeing him play so much in crunch time. Don’t get me wrong, he played fantastic late in the game against the Suns. He was scrappy and smart defensively and was efficient offensively. But him playing the 3 in crunch time will not lead to long-term success. I don’t know if they’ll have to make a move to add another guy who can play in crunch time, but Scott Brooks has to give some of the young guys a chance late in games (like Jeremy Lamb!).

Reggie Jackson looked much better than he did against Minnesota and seemed very comfortable coming off the bench. He only turned it over twice in 28 minutes and hit some smooth runners in the lane. The presence of Russell Westbrook on Jackson can’t be overstated, as Jackson looks to continue maturing as a player.

Thunder 107, Mavericks 93 – Wednesday, Nov. 6

Now that’s the Thunder we’re used to seeing. This was a rousing win over the Dallas Mavericks, one in which everyone contributed. It was the antithesis of the Timberwolves game, where shots were falling and everyone was playing smoothly. Kevin Durant added an easy 23 points and 10 assists, with a surprisingly low amount of rebounds. But both rotations of the frontcourt picked up the slack and played fantastic. Serge Ibaka put up a 17 and 13 with three blocks and even Kendrick Perkins had a productive 14 minutes of play, with six boards and a ridiculous reverse layup very early in the game. Steven Adams and Nick Collison continued to look good playing next to each other, both with smooth finishes at the rim and some big offensive rebounds. Adams was victim of some hardcore extracurricular activity, receiving this present from wily veteran Vince Carter.

Look at him. Tough as nails. He’s basically the basketball version of Clint Eastwood.

The real star of the night was undoubtably Russell Westbrook. He looked downright incendiary. He scored 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting and controlled the tempo of the game. Although he didn’t put up gaudy assist numbers (per usual with him), you could feel his effect on the game, especially in transition. When he would push the ball, you couldn’t stop the Thunder. He opened up a lot of clean looks for him teammates, like Jeremy Lamb. Lamb had himself a nice little game, going 3-for-5 from behind the arc for 13 points. He would not have received those clean looks if not for Russell Westbrook. The offense has flow to it again. And we have Westbrook to thank.

GIF of the Week

Russell Westbrook is back. Seriously. Just watch this GIF over and over again and tell yourself that it will all be OK. Russell is here to make it better.

Looking Forward

The Oklahoma City Thunder have three games in the upcoming week, but one stands out as the most important. They’ll travel to Detroit on Friday, then take on the Wizards at home on Sunday. But the real test will be on Wednesday against the Clippers. People had circled this game on their calendars the moment the schedule was released. Thankfully for the Thunder, Russell Westbrook will have shaken off all the rust and hopefully be in a groove. But the Clippers did just hang 137 points on the Rockets, so they’re hitting their stride as well. If the Thunder can win, they’ll establish themselves as a legitimate contender from the West.

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