Orlando Magic 117 - 114 Oklahoma City Thunder
This game was a lot closer than it probably should have been. The role players had, for the most part, terrible games. This was a game in which the stars carried the team. Kevin Durant had another great game scoring 37 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Durant had a strong shooting game from behind the arc making 6 of his 12 attempts. Russell Westbrook had a career night as well - just not in points or assists as we have become accustomed to seeing. Instead he set a personal best for rebounds. Westbrook pulled down 19 of them, while chipping in 24 points and 14 assists. Westbrook tallied the most rebounds of the game. Serge Ibaka was probably the biggest disappointment for the Thunder. He took 12 shots, making only 4 of them for just 9 points. He did pull down 7 rebounds and reject 6 shots, however. Enes Kanter provided some stability off the bench. He shot an efficent 6-8 for 13 points, while grabbing 7 rebounds.
The Magic put in a team effort. Five players scoredin double digits. Victor Oladipo continued his progression as a good NBA player scoring 37 and 7 rebounds. The young guard dished out just 4 assists.
Oklahoma City Thunder 108 - 116 Golden State Warriors
This was the game of the season for Thunder fans. It was one of the first true tests for the Thunder in testing their title credentials. Coming into this game the Thunder had won 18 of 21 and were playing some good basketball. The Warriors had blown out other teams the media selected as title contenders. Golden State beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 34 and the San Antonio Spurs by 30. In terms of contenders, the media has begun to leave the Thunder off that list, but this game went a long way to firmly establishing them to be in the top tier of professional basketball.
The Thunder got down early in the game. The second quarter was disastrous as the Warriors pushed the lead to more than 20 at one point. The Thunder fought back at the end of the quarter though and closed the game to just 12. The Thunder followed up the end of the second quarter with a strong third, its only winning quarter of the night, and closed the gap to 6 going into the fourth quarter. Anybody who has played basketball knows that comebacks are tiring and your legs begin to tire. This happened to the Thunder as they were unable to complete the comeback and ultimately lost by eight.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook showed that they were not afraid of any duo, no matter the notoriety they may have or any cool nicknames they go up against. The two all-star starters outscored the Splash Bros. Durant dropped 40 points, had 14 rebounds, and 5 assists. Westbrook was effective in getting to the line and finished with 27 points and 12 assists. The Warriors did a good job of keeping Westbrook off the glass, however, as he only pulled down 3 rebounds. Enes Kanter was the surprise of the night for the Thunder. He scored 14 points in 20 minutes and grabbed 15 rebounds. He showed that he can play against the Warriors when it was commonplace to think he may not see the court in a game like this one.
The Warriors got great performances from role players. Mareese Speights, Harrison Barnes, and Shaun Livingston combined for 44 points.
Oklahoma City Thunder 122 - 106 Phoenix Suns
The Thunder firmly showed again that they would prefer to play just the first and fourth quarters of basketball games. This game got uncomfortably close in the fourth quarter, but then the Thunder remembered they just took the best 49 game team to the brink on the road. Kevin Durant led the team in scoring again putting in 32 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had another near-triple-double - scoring 29 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing 8 assists. Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and Cameron Payne had productive games for role players. Waiters scored 15 points and dished 4 assists. Kanter and Payne led the bench by scoring 11 points each. Kanter pulled down 6 boards and Payne dished out 4 assists.
The Thunder have affirmed that they are title contenders. The game against Golden State, while there is no such thing as a moral victory, was a huge statement. The Thunder took the defending champions, and the best 50 game team in the history of the NBA, to the brink. Another statistical point that is encouraging is turnovers. The Thunder have seemed to find a rhythm and are turning it over less. The negatives are that Serge Ibaka has yet to show up this season and he is an important part of the team. If this team is truly going to go the distance and give Golden State a test in the West then he needs to get involved and start knocking down shots. His 3 point percentage has declined each of the last 2 seasons and his field goal percentage is the second lowest of his career. The only season he shot a poorer percentage was last season when he was battling injuries for a good portion of the season and competing against defenses as the second option behind Russell Westbrook. He’s scoring fewer points than he has since the 2011-2012 season and he’s blocked fewer shots than any professional season except his rookie year. This team is already dangerous, with two top-five players, but if Ibaka steps up and elevates his game to a reliable level, this team will trade haymakers with Golden State for a trip to the NBA Finals.
Forever and always, Thunder Up!