The Oklahoma City Thunder rode a wave of momentum gained from Thursday night’s victory over San Antonio by defeating the Northwest Division rival Utah Jazz yesterday 112-104. After the Thunder’s four game losing skid, it appears all is right in Loud City after back to back victories.
But enough of that, bring on the five thoughts!
THOUGHT ONE: RUSSELL-MANIA
Once again, Mr. Triple-Double did his thing. 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. It marked Westbrook’s 32nd triple-double on the year which moved him past Wilt Chamberlain for second all-time in NBA history for triple-doubles in a single season. With 16 games left, Westbrook only needs nine more to tie Oscar Robertson.
Westbrook’s teammates have certainly done their part in helping this historic season. Victor Oladipo has come back from his back injury with a vengeance. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and even Taj Gibson continue to reek havoc in the post.
We are witnessing history here, folks. Not only is this a statistical odyssey, but its a direct cause of Oklahoma City winning games. Don’t take this for granted or assume that Westbrook can do this every year for the next five or six years. This is special.
THOUGHT TWO: THIS IS THE OLADIPO I ENVISIONED
In his three games back from injury, Oladipo has become that aggressive, number two player that brought thoughts of excitement when the trade went down on draft night last offseason.
Since the last loss against Portland, Oladipo is averaging 19 points per game and shooting an incredible 67 percent from distance. Granted it is only a three game sample — against three good teams — and Oladipo has been streaky all season, but what has been the most welcome sight is his aggression.
Rather than only rely on his shooting, Oladipo has taken command of the ball when Westbrook is off the floor and even a handful of possessions with Westbrook on. Not only is this good news for Oklahoma City now, but could pay dividends in the postseason. Did the light bulb finally turn on for the former Indiana Hoosier? I actually believe it has to do more with the next thought.
THOUGHT THREE: CAMERON PAYNE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB FOR OLADIPO
Stay with me here.
Oladipo has a ton of experience running the offense — his second and third years in Orlando — and in spot duty with the Thunder. But the largest obstacle in Oladipo’s way this season was the fact former lottery pick Cameron Payne was on the roster. Payne was drafted to blossom behind Westbrook in the back up point guard role and stretch the floor with his shooting.
While Payne has had bad luck with injury, the Thunder remained committed to bringing him along until the trade with Chicago. Now that there is no longer a project in the backup point guard role, it has given Oladipo the ability to flex his muscles with the ball in his hands — where he is at his most effective.
Oladipo is a capable spot-up shooter but that is only a piece of his game. A downhill Oladipo running the offense a handful of possessions gives Thunder fans memories of a young James Harden. It is certainly a welcome sight to see.
THOUGHT FOUR: WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT TO PLAY UTAH IN THE PLAYOFFS?
Oklahoma City is officially in the sixth seed in the West. While the four seed is a little out of reach, the fifth seed is still very much in play.
The Thunder have the tie-breaker over Utah and with a a win over the Memphis Grizzlies next month, will own the tie-breaker over them. If Oklahoma City can continue this high level of play and win games in chunks, then a matchup with Utah could be in the works.
Considering right now, the Thunder would play Houston or San Antonio barring a minor collapse, the Jazz present a very winnable series for Oklahoma City. Most — even Thunder fans — would see playoff victories over San Antonio or Houston as minor miracles, while a win over Utah is well within the realm of possibility.
THOUGHT FIVE: THIS WAS JUST A GREAT PICTURE, WASN’T IT?
There are your five thoughts. Let us hope that next “Thoughts” article contain positives from Oklahoma City’s first road victory since January 25th against New Orleans. Yikes!