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5 Thoughts: Thunder 122, Nets 104 (3-14-17)

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-104 on Tuesday, March 14. Oklahoma City struggled through a good portion of the game but fought back, finding the winning formula on Pi day. This one though, wasn’t irrational enough to go on forever. Though, it probably feels that way for the Nets this season.

GIBSON LINEUP CHANGE PAYING OFF

After three games with Taj Gibson in the starting lineup, it’s safe to say the move by Billy Donovan has been a success. Oklahoma City is 3-0 since Gibson’s insertion into the starting five, with wins against San Antonio, Utah, and Brooklyn. In those games, Oklahoma City is defeating their opponents 112-100 on average. It’s clear that Domantis Sabonis has a bright future, but it was also clear on multiple occasions before Gibson arrived that Sabonis wasn’t ready to be an NBA starting power forward yet. Coming off the bench, less pressure will be on Sabonis, allowing him to play more freely. On the other end, Gibson is a chiseled veteran who needs to be starting in this league. He provides OKC with another viable scoring threat, but perhaps his greatest contribution comes on the defensive end through rebounds and pick-and-roll defense.

WESTBROOK DOMINATES AGAIN

It sounds like a broken record, but the Thunder’s star point guard is doing something truly remarkable this season. Against Brooklyn, Russell Westbrook had another stellar stat line of 25 points, 19 assists, and 12 rebounds. Westbrook now only needs to average 7.5 assists, and 8.8 rebounds per game over the final 15 games to finish the season averaging a triple double. With his performance against the Nets, Westbrook now only needs eight more triple doubles to break Oscar Robertson’s single-season triple double record of 41. It’s easy to watch the Thunder nightly and take Westbrook for granted. Thunder fans need to realize what they’re witnessing is quite possibly the greatest individual statistical season in NBA history.

LOSING STREAK ENDS

Before the game against Brooklyn, Oklahoma City had lost seven straight road games. With these struggles, the game had all the makings of a major let down. Brooklyn is the worst team in the NBA, and it would’ve been very easy for Oklahoma City to overlook them and start looking ahead towards their matchup with Toronto on Thursday. The Thunder took care of business in snow-covered Brooklyn however, learning from their last two road games in which they lost to Phoenix and Dallas, neither of whom are playoff teams.

GOD BLESS KENNY ATKINSON

The first year Nets coach is having a less than stellar first season as a head coach. At 12-54, they’re the worst team in the NBA by far. It’s okay though, with every bottom dwelling NBA team comes optimism for the upcoming June draft. With the Nets horrid record, they’re sure to pick in the top three of the NBA draft. Help is surely on the way for this franchise. Right? Wrong. The Nets first round pick in the upcoming draft is being shipped to the Boston Celtics by way of the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this franchise, and Atkinson is the one in charge of trying to figure it out.

JEREMY LIN CAN STILL PLAY

Before talking about his play, it’s necessary to address the elephant in the room. Yes, his haircut was one of the worse I’ve ever seen. I don’t get how anyone could look in the mirror at the barber shop and say “Yes, that’s the look I’m going for.” Regardless, Lin proved Tuesday night that he can still play in this league. After busting on the scene during his time with the Knicks, Lin has been a bit of a journeyman. Tuesday night Lin showed glimpses of his “Linsanity” days, finishing with 24 points and five rebounds. He doesn’t have the overall skill set to be an All-Star in this league, but there’s no doubt Lin can still play and contribute to any team in the league.

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