1. For about ten to fifteen seconds tonight I pondered a very, very cold winter giving way to a dark and empty spring. I saw myself pacing aimlessly mumbling horrible things about KD, the Warriors, Patrick Beverly, Pau Gasol, and life in general. Then they showed the replay… an ankle, not a knee… Thank you Lord. I’m no doctor, but I think when it comes to general sports injuries I’ve watched enough over the years to at least qualify as a PA. And one thing all sports fans know— ankle is preferable to knee. No doubt an ankle roll can hurt like hell; and clearly Russ was hurting like hell. And a really bad/high sprain could equal a decent chunk of missed time. But all in all, seeing it was an ankle was a huge sigh of relief. We will have to wait for official word of course before we completely rest easy, but at least I’m no longer having visions of eating three day old bread while shivering in the corner of cold cell.
2. After Russ went down the deflation was measurable. It was quiet and all of the positive energy the Thunder has built seemed zapped. Pelicans immediately cut into the lead and things didn’t feel so good. Much credit to the Thunder for how they closed things out from that point. The “nag” factor they provide the other team defensively is off the charts. There are still some coverage breakdowns where OKC allows a wide open three from a shooter or an open lane for a drive, but for the most part their defense has been superb this year— and specifically the way they play passing lanes and get their hands on the basketball is just awesome. It sparked the run at the end of the third quarter that really proved to be the difference in the game. I thought Diallo and Noel were the two that especially stood out in this area, but the whole team gets in on it and it’s clearly causing their opponents all kinds of issues. One negative of this defensive aggression is that it leads to fouls which leads to free throws, but I’ll live with that if the team remains this committed to defensive intensity. I would like to see them dial back the “intensity” when it blurs the line with stupidity though— some of the late fouls to keep NOLA alive were maddening.
3. Dennis was excellent. It’s the exact personification of his ideal role and what he was brought here to do. Ever since Harden was dealt the Thunder have desperately sought a true scorer off the bench. Someone that can play WITH the stars and without them. Someone that can create offense for himself without creating ONLY for himself. PG was fine tonight, but he wasn’t spectacular by any means. Once Russ went down, Dennis just calmly stepped in and took over the lead ball handler role. It was a pretty seamless transition. Of course he can’t match Russ all the time, but he doesn’t need to. There will be nights where they don’t need him to do as much and he will need to read the situation and step back. Other nights they will need more. It’s a little bit of a tougher role as a sixth man because the role isn’t always the same. This far I’m pretty impressed and like the fit.
4. Adams and Grant also deserve a big mention for holding Anthony Davis in check. Really didn’t notice him out there tonight and Adams specifically probably equaled him in terms of impact. That is a HUGE win for the Thunder because if Davis isn’t having a huge impact, the Pelicans are really not a very dangerous team. To their credit, they made a bunch of tough shots during stretches to stay in the game, but things never felt too uncomfortable because their star wasn’t hurting us. Thunder need to beat teams like NOLA, especially at home. So this shouldn’t be a fireworks and cartwheels type of win. However, when looking at the larger picture of the five game winning steak and HOW they’ve played, you can’t help but be happy/excited. Teams looks pretty transformed from last year with so many more guys capable and contributing. Fingers crossed that Russ won’t be out long because it appears they might be onto something right now.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!