1. Now that was interesting. Certainly unexpected. The most surprising element of this game was what happened after the Rockets took their only lead of the game at 39-38 early in the second quarter. At that moment Houston had just hit a bunch of three’s and were winning the quarter 20-9. The 10 point lead the Thunder created was erased— and quickly at that. Game kind of had that feel of Houston taking control. There was still over half a quarter left and I was thinking the Thunder just needed to survive that run and be within striking distance at the half. Well, they did a little more that. Thunder ended the quarter on a 21-6 run and completely flipped the momentum. They took total control of the game and never relinquished it from that point. PG didn’t have any sort of amazing game tonight, but he was fantastic during that second quarter run. He was the catalyst and the team fell in line behind him. The comeback against Charlotte was very nice last week, but that run tonight was the most impressive stretch of the season thus far.
2. It’s a real chicken-egg thing. Did the Thunder D produce stifling results tonight due to their incredible performance or due to Houston’s pathetic offensive effort? It’s hard to tell for sure and it could be a combination of both, but one thing is for certain: the Rockets don’t score a total of 80 points in a game very often. And we’ve now seen the Thunder clamp down pretty much the entire season with the exception of the loss to the Kings. So we’ve seen enough to know that SOMETHING is going on here. They have an entire team of athletes— they are long and quick just about everywhere. It’s borderline ridiculous how many tipped passes and deflections they get on a nightly basis. They are forcing opponents into tough shots due in large part to the fact that simply passing the ball against the Thunder is a risky proposition. The identity is being established. It’s beautiful because it’s also necessary. The Thunder just won back to back games… without Russ… where they shot the ball horribly from three (less than 25% each night). Shooting the ball that poorly is almost always a death knell for an NBA team (see Rockets, Houston). But not for the Thunder. Now, shooting 25% can’t be the norm. That isn’t a sustainable number. However, it’s nice to know that not only can the Thunder win games when shots aren’t falling; they can win them going away. And when shots DO fall? Well, if this defensive commitment persists, they will be elite on those nights.
3. Adams’ stat line did not do his impact justice tonight. 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists is impressive enough, but if you actually watched this game you would have seen Adams more or less absorb it. It was as if he was the drain and everything else was the bath water swirling towards him and eventually being engulfed. He was everywhere. I loved the game plan and commitment to get him the ball in the post. It was a turning of the tables of sorts against a Rockets team that more often than not forces you to play THEIR pace and adjust to THEIR mismatches. Donovan and the staff make a clear conscious effort tonight to exploit the natural advantage of having Adams on the floor. Even when he didn’t yield immediate results it knocked the Rockets off kilter and set the tone early that this was going to be a more physical, less fluid game. In the paint, Adams was his usual wrecking-ball self. In the second half there was a sequence where he hit the floor on three straight possessions, creating jump ball situations on two of them. He also flashed some nifty passing skills; something we don’t see a whole lot. He had the ball in his hands way more than usual tonight and it turned into a major advantage for the Thunder. Noel is a nice player and I view him as an absolutely perfect defensive-minded back up center. There may even be occasions where he is more effective than Adams in a given match up. But I was hearing some rumblings early this year from other fans pondering if Adams might now become expendable. I’m not buying that.
4. Turned out to be a pretty fitting night for Melo in his return. He received what I would describe as a respectful round of applause when he was introduced. I thought I could make out a couple of boos from a few parts of the arena, but nothing significant. He mostly a solid round of applause, albeit a brief one. I think most people recognize two things… he gave it his best shot here and it just didn’t work out at all. He was gone before we knew it and he never really connected anyway, so there is certainly no emotional attachment between Melo and OKC or vice versa. It was a mostly forgettable one year experiment for all parties. Then Melo comes out and shoots 1-11 from the floor. That just sort of put the icing on the whole thing. The whole “Melo effect” thing probably isn’t entirely fair, but with the Rockets sitting at 4-6 and looking super sluggish thus far, let’s just say I’m fine with how things turned out. For OKC, it’s on to Dallas now in what I view as a very low pressure spot Saturday night. They’ve won 7 in a row, currently playing without Russ, and looking good doing it. If they were to drop the game Saturday it’s not really a big deal especially with two very winnable home games to follow. That said, extending to 8 would be nice. Team is riding a hot streak, no sense in cooling yourself down by taking a night off. I want to see the Thunder simply continue to do what they’ve been doing for the past two weeks.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!