1. The story entering this game for me was how the Thunder would adjust based on how they lost the first two times to the Kings. In both games the Thunder allowed the Kings to dictate pace and style. They were baited into a finesse, open floor game. They were content to get into a shooting contest with a team that wants nothing more than to get into a shooting contest. Most importantly, they nullified their greatest advantage by not committing to attack the paint. So I was very interested to see how they’d come out tonight. Well, they “came out” looking lazy. But it only lasted 90 seconds. Donovan took a timeout before the clock had even hit the 10:00 mark of the first quarter. From that moment forward the Thunder dictated the terms. There were several moments throughout the game where the Kings momentarily got hot, but at no point did the Thunder take the bait. There were a few defensive lapses tonight that the Thunder should look to clean up, but their offensive approach was excellent. This was an impressive performance.
2. One guy had 20 points and 23 rebounds on 8-12 shooting. Another guy had 43 points on 15-27 shooting. Another guy had 22 points on 9-11 shooting. Another guy had 19 points, 17 assists, and 11 rebounds. Another guy had 14 points. That’s your staring five. All of that went down IN THE SAME GAME. That’s pretty nuts. This is the result of a team where everyone knows their role. They know where to be, what to do, and the understand the hierarchy of the team. I still think Russ is finding his perfect spot on the team and that will remain a work in progress. Along the way though, he is helping others find their spot. PG couldn’t look more comfortable. Neither could Adams. Same with Grant. It honestly looks easy most of the time. Pitch and catch type stuff. We know it’s not easy though because we’ve seen as recently as last year how ugly it can be when guys aren’t at that comfort level. Some may want to stubbornly cling to negative views of the coaching staff, but I’m not sure how you can watch this team play basketball through 30 games and not think this is a very well coached team.
3. I thought Russ looked a little more himself tonight. He had the mid range jumper going a little bit. He was REALLY explosive at the rim and was finally finishing strong. And the streak of 5+ steals per game is incredible. He was sensational in the first half and PG closed the door in the second half. Now, the free throw thing with Russ is real— and it’s a real problem. At this point I am convinced it’s a case of the yips. That’s uncomfortable to talk about and there is no way Russ or anyone else will acknowledge it, but that looks like what it is. It’s a mental block— and when it gets to this level it isn’t all that easy to shake it. We’ve seen it from athletes before and it can unravel on them. Russ is such a strong personality that I’m sure he’d be beyond insulted that I would even hint that this could be the issue, but I doubt it’s a technique or practice issue at this point. What he probably needs is one game where goes 10-10 or something and maybe he can just bury it. But it’s getting awkward and it will only get worse if he can’t break out of it soon. But that shouldn’t overshadow his performance tonight or the fact that Russ was full Russ.
4. Thunder have responded well to the back to back losses last week. They’ve won three in a row and have done so in pretty resounding fashion. Bit of a weird schedule this week with the game tonight then two full days off on the road followed by the road/home back to back on Saturday and Sunday. Utah will be a test Saturday night. They’ve been disappointing thus far, but they started slow last year too. They beat the Warriors tonight and we know all about them and what they want to do. There have been almost no changes with the Jazz since last season. I’d say they owe us from the loss we handed them at The Peake last week, but I’d say owing them for our playoff loss last year trumps that. I for sure wanted one of these two road games and now it’s OK to get greedy and take both.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!