1. Classic Russ at the end of the game. He made a poor decision on the last offensive possession and then makes a big play coming off of his responsibility on defense to challenge Mitchell at the rim. I actually didn’t have a problem with how George defended Mitchell on that play. You are up by two and don’t have any timeouts. You CANNOT give up a clean look from three there. I’m glad PG crowded him; I’m sure he would have preferred to do a better job staying in front, but in that situation I’d always prefer giving them something inside the arc as opposed to outside. Russ made a great play to get over to Mitchell before he was able to hammer it home. Of course Mitchell then made it look like a REALLY great play by missing the free throw. The greater point is that Russ is really beginning to find his new role. He is struggling BADLY from the field right now. His jumper is off and he is not finishing at the rim. He was 3-17 tonight which is obviously not good. But in the past, that would have been 5-25. He is making much better decisions and finding ways to positively impact games even when he’s not hitting shots. He is clearly deferring to PG (as he should be). Tonight in particular, the Thunder made their biggest run with Russ on the bench— and that wasn’t a total coincidence. But overall you can see the transformation taking place and it’s going to be a real benefit to the team.
2. Last year I lamented bad luck in the blog on a regular basis. Players, coaches, and even fans don’t often like to admit how much of a factor luck can play in a game or a season, but it is a real thing. I generally think it evens out over the course of a season, but last year was an exception. Last year there were so many bad bounces, so many instances of bad timing, so many miracle shots from opponents that went in. This year, the worm had turned. The Thunder are the ones catching breaks. Utah was hot early, but they missed a TON of shots down the stretch. Thunder ran out of gas tonight. They kept clawing away, but their shots started clanging and they looked a step slow. Utah had all of the momentum. Thunder were sort of allowing that game to wash away from them…. but Utah wouldn’t take it. They missed a bevy of open three’s late which allowed the Thunder to continue to plod along and hold on. There was also a play midway through the quarter on a Mitchell breakaway where Russ easily could have been called for his fifth foul. And then of course, Mitchell missed the free throw. Luck helps. And you should never apologize when it rolls your way.
3. West is chaos this year. It’s pretty cool and is adding a lot of intrigue and excitement to the regular season. It’s crazy that the current 14 seed is Minnesota and they are only 7.5 games out of first place. We might be starting see the Thunder create some separation amongst a few other top teams, but it’s still way to early to develop rooting interests or spend much time looking at scenarios. But this blows me away… The Thunder are 9-7 on the road, which is the best road record of any team in the conference. It is going to be a bloodbath for road teams this year so you should pounce any time you get an opportunity to steal one. And the Thunder for sure got away with one tonight.
4. It’s late, I’m tired, and we need to do this again tomorrow. I’ll just say tomorrow’s game with the Wolves sets up as a perfect trap for the Thunder. Second night of a back to back coming off an emotional win playing a rested team coming off a blowout loss. Beware of this situation.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!