Defense and a neck breaking speed on offense led the Thunder to a dominate 117-110 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
It may have ended the 0-4 start, the longest drought to start to the season, but the way the Thunder ended it may have just been as impressive as the losing streak.
“I thought we did some really good things for a majority of the game,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we came out with some good injury with some good stuff we can build off and improve upon.”
Oklahoma City used an explosive third quarter, capped off by a Paul George half court heave for the three and the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
The Thunder opened a moderate lead at the end of the first quarter with a run that pushed Oklahoma City into a double digit lead they would not squander for the remainder. A Patrick Patterson three-pointer tied the game with 4:14 left in the first. Then, a Jerami Grant dunk gave Oklahoma City the lead for good.
It really was a tale of other players. No, not the George’s or the Westbrook’s. Nerlens Noel stepped in place of a late scratched Steven Adams and showed why he’s worth more than his league minimum contract. Noel finished with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and pulled down 15 rebounds.
“He did a lot of good things,” Donovan said. “Very active. I was really impressed with his defensive intensity tonight.”
Patterson stepped up, too. He finished with 17 points, a Thunder career high. It’s the most he’s scored in a game since December 03, 2016. That happened when he was a member of the Toronto Raptors.
Oklahoma City led by as many as 24 in the game, really dominating with their pace and play. While there were a lot of things the Thunder continue to do that put them in this 0-4 hole, there were things we saw, such as improved defense, that helped them get out to such a big lead.
Westbrook and George both finished with 23 points. Westbrook with a 23-9-7 stat line, including four steals and six turnovers. Geor
The Suns made a run there, late in the fourth quarter, making the game a respectable final score.
“For me, as a coach, is disturbing,” Donovan said about the seven-point final margin of victory.
Oklahoma City will wrap up their four-game home stand against the LA Clippers. Oklahoma City will look to get revenge against the Clips on Tuesday, Oct. 30. That’s scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. at the Peake.
Keys to the Game
Free throws: D
Oklahoma City still struggled from the line. They went 24-of-35 the line. Missing 11 free throws is still unacceptable. The Thunder HAVE to continue to get better at free throws. Russell Westbrook missed three himself. He shoots over 80 percent for his career. That may change if he keeps this up.
Three-point Shooting: F
Where oh where has all the shooting gone? We knew the Thunder were going to lack shooters but this is quite unacceptable. They’re on pace for being one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the modern NBA.
Go fast: A+
Oklahoma City scored 25 fast break points. They forced 16 steals and dominated through out in these facets of the game. This is how the Thunder are going to win a lot more games.
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