Author - Marshall Clayton

All around team performance as Thunder defeat Spurs 102-92

Mar 9, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots the ball in front of San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It was an all-around great game from the Oklahoma City Thunder (36-29) as they defeated the San Antonio Spurs (50-14) for a huge bounce back win. Thunder snapped a four game losing streak they had heading into tonight, while Russell Westbrook made a huge statement himself in the midst of a heated MVP race. Oklahoma City beat San Antonio 102-92 on Thursday night.

Westbrook is now tied with Wilt Chamberlain for second most triple-doubles in a season, recording his 31st triple double tonight. He now just trails only Oscar Robertson, who had 41. Westbrook needs 10 more to tie, with just 17 games left this season.

Defeating the Spurs takes an overall team effort, and that is exactly what the Thunder did. The most important was the defensive effort from Oklahoma City all night long. After a 28-point first quarter for San Antonio, the Thunder locked up the rest of the way, holding the spurs to 21, 22, and 21 respectively in the next three quarters.

Oklahoma City held the Spurs to just 41 percent shooting from the floor, and just 31 percent from the three-point line.

They also caused San Antonio to commit an unusual 14 turnovers tonight, while Oklahoma City themselves only committed 11. Anytime you can commit less turnovers than the Spurs in a game, it is a huge advantage, as they are known for their low team turnover average.

Going into tonight, it was a classic battle between two of the top MVP candidates of the season, and Russell Westbrook got the last laugh. Kawhi Leonard managed to put up 19 points, but it was 15 shots, as Andre Roberson individually guarded Leonard in spectacular fashion. Roberson made Kawhi work for every single point, and was a thorn in his side all night long.

Westbrook on the other hand, had a monster night. He played one of the most controlled and smart games we’ve seen from him this season. He put up 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists. He limited his questionable shot taking, and trusted his teammates tonight as much as any game this season.

It will come down to the wire, but Westbrook made a nice statement in the MVP race against Kawhi Leonard. He will have plenty more chances for statement-making though, as Oklahoma City faces the Spurs and Houston Rockets one more time each before season end.

Oklahoma City got two things tonight that were non-existent in the four straight losses: defense as mentioned already, and shot making from their role players. The Thunder had five players in double figure scoring, including two guys that came off the bench. Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter, were huge for the second unit tonight as they put up a combined 25 points. They had 25 of the Thunder’s 34 total bench points.

Oklahoma City also got a huge night from Victor Oladipo, who now seems 100 percent healthy. He finished with 20 points and led the second unit really well at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.

Billy Donovan also made a tweak to the starting lineup, deciding to start Taj Gibson and bring Domantas Sabonis off the bench. It benefitted the team well, as Taj meshed well with the starters and Sabonis brought some nice energy plays off the bench. Sabonis also had a huge posterizing dunk on Dewayne Dedmon early in the second quarter, which sparked a nice Oklahoma City scoring run.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich seemed to wave the white flag early, as he pulled the starters midway through the fourth quarter. It also didn’t help that Kawhi seemed to have some kind of minor injury either late in the third or early in the fourth quarter. Either way, it was big for Oklahoma City to shut the door on this win early, and not let the Spurs hang around and steal it.

Tonight could be a huge momentum swing for Oklahoma City, as we reach the final stretch of the season. The Thunder needed a win like this to get back on track and continue their battle of moving up in the playoff seeding. The Thunder will look to build on this win, as they take on the Utah Jazz in a matinee game on Saturday.

Keys to the Thunder Win: 

Great team effort

The Thunder won this game, mainly because they played great as a team. From the ball movement, the shot making, and the excellent defense, Oklahoma City put together one of their best performances of the season. They aren’t the most talented team in the league by any means, so the Thunder need something from everyone every night to win games like this.

Steven Adams has awoken 

It was no coincidence that in the midst of this four game losing streak, Steven Adams had been playing pretty poorly on both ends. But tonight, that was not the case. He got going with a few easy buckets in the first quarter, and was insanely physical all night. He made it tough on LaMarcus Aldridge all night, while keeping many offensive possessions alive. Steven Adams is as important as anyone on this Thunder roster for this team to win on a consistent basis.

Russell Westbrook is unfair

Yep, he was that good tonight. He played maybe his most complete game of the season, against maybe the best team Oklahoma City has seen this year. He recorded his 31st triple double of the season, and he seemed to do it again with ease. The Spurs have been playing great basketball as of late, and they demand the very best from their opponent to beat them. That is exactly what we got from Westbrook tonight.

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Westbrook heroics stun Utah, Thunder win 109-106

The Oklahoma City Thunder (35-25) are breathing a sigh of relief after almost giving away a win to the Utah Jazz (37-23) in an otherwise great shooting performance from the Thunder. Oklahoma City inched out a 109-106 win in a thrilling finish where Utah outscored them by eight in the fourth quarter. It was another amazing crunch time performance as well from Westbrook, who had two huge three-point plays with less than a minute remaining.

Two things came through huge for the Thunder outside of Westbrook’s heroics. It was two things that Thunder have needed all season long: Bench contribution on the offensive end, and outside shooting. Both of those things were apparent in a big time win for Oklahoma City, in a game that had pretty decent sized playoff implications.

The Thunder began the night unconscious from beyond the three-point line, hitting their first 12, yes twelve, three-pointers in a row. It was a Oklahoma City record, 12 made threes in a half. It was a combination both of wide open attempts, and just great shot making. It really showed that it was just Thunder’s night after Westbrook hit a wild prayer three that turned into a four-point play.

Russell led the way from three, hitting six of the 15 makes by Thunder, but seven of them combined coming from Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott.

Oklahoma City finished the night shooting an unbelievable 68 percent from beyond the arc, this coming from a team that is dead last in three-point percentage as a team.

The bench for the Thunder was phenomenal, especially offensively. In a night where Roberson and Adams played their tail off defensively, they only chipped in a combined five points. That is where Oklahoma City’s bench came in huge. They combined for 48 bench points on 60 percent shooting from the floor. In particular, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott were the ones with the biggest contribution, combining for 31 of those 48 points. It was nice sight to see McDermott get it going, especially from three-point land, as he had struggled a bit in his first two games as a Thunder player.

Even with the huge offensive performances, Utah hung around pretty much all night, keeping the deficit manageable, never down by more than 13 all game.

It started to pay dividends for the Jazz, as they started to make their run in the fourth quarter. As the offense became stagnant for Thunder and some sloppy turnovers, Utah made their move. After the Jazz went down 94-85 halfway through the fourth, Utah went on a 17 to four run to take a four-point lead with a little less than two minutes remaining.

However, as the Thunder have been all year, they were once again incredible in the clutch, especially Westbrook. After going down four, Westbrook responded with a big three, getting the deficit down to one. After a Utah miss, Westbrook went coast to coast, finishing off a three-point play putting the Thunder on the highside by two to essentially seal the win.

Westbrook is indescribable, as he can just turn the switch and hit the big time shots no matter the momentum of the game. He also recorded his 30th triple double of the season, his fourth in a row. As I “casually” type that because Westbrook has somehow made that seem normal, it is not out of question for him to catch Oscar Robertson in most triple doubles in a season. What he is doing is simply unbelievable. It was also Russell’s sixth triple double this season that he recorded 40 points or more.

The Thunder are now 2-1 this season versus Utah. As mentioned, the Thunder winning this season series versus the Jazz could have big implications on where each team is seeded come playoff time. After this win, Oklahoma City is tied for the sixth seed, and only two games back from the Jazz who are currently the fourth seed.

Oklahoma City finished the month of February 7-4, and up next will travel to Portland to take on the Blazers on Thursday night.

Keys to the game

Defend the three: B

The Utah Jazz shot 40 percent from three, hitting nine of their 22 attempts. Oklahoma City, though, made Utah miss when it counted, especially late in the game. Thunder also defended the three-point line very well on the last possession, when Utah was trying to send the game to overtime.

Rebound: B+

Oklahoma City definitely won the rebounding battle, out-rebounding Utah by nine, but Rudy Gobert definitely made the Oklahoma City bigs disappear at times. Other than that, the Thunder came down with the loose ball battles when they needed to, which was huge in their three-point win.

Hey Bench, show up: A+

I thought about adding a lot more “+” symbols because the bench was excellent for Oklahoma City tonight. Putting up 48 points, Thunder’s bench unit was an integral part of this big win. With the trade Oklahoma City made on trade deadline day, it is already starting to payoff as having experienced guys helps a ton. This bench unit will be huge in how deep and competitive Oklahoma City will be in postseason play.

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Alex Abrines named to Rising Stars Challenge

Enes Gulen. photo EFE

Alex Abrines has been selected as a participant in this year’s BVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge to be held on Friday, Feb. 17 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA during NBA All-Star 2017. The rising stars challenge is a game for the NBA to show off their young, talented up and coming stars from the U.S and all over the world, who are either first or second year players in the league.

Abrines, drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2013 draft, is in his first NBA season with the Thunder this year after parting ways with his Barcelona team in Spain this past July.

Abrines was not originally selected as a participant in this All-Star weekend event. However, with Joel Embiid with the Philadelphia 76ers out with a knee injury, Alex was selected as a replacement for him.

The Spain native has been a quality role player for the Thunder since about December, shooting above 41 percent from three since then, and has shown some sneaky athletic ability around the rim as well.

Abrines is averaging 5.4 points to go along with 1.1 rebounds while shooting 37.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc (ranks 4th among rookies) in just 14 minutes per game for Oklahoma City.

Abrines, who was born in Palma, Spain, will play on Team World alongside Thunder’s Domantas Sabonis who is from Lithuania.

He and Sabonis became the first pair of rookie teammates named to the Rising Stars Challenge from a team with a winning record since 2009 (Portland Trail Blazers).

Abrines became the first Thunder rookie to make five 3-point field goals in a game (Dec. 21 at New Orleans) since James Harden accomplished the feat during the 2009-10 season.

During the Oklahoma City era, the Thunder has had eight players named to the Rising Stars Challenge which ranks tied for third most during this span. Of these teams, the Thunder is the only franchise with a winning record dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season.

 

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Thunder Digits: Westbrook breaks Jazz’s hearts

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City went into Utah losing their last two, looking for a big road win versus a hot Utah Jazz team. After a gritty, defensive battle, Russell Westbrook’s late game heroics once again surged Thunder to victory. Here are some key numbers to Thunder’s huge road win:

22

Westbrook attained his 22nd triple double of the season tonight, with 38 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. He is now tied with Larry Bird in career triple doubles, with 59 total.

11

Oklahoma City had an abysmal third quarter, only scoring 11 total points. It was the turning point of the game until Westbrook’s crunch time performance, as Oklahoma City had controlled much of the game since the beginning of the second quarter. The Thunder shot 18 percent in the third quarter, while the Jazz shot 39 percent.

8

One of the bigger keys to beating Utah, is being physical on the glass, especially the offensive glass. Oklahoma City pulled down eight offensive rebounds, including a couple big ones in the last minute of the game that led to Westbrook free throws to put Thunder up three. Oklahoma City overall out-rebounded the Utah Jazz 45-41, respectively.

25

The game plan for Oklahoma City was clear from the start: push the pace and run the Jazz ragged. Thunder turned in 25 fast break points, 20 of those coming in the first half. Westbrook and Oladipo constantly pushed the pace that led to some easy Thunder buckets.

13

Before Westbrook went on his fourth quarter tear, he could not throw the ball into the ocean. While the Thunder struggled as a team offensively in the third, Westbrook had his fair share of struggles missing 13 straight shots. It didn’t end up mattering though, as he finished hitting four of his last six shots, essentially giving Oklahoma City the win.

43.4%

In weird stats of the night, both Oklahoma City and Utah shot the same exact percentage from the floor, at 43.4 percent. It was a defensive battle all night, with both teams grinding for every bucket. Also oddly enough, Thunder and the Jazz both made 36 shots as a team, in 83 attempts.

4

In his first game back in a week since his concussion, Steven Adams was a monster on defense. He finished the game with four blocks, including one on Derrick Favors that led to a dunk by Adams to give Oklahoma City the lead late.

35%

Andre Roberson has had some spectacular individual defense this season, and tonight was another great one. He was all over Gordon Hayward all night, leading Hayward to shoot 35 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc.

11

Once Oklahoma City went down by nine with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Thunder outscored the Jazz by 11 points. Thunder put up 30 points from that point on, while Utah put up just 19. It was a huge turnaround after Oklahoma City seemingly could not score in the third.

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Thunder Digits: Westbrook shines in win over Denver

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It was another monster game from Russell Westbrook as the Oklahoma City ended their three game losing streak with a home win versus the Denver Nuggets. It was a nice bounce back game, as the Thunder had a fully healthy roster with the return of Cameron Payne. Here are some Thunder digits that led to the win:

17

Russell Westbrook recorded his 17th triple double of the season, putting up 32 points, 17 rebounds, and 11 assists. It was his third triple double ever against the Denver Nuggets.

17

While Westbrook had 17 triple-doubles on the season as we just stated, the Denver Nuggets since 1994 have only had 17 triple-doubles as a franchise. Let that sink it.

15

Westbrook has now hit 15 three pointers in his past two games, including seven of those hit tonight. Russell shot 58 percent from three and is shooting almost 40 percent in his last four games.

11

Oklahoma City had 11 blocks tonight, and made it tough all game for Denver to score down low. Steven Adams had four of the eleven blocks, while Jerami Grant also recorded four.

79.3%

Thunder have been plagued by bad free throw shooting all season, but that was not the case tonight. Oklahoma City made 23 of their 29 attempted free throws. Denver went to the hacking strategy late in the fourth, and both Roberson and Adams stepped up to hit the big free throws.

8

Cameron Payne in his season debut had eight points, six of those points coming from three-pointers. Payne will be a big piece to the Thunder’s second unit success and tonight it showed how much of a difference he makes with his scoring and passing ability.

13

Andre Roberson put up 13 points, as he continues to actually contribute well to the Thunder’s offense. Roberson has now scored in double figures in back to back games. Instead of just standing in the corner for the majority of Thunder’s offensive possessions, Roberson has been using cuts to the baskets and drives to the lane to become a lot more effective on that end of the floor.

36

It was another nice game from the Thunder’s bench overall, as they put up 36 bench points. It was a contribution from many different Thunder bench players, including 14 from Enes Kanter and seven points from Alex Abrines.

5-OF-5

Domantas Sabonis, who has struggled to get to the free throw line in his rookie season, hit all five of his free throw attempts. Sabonis was a big part of the offense in the first quarter, and he took full advantage putting up nine points while drawing fouls on Denver along the way. Sabonis had three separate trips to the charity stripe, which was something we haven’t seen all year.

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