Tag - MVP

Nick Collison shows why you always have to be ready

It was only a couple of buckets and a free throw but that seven minutes we saw Nick Collison spit fire up and down the court on Saturday night gave Thunder fans that resurgence feeling that had been missing for a couple of seasons.

Sure, Russell Westbrook went bananas and won an MVP last season but there’s not a lot that rivals that of a Nick Collison, perfect hair and all, setting a fundamentally sound screen while curling to the basket. It’s like Steven Adams did it but without all the hair and accent.

“A total pro. He comes ready to play every day,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “Nick keeping himself prepared and going in there he did a great job.”

You wouldn’t believe it but the Thunder were two points worse with Collison on the floor last night. His energy and his attitude made it feel like the Thunder were on the verge of pounding the Spurs out of the playoffs in an elimination game.

“I’m really happy for Nick Collison because he’s a total pro,” Donovan said. “He comes ready to play every day. Not knowing Steven’s situation, Nick keeping himself prepared and going in there he did a great job.”

Seven points in six minutes on 3-of-4 shooting, two rebounds and all of our hearts.

While Collison isn’t a player who can play formidable minutes against an Anthony Davis or even some of the lesser players like a Jonas Valanciunas, his ability to relieve the injury of Adams in key moments on the floor were huge. When Collison checked in, the Thunder led by 10 but the lead ballooned to over 20 with Collison on the floor.

“He [Collison] got his number called,” Westbrook said. “He answered like he do every time.”

At the end of it, MVP chants flowed down from Loud City like an Oklahoma summer rainstorm. The fans chants “MVP! MVP!” as Collison split the two free throws, making the one on the chants.

“Sometimes, I feel like the walk-on in college games where everybody’s yelling at him to shoot the ball, one of the kids that gets in at the end of the game in blowouts,” Collison joked.

As the bench played with a renewed vigor of seasons past, Collison led the fourth quarter charge. Other players scored and had their own impact, i.e. Jerami Grant’s 15 points and eight rebounds and Patrick Patteron’s 10 points were their own influence, it’s just seeing a fan favorite who’s old and not able to jump as high to come in and make such an impact.

“Pat and Nick, those guys did a great job of forcing to our help,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of having their backs and making it tough for them.”

Collison may not play the rest of the season. He may get into a blowout game and just play a couple of minutes but we know the former Kansas Jayhawk will be ready.

“I’m always trying to stay ready,” Collison said. “I can tell when there might be an opportunity.”


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Five Thoughts 3-10-18 (Thunder 104, Spurs 94)

Five Thoughts 3-10-18 (Thunder 104, Spurs 94)

1. With the exception of the final 5:00 or so, the Thunder defense tonight was excellent. It was probably the best overall defensive effort since Andre went down. First of all, the team clearly took this game very seriously. From the outset, the energy and intensity was good. It was hardly a thing of beauty offensively, but their defensive pressure never wavered. Most importantly, it didn’t disappear either. Maintaining consistency game to game or even just within an individual game has been a problem all season long for OKC. Tonight, they didn’t jack around. Their effort to start the second half was equal to how they started the game. They fell asleep at the very end of the game and started allowing far too many uncontested shots, but it was pretty much over by that point anyway. For the overwhelming majority of this game, the defense was stellar.

2. Corey Brewer is sort of like the new dude who moves into the high school late in the year. He may not be the biggest stud the ladies have ever seen, but he’s being treated as such because they are just so tired of all the other dudes. He’s only been on the team for four games and he’s only had two starts. But keep this in mind, in those two starts he has scored 17 and 12 points respectively. In contrast, Huestis has never scored double digit points in any game HIS ENTIRE CAREER. Abrines has had his fair share of decent scoring games (tonight was one of them actually) but he generally follows it up with a Houdini disappearing act for chunks of games at a time. Brewer is a pro. I don’t anticipate him to average 15 points per game as a starter and I don’t anticipate him to keep draining three’s at an efficient rate. But I DO anticipate that his defense will be steady and that he will continue to move on offense and be a factor on the fast break. I anticipate he will remain a solid free throw shooter and I anticipate he can finish easy looks generated by Russ breaking down the defense. In other words, I anticipate him to continue to be an upgrade from what we were getting from that position.

3. A residual effect of Brewer potentially being an effective starter is that it also strengthens the bench by default. Now, we are asking less of guys like Abrines and Huestis which makes it MORE likely they will be able to help. We aren’t quite as desperate for someone (anyone) to help out the stars. So when those guys do get a chance to impact the game, the pressure is dialed back and they are more likely to be relaxed and confident. The bench hasn’t helped much this year, but they were great tonight. Jerami Grant has had a really, really nice year. He’s done it somewhat quietly, but he’s often been ALL they have to offer coming off the bench. I love his aggression— he plays bigger than he is. Even though he can hit three’s from time to time, he doesn’t park himself at the line. He also rarely settles for a jump shot. He drives the ball consistently and he has developed into a very good finisher at the rim. Impressive improvement from Grant this year.

4. The Nick Collison Show was one of the cooler moments of the season. I’ve mentioned a few times in the blog that I would have liked to see Nick get some “real” minutes this year. Not as a 15-20 minute per night guy, but as someone who can play a spot role and be a situational rotation player as opposed to what amounts to another assistant coach. So it was great to see him get into the game tonight while the outcome was still in doubt. It was even better to see him immediately put the ball in the basket. He started 3-3 and quickly racked up his 7 points. The crowed reaction was great (sort of) and the “MVP” chants were funny. The reason I say “sort of” is because of something Nick himself mentioned post-game. He said he often now feels like the college walk-on. Like the team manager who finally gets in the game and the crowd goes nuts. While this comes from a good place from the fans— they are simply showing their appreciation to Mr. Thunder, it also comes across as a little awkward. He isn’t Rumble. He doesn’t have fur. He isn’t the team mascot. We are taking about a star college basketball player who then became a very steady NBA player. I guess you can’t blame it all on the fans— his teammates do it too. Bench goes bananas when he scores. He’s gotta be wondering exactly how it all came to this? That said, there are far worse things than becoming a fan favorite.

5. Very nice win. Second game in a row Thunder have generally looked good in all facets start to finish. They did it tonight with both PG and Melo struggling mightily. They go to ten games over .500 for the third time this year. They’ve never gotten farther than that. Each time they’ve climbed that mountain they’ve lost the next game or games and had to start the climb again. They are about to have the easiest possible back to back you can imagine in the NBA. They have Sacramento at The Peake Monday and then go to Atlanta the next night. Neither of these teams are particularly interested in winning games right now. Thunder should help them realize their goals. No messing around. After this not-so-deadly duo, the schedule takes a pretty drastic turn so we would be wise to go into “take care of business” mode ASAP.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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Thunder come back, beat Phoenix

The Phoenix Suns have been real pests against Oklahoma City the last couple of seasons, beating the Thunder three straight times.

Russell Westbrook made sure it didn’t happen again.

The reigning MVP had 43 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 56 seconds to play, and the Thunder scored the final 10 points of the game to escape with a 124-116 victory over the Suns on Friday night.

“They always play us tough, especially here,” Westbrook said. “We stayed with it and made big plays down the stretch.”

Paul George scored 20 points for Oklahoma City. Westbrook also had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Booker’s baseline 12-footer at the shot-clock buzzer put Phoenix up 115-114 with 2:37 to play and Alex Len hit one of two free throws to make it 116-114 with 1:40 to go.

Westbrook tied it on a driving layup with 1:32 left and made just his second 3 of the night to put the Thunder ahead for good, 119-116. He added two free throws and a breakaway dunk after that in his second-highest scoring game of the season.

“We executed well, took good shots and obviously Russell took over,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He was terrific.”

The Suns shot 56 percent and the Thunder 49 percent in an up-and-down first half that ended with Phoenix up 67-60.

Booker had 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds in the half. Westbrook countered with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jackson had 15 points in 10 minutes off the bench.

But the Suns wore down in the second half.

“The first half our defense was not there. We gave up entirely too many points,” Donovan said. “We started out OK in the third. The second unit came in and did a really nice job closing out the third and the start of the fourth.”

The Thunder opened the final quarter with a 10-2 run to lead 107-101 on Raymond Felton’s 3. Booker’s 14-footer at the shot-clock buzzer tied it at 110 with 4:48 remaining.

Oklahoma City heads to the Rose Garden for a showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers have won five in a row and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. on FS Oklahoma.

Keys to the Game

Three Pointers: B

While the Suns still nailed down 11 threes tonight, the Thunder hit 11 as well. That’s huge. In the previous games, it was the Suns lighting it up from beyond the arc. The Suns still hit 44 percent from deep but it obviously wasn’t enough tonight.

Free Throws: A

Oklahoma City only shot 72 percent but you know, they made more free throws (21) than the Suns attempted (18). Maybe Paul George’s comments paid off. The Thunder went 21-of-29 from the line, with George going 5-of-6 and Westbrook going 9-of-11.

Russell Westbrook: A+

This man took the game over and put this team on his back. It was very 2016-17 of him. Westbrook’s 43 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. This MVP level performance is why Westbrook is one of the best players in the NBA. It’s a nice change of pace from his struggles at the start after the break.

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Thunder Game Day No. 63: at Dallas Mavericks

Oklahoma City Thunder (35-27, 14-7 away)


Dallas Mavericks (19-42, 12-19 home)

Wednesday, Feb. 28 :: 7:30 p.m. CST :: American Airlines Center (20,000)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 5-point favorite. The over/under is 211.
Online Stream: Fox Sports Go | WWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Magic: here


  • The Oklahoma City Thunder have won three of four games and now head down to Dallas to play the struggling Dallas Mavericks.
  • Dallas owns the season series so far, leading Oklahoma City 2-1.
  • The Mavericks aren’t the Mavs of old. They’re really bad but players like Dennis Smith Jr., there is a foundation to get better.


  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).


  • The Dallas Mavericks are 19-42 on the sesason, 12th in the Western Conference.
  • Over their last 10 games, the Mavericks are 3-7.
  • The Mavericks beat the Pacers 109-103 on Monday night.
  • The Thunder are 80-73 all-time against Dallas.
  • Since relocating to Bricktown, the Thunder are 20-15.
  • When games are played in Dallas, Oklahoma City a pedestrian 8-9.
    Seth Curry (leg) is out.
    Dorian Finney-Smith (knee) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over the Mavericks came on Feb. 4, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 112-91 (21-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (23 points) vs. Dallas occurred during an 109-86 loss on March 16, 2014.


  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out for the season.


  • The Thunder now will go on the road to play a back-to-back against Phoenix and Portland, a definite must win for the Thunder.


  • A Dallas radio station sponsored a name-the-team contest and recommended the finalists to team owner Donald Carter, who ultimately chose Mavericks over Wranglers and Express.
  • The 41 fans who suggested Mavericks each won a pair of tickets to the season opener and one of those fans, Carla Springer, won a drawing for season tickets. Springer, a freelance writer, said the nickname “represents the independent, flamboyant style of the Dallas people.”
  • That’s certainly an apt description for current team owner Mark Cuban.

Three Keys to the Game

Russell Westbrook

The Oklahoma City is in trouble and they need their superhero to show up immediately. Westbrook has shot 26.8 percent and is averaging 13.3 points per game since All-Star break. Sam Presti, Billy Donovan or Clay Bennett need to shine the bat signal in the Oklahoma City sky because the Thunder need Russell Westbrook the MVP back and it starts with the game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Points in the Paint

In the three games the Thunder have played against the Dallas Mavericks, the Thunder have lost the points in the paint battle in both of their losses to the Mavericks 36-24, 46-34 and in the one win, the Thunder had against the Mavericks they won the paint battle 38-36. The Thunder need to be aggressive in the paint if they want to defeat the Mavericks and that falls on the shoulders of Steven Adams, Paul George, Jerami Grant, and Westbrook.


In the losses to the Mavericks, the Thunder have either had equal or more turnovers than the Mavericks. In the first meeting, the Thunder defeated the Mavericks and had fewer turnovers finishing with 15 while Dallas had 20, in the next two clashes the Thunder lost to the Mavericks and had 28 total turnovers to the Mavericks 24. The Thunder need to take care of the ball and play disciplined basketball while still being aggressive they need to find their balance.

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Five Thoughts 2-11-18 (Thunder 110, Grizzlies 92)

Five Thoughts 2-11-18 (Thunder 110, Grizzlies 92)

1. I was actually somewhat “happy” when I heard Melo and Russ would be out again tonight. I’m thinking long term here and in addition to getting some extra rest for those two, I think it is important that the role players begin to establish SOMETHING moving forward. Doesn’t look like any help is on the way from the outside so they need to figure it out in-house. They were horrendous in Los Angeles on Thursday and this game presented another opportunity for many of those guys to redeem themselves a bit. Thankfully, the Grizzlies complied with what we needed— they were just dreadful. But credit to our guys for playing very well in the first half and putting the game away early. PG led the way, but everyone else did a nice job falling in line. Hopefully this can be a bit of a catalyst. Our offense in the first half tonight was actually a well oiled machine. PG was on fire (more on that momentarily) and the ball zipped around. Of course, as always, it helps to hit shots. And the Thunder did that tonight at an almost absurd rate. Twelve three’s in the first half leading to 74 points without Russ or Melo? Pretty nice.

2. PG hasn’t been good lately. He hasn’t been great. He hasn’t even been “just” elite. He has been playing on an MVP level. No one in the league has played any better than he has over the past month or so. He looks so much more comfortable now than he did early in the season. He isn’t an uber-aggressive offensive player and he sort of allows the flow to come to him, but he’s been more assertive recently. He’s mixing up the inside/outside game which really makes him tough to defend. And the guy is just a dead eye shooter. It’s at the point now where when he gets an open look I’m thinking the same thing I think when Klay Thompson has an open look— and that is a high compliment. Reggie Miller has said it on the air many time: OKC is the perfect place for PG. It’s beginning to look that way. He is ALMOST a #1, but just a notch below. I view him as a more skilled/explosive version of Scottie Pippen. Playing alongside Russ is a perfect contrast for both of them as one is more aggressive/wild and the other is a calming influence and more efficient. I have no clue what the guy wants personally. But strictly in terms of basketball and maximizing his career individually, I think he’s found his landing spot. He’s better here than he was in Indiana and he’d likely be better here than almost anywhere else he’d go. It’s the right fit.

3. Abrines presents a conundrum for the Thunder. In an ideal world, he would be providing the scoring/shooting punch off the bench we so desperately need. In an ideal world, he’d be reliable instant offense and he’d be able to hold down the second unit along with Felton. Problem is, he is more or less failed in that role. He simply hasn’t been very good coming off the bench and appears to be an extreme rhythm player. He has gotten some spot starts due to injury and he has been FAR more effective in those instances. He actually won us a game in OT earlier this year at Memphis when PG was out. He gets better looks (obviously) when he is on the floor with the stars and he seems to settle in to a comfort zone with consistent minutes. Bench spark plugs need to be able to come in cold and make a quick impact— Felton excels at this. Grant does well in this role as well. Abrines stinks at it. So now Donovan is presented with a tough call. Alex is probably still a liability against really good teams like Houston and GS because he will likely get exposed defensively. But if he doesn’t start, he isn’t going to give them anything at all. So I think Donovan has no choice at this point but to ride with Alex as the starting shouting guard and see how it plays out.

4. I attended the game with my 9 year old daughter. I’ve written many times in this space how I admire her spirit, enthusiasm, and positivity. I try not to allow my cynicism or years of being a jaded sports fan creep out, but she invariably catches some of it. I try not to be overly critical or harsh towards individual players around her. But obviously, sometimes I fail. Tonight, when the Thunder made their early rounds of substitutions, the PA announcer said “Checking into the game for the Thunder, Josh Huestis!” She simply said “uh oh .” Kind of a faceplam moment for Dad.

5. Grizzlies are a bad team this year and they were really bad tonight. They didn’t have much interest in fighting for that game. Thunder did a good job of taking advantage and not allowing Memphis to even consider getting back into the game. I’m sure it was good for the locker room to get a win without two of the main guys leading the way. Probably also good for PG to be able to lead them to a W. Everyone in the league is on fumes now. All Star game fast approaching and these last two games will be tough. Cavs come in Tuesday and they look totally different from when we saw them last. They had so much energy in their big win at Boston and Lebron appears to be energized and out to lead these new guys. I don’t see how we have much of a chance if Russ is out again. I’d sit Melo these last two games regardless— give him what amounts to a legit three week break. With Russ, if he’s ready and not favoring the ankle, I’d play him because we could use some wins. That said, if he’s not 100%, I’d keep him out and live with the results.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

OKC falls late in Washington 102-96

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s (30-21) NBA leading eight game winning streak came to an end tonight in Washington D.C. as the Wizards (28-22) made plays in the end to win 102-96.

Russell Westbrook had an up-and-down game which saw the reigning MVP record a flagrant foul, a technical foul and shoot 28 percent from the floor. With the Thunder’s leader having an inconsistent night, the burden fell on Paul George to pick up the slack.

The newest addition to the 2018 All-Star Game did not disappoint. George was magnificent in the first half, scoring 28 points on 8-12 shooting. Whether it was spot-up shooting, handling the basketball or defending, George kept Oklahoma City afloat after a sluggish start.

Sadly, that was going to be all.

George only attempted two shots after halftime and zero in the fourth. The Thunder offense went stagnant late when Oklahoma City held a two-possession lead under four minutes. Carmelo Anthony (19 points on 7-of-21 shooting) and Westbrook couldn’t get to the line or make a shot late.

“I thought the difference in the game was that we didn’t execute well down the stretch,” Billy Donovan said in the postgame. “We just didn’t have very good quality of possessions and it got us in the end.”

The Wizards were playing without All-Star John Wall who underwent a knee scope procedure today. Bradley Beal scored 21 points and Otto Porter, Jr. added 25.

Oklahoma City was bad from deep, finishing the game 9-for-32 from beyond the arc.

The Thunder turned the ball over 20 times and only notched 19 assists. The Wizards took care of the ball, only surrendering the ball 12 times and adding 27 assists.

“We turned the ball over too much,” Donovan added. “Overall we just didn’t execute well.”

It was an uphill battle from the start. The Wizards hit their first four three pointers in the first quarter and led by as many as nine. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that the Thunder were able to tie or take the lead. From then, both teams would go on small mini-runs.

Limit Threes A

The Wizards hit their first four shots from deep but only made three the rest of the game. Forcing their opponent to 28 percent is nothing to sneeze at. Josh Huestis, George and Jerami Grant did a fantastic job of closing out and forcing the Wizards into tough shots.

Bench B

The Wizards won the bench battle 23-20 but Oklahoma City’s bench was greatly hindered by Raymond Felton having a bad shooting night. Felton was 0-for-4 and finished with four points and three assists. Huestis, who played great defense for most of the night, had a bad ending to the game where he committed a turnover and fouled the ball-handler in the bonus. From there, Washington never looked back.

Rebound A

OKC won the battle on the boards, notching 52 boards and 14 offensive rebounds — Steven Adams had six offensive boards. The Thunder lost this game due to poor offense late, turnovers and some inconsistent officiating. Rebounding, perimeter defense and bench production had little to do with it.

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Acceptance Melo

There’s Hoodie Melo and Olympic Melo. However, while we’ve seen versions of the previous two here in Oklahoma City, it’s Acceptance Melo who has arrived just in time as the Oklahoma City Thunder have rolled off eight straight wins.

It’s easy for Carmelo Anthony to just take any shot he wants. He’s getting paid to do that. While it’s not exactly what the Thunder want, it’s more of what he would want. However, if Anthony was to do that, the Thunder probably would be less than a .500 team and more questions would be asked on why the Thunder traded for a player that can be known as selfish and a poor defender. He’s not a great defender and is north of 33 years old.

Yet, he’s bought in. It’s been Russell Westbrook who’s had the largest adjustment, trying to accommodate everyone. Anthony has taken a lesser role. A man, who’s in his 16th season sees the finishing line and what’s really important: that bling.

Since Dec. 1, Anthony’s numbers have elevated. He’s shooting over 36 percent from three, grabbing over six boards per game. While he’s not scoring over 22 points per game, like he did in October, he’s taking his shots in more efficient settings.

“I think any time you’re making shots you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing, what the team is doing,” Anthony said.

For Anthony his Hall of Fame legacy is already intact. He’s a prolific scorer at a pace that most players would dream of. Currently, he’s only the third active player in NBA history to reach the 25,000 career point plateau.

“Once you accept something, regardless of what it is, I think you become comfortable with it,” Anthony said. “You start putting your all into it, you start working on that role and on that acceptance, and it becomes fun. I think right now, after accepting that role, I think early in December, the game is starting to become fun again for me, fun for us as a team. Any time you get to making shots and winning basketball games, it makes it that much more fun.”

“We know he can put up 50 points a game if he wanted to,” Patrick Patterson said about Anthony. “If his shot’s falling, we’re going to find him as much as possible.”

Anthony showed in impressive wins over the Lakers and Cavaliers, he still has it. He scored 27 and 29 points respectively.

“Sometimes you get caught staring a little bit and I’ve gotta remind myself, ‘I am on a team with somebody else that can do that,'” Anthony said of Westbrook. “Do some of the things that you’ve been doing or you’re capable of doing or you’ve been doing throughout your whole career.”

For the Thunder, having Anthony be accepting of that third option role has really allowed Westbrook and Paul George to thrive. Since Anthony’s comments in December, both players have played at exceptional levels and Westbrook has been infused back into the MVP discussion.

Thunder love Accepting Melo. The tandem has worked out well for both. Anthony is in better shape than ever, as he’s not required to do as much. The Thunder now have a third option in which they’ve missed over the seasons, including last season when they only had 1½ options.

“For the most part, it’s just accepting the fact that you’re not going to be the man every single night or have to be the man every single night,” Anthony said. “So, for me, I’ve accepted that.”

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Seven comes with a price as OKC pops Detroit 121-108

The Oklahoma City Thunder won their seventh straight game but it came with a price as Andre Roberson was lost for the season in the third quarter. The Thunder once held a 27-point lead saw their lead dwindled to as little as nine but the Thunder held on for a 121-108 to beat the Detroit Pistons.

Oklahoma City improved to 29-20 on the season, now only a game out of third place in the Western Conference.

The Thunder also improve to 21-8 since Dec. 1, the second best record in the NBA over that time span.

Everything was going so well. Oklahoma City was blowing the doors of the Detroit Pistons, who were without their point guard Reggie Jackson, and there was nothing really they could do. Oklahoma City led 92-66 when Andre Roberson went up for a dunk and never completed as he ruptured his patellar tendon. He was able to slide off the side and eventually was carted off on a stretcher with 4:33 left in the quarter.

“I think Dre’s situation probably took a lot out of us,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “We lost a little bit there, and rightfully so.”

The man who had received so much flack for his free throw shooting, now had become such an important piece to the Thunder’s success was now gone. Oklahoma City’s defense struggled over the game’s final 16 minutes. Detroit scored 42 points over that span. Which they had only scored 66 before that.

“He’s certainly a huge loss,” Donovan said. “Everyone’s been able to see that since he’s kinda come back to us and what he’s been able to do defensively. And he’s found a way to be, offensively, a really effective player for us.”

“It’s s—, it’s real s—,” Steven Adams said. “He’s a huge part of our team and why we win. It’s a huge blow to us, but we’re just going to have to rely on some of the players to step up.”

Some of that can be accredited to their mindset. Players were thinking about their fallen teammate. It wasn’t until Russell Westbrook checked back in the fourth quarter was Oklahoma City’s will returned. The Thunder found themselves on the back of the MVP once again, as the Thunder flexed their muscles to get the win.

Minutes before the horrific injury, Carmelo Anthony became the 21st person in NBA history to reach the 25,000 milestone for career points. Anthony finished with 21 points and pulled down five rebounds.

“It’s a special moment,” Anthony said. “To kind of know what it took to get to this point and the amount of work that was put in to get to this point, the teammates that I’ve played with over the years, and for me to still be at a point in my career where I still have a lot more to go.”

Oklahoma City has to re-group quickly. They travel home to play the Philadelphia 76ers tomorrow at 5 p.m. Another abnormal start for the Thunder. We’ll have your complete game day coverage as the Thunder go for the sweep of the 76ers.

Keys to the Game

Fast Break points: C

Detroit did a quality job of limiting the Thunder in transition. In fact, Detroit outscored Oklahoma City 12-11 on the break. Though, the Thunder did outscore the Pistons 24-13 on the points off turnovers. So, there’s a redeeming quality.

Bench: B

The Thunder’s bench did that thing where they step in and helped the lead. Oklahoma City’s second unit is really stepping up over win streak. Raymond Felton went 3-of-5 for six points but was a poor negative-16 on the plus/minus. Overall, the bench was 10-of-26 from the floor for 25 points.

Big Three: A+

When you needed them, they stepped up. Russell Westbrook’s 31 points, Anthony’s 21 and Paul George’s 26 points really were the driving force to today’s blow out. George had 16 points in the first and the Thunder were off the races. If the Thunder play like this, it’s over for everyone.

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George makes statement in comments about Westbrook

Russell Westbrook’s explosion about Paul George being snubbed in 2018 All-Star game showing big steps in the potential re-signing of Paul George in free agency this summer.

On Wednesday, George spoke to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (h/t ESPN.com’s Royce Young) that he thought i twas “awesome” Westbrook went and stood up for the former Indiana pacer after the coaches snubbed George as a Western Conference All-Star reserve.

George then took it a step further:

“Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ [has],” George said. “A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back.”

George then said it went in a little more on what he meant: “It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up. And to be honest, he should be a starter. He’s been the MVP, been the best player at his position. He should’ve been a starter. But that’s another story. But the fact Russ had my back, that’s my guy forever, and it’s more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it.”

Westbrook after Tuesday’s 109-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets exploded when asked by our own Brady Trantham on his thoughts with George being snubbed.

“Unbelievable. I think it’s just outrageous in my opinion,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know who else made the team, but I know you got guys with four people from one team. You got guys complaining about being snubbed so they can get in. You got guys that just talk about it all the time, but the guys that deserve it should be in it. I just don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense a guy that leads the league in steals, compete every night, top two in his position, it don’t make any sense regardless of anything else… Everybody’s not an All-Star. Just because you get voted in don’t mean you’re an All-Star. I just think it’s outrageous.”

George has been heaven sent since arriving from Indiana in a trade in June. George is averaging 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game, first in the NBA, while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three, a career high.

With the duo of George and Westbrook on the floor, the Thunder have outscored opponents by almost eight points per 100 (7.7).

Since starting 8-12, George and the Thunder have turned it around. Oklahoma City is 19-8 since with George averaging 21.3 points per game on 44.3 percent three-point shooting.

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Thunder crumble in 2nd 104-88 to Minnesota

For the third game in a row and the second night of a back-to-back, the Oklahoma City Thunder (22-20) failed to make the plays necessary to win in the second half.

After losing by 11 to Portland on Tuesday, the Thunder stumbled on the road in Minnesota (27-16) by 16, 104-88. The second half woes that Oklahoma City was able to overcome in December seem to be coming back to haunt the team this month.

The Thunder ran even with the Timberwolves in the first half, tying the game at 47 after being down 12-2 early in the 1st quarter. The 3rd quarter saw the same Oklahoma City team from the previous night, outscored 34-25 by the Trailblazers, being outscored 29 to 18 to open the second half. Minnesota never looked back.

Russell Westbrook finished with 38 points, on 15-of-23 shooting, 10 rebounds and only five assists. The reigning MVP, who left the arena prior to media responsibilities the previous night, played with obvious frustration and didn’t look for teammates as often as he has been since the beginning of December.

Paul George logged 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting, while Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points.

Karl Anthony-Towns, who has been woeful in his attempt to defend Thunder center Steven Adams did a fantastic job in the paint, stifling the New Zealand big by scoring 18 points and holding his counter part to eight.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,” Billy Donovan said. “At the start of the game, we started 1-for-7 and we had good looks, we just dug ourselves a whole. We fought our way back but couldn’t sustain in the second half.”

Jimmy Butler was sensational with 26 points, seven rebounds, eight assists to go along with four steals and two blocks. Oklahoma City, who is still missing defensive stopper Andre Roberson, continues their bad stretch of defensive performances.

Like Tuesday night, there wasn’t anything in particular that stuck out individually that led to such a dominating loss. Regardless, the Thunder still lost, and lost badly. After finishing December 12-5, the momentum gained has seemed to run out. Oklahoma City will need to seriously reevaluate their team defense.

The Thunder were outscored 57-41 in the second half after scratching and clawing to simply tie the game at the half. Of course, the second night of a back-to-back will yield sloppy results at times, but the Thunder will be preparing for their two-day rest before their match with Charlotte frustrated.

Other than the big three, Oklahoma City’s bench scored 11 points and did little to help the starters. Terrance Ferguson, filling in for Roberson, added only three points.

Saturday’s game against Charlotte becomes more important with each loss dating back to the Phoenix disaster. The Thunder currently sit at seventh in the Western Conference. They will need to get back on track quick.

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