Tag - stats

Thunder Game Day No. 36: vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-15, 14-4 home) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (18-15, 6-9 away)

Friday, Dec. 29 :: 7 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27) | 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 7½-point favorite. The over/under is 207.
Online Stream: Fox Sports GoWWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Bucks: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder put their six-game winning streak on the line against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in Bricktown.
  • They’ll have to do it without Paul George, who’s missing tonight’s game with knee soreness.
  • Oklahoma City has a four-game home winning streak against the Bucks and have not lost at home to them since April 2013.
  • The Thunder and Milwaukee met earlier this year, with Oklahoma City prevailing 110-91 on Oct. 31, 2017.
  • With only 15 away games played for Milwaukee it’s the third lowest amount for any NBA team.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • 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).

SCOUTING THE BUCKS

  • The Milwaukee Bucks are 18-15 on the season, fifth in the Eastern Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Bucks are 5-5.
  • Milwaukee is coming off a 102-96 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night.
  • Overall, against Milwaukee the Thunder are 70-68.
  • Since moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder own a slight 11-7 advantage against the Bucks.
  • When the Games are played at the Peake, Oklahoma City is 5-3.
  • Since 2014, Oklahoma City is 4-0 at home vs. Milwaukee.
  • Oklahoma City beat the Bucks 110-91 on Oct. 31, 2017 for the first win of the regular season series.
  • Injury Report:
    Jabari Parker (knee) is out.
    Mirza Teletovic (illness) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Milwaukee came on April 4, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 110-79 (31-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (17 points) vs. Milwaukee occurred during a 98-115 loss on April 11, 2009.

FINDING THE BUCK

  • Despite Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, the most popular entry in the contest to name Milwaukee’s NBA franchise wasn’t Bucks. It was Robins.
  • The judges overruled the public and decided on a more indigenous (and much stronger) name.
  • The choice could have been much worse: Skunks was among the other entries.

NEW FACES

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder added a bunch of new faces this year.
  • Paul George was acquired on June 30 for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
  • Carmelo Anthony joins the Thunder after Oklahoma City sent Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second round pick to the Knickerbockers for Anthony.
  • Oklahoma City also signed Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson via free agency.
  • Terrance Ferguson was drafted in the first round out of Australia.
  • Oklahoma City also added PJ Dozier, undrafted rookie out of South Carolina to a two-way deal.

INJURY REPORT

  • Paul George (knee soreness) is OUT.

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City finishes out their four-game home stand with a Sunday night with the Mavs in town.
  • The Thunder then go on a West Coast swing playing the Clippers, Lakers and the Suns in 2018.



Three Keys to the Game

Win the first half

Milwaukee doesn’t really have the firepower to come from behind and it’s showing in their stats. The Bucks are 4-10 when trailing at halftime. However, you’d think Oklahoma City did. Look at theirs. They’re 2-7 when trailing at the half. The Thunder are only 1-1 when trailing after halftime since the start of December.

Defend the three

With no Paul George, the Thunder are down a player to help defend the perimeter. Oklahoma City cannot let the Bucks get hot from deep. If Milwaukee is draining threes, this could be a long night for the Thunder. Oklahoma City has to keep the Bucks under eight threes and 35 percent.

Make your Free throws

Easier said than done for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City is the second worst free throw shooting team in the NBA. However, Milwaukee gives up the second most free throw shots per game in the NBA. So, if and when the Thunder get to the line, they’ll have to make their shots.

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Dennis Smith Jr. has shades of Westbrook

Tonight the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Dallas Mavericks. This match up in the past has been about Mark Cuban saying in the media that Russell Westbrook is not a superstar and Westbrook going out against the Maverick’s and unleashing hell.

This season there is a whole new reason to watch, and it has me salivating. In the first round of the 2017 NBA draft Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks drafted rookie from North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas has been in search of a franchise point guard for a long time, and hopes Smith will be that. He’s an explosive athlete and talented scorer who can make plays off the dribble and comes with a ton of upside. This is great value for the Mavericks, who gain a legitimate long-term asset as they continue to prepare for the post-Dirk era. In a weaker draft, Smith might have been a top-five talent.

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated

 

Watching Smith Jr.’s college highlights, who does he remind you of? I’ll give you a couple of seconds. Would it maybe be Oklahoma City Thunder point guard from UCLA one Russell Westbrook.

Almost a mirror image. Two amazingly explosive point guards with so much athleticism it leaves you in shock and awe like nothing you have ever seen before.

So far in Smith Jr.’s first 11 games, Smith Jr. is averaging 28.5 minutes per game scoring 14.8 points shooting 5.8-of-14.3 at 40.8 percent 1.4-of-4.6 at 29.4 percent from three, 3.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.3 blocks.

Russell Westbrook in his first 18 games in his rookie season back in 2008-09 season was averaging.

Russell Westbrook in his first rookie season back in 2008-09 season averaged 32.5 minutes scoring 15.3 points shooting 5.3-of-13.4 at 39.8 percent and 0.4-of-1.6 at 27.1 percent from three, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.2 blocks. Westbrook stats obviously are over the length of the entire season.

Sunday’s game between the Thunder and Mavericks will be a fascinating game to watch, how do these two explosive point guards look when they come together. This is a matchup of the present in Russell Westbrook and the future in Dennis Smith Jr. In Smith Jr., we could be seeing the next line of lineage in the genes of Michael Jordan.

First was Jordan, then came Kobe Bryant, and right now we are living in the Westbrook era. (Just an expression, not saying Dennis Smith or Westbrook is as good as Jordan)  We could be about to see the man who is next to take the throne in Dennis Smith Jr. Don’t know about you, but the first three men in this lineage have been phenomenal to watch, and we should be glued to the TV to see how the next one does.

I just hope the crown isn’t too daunting for him to wear and live up to.

 

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Real Plus/Minus in win over L.A. Clippers

The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to snap their four-game losing streak with a strong win at home over the Los Angeles Clippers, with a final score of 120-111. It was a big night for Thunder’s big three, especially Paul George. Oklahoma City also got nice contributions from a number of different role players in different areas of the game.

PLUS

Westbrook setting the tone

Russell Westbrook set the tone early for the Thunder. When this team needed a leader to step up, Westbrook stood up again as he has since he arrived. It wasn’t just the organization that needed Westbrook to step up it was the fans that also needed their man to stand up, and Westbrook knew it. Thunder fans put up the bat signal, and Batman answered.

Westbrook exploded early in the first quarter and told the fans to get loud on two consecutive, and one plays Westbrook got straight up and interacted with the crowd to get them on their feet and scream, and they did. Westbrook finished with 22 points three rebounds and eight assists shooting 8-of-16 at 50 percent. Westbrook was also impactful on defense with three steals.

Dakari Johnson

Steven Adams missed Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers which opened up a starting job. Everyone thought it would either be Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson. Coach Billy Donovan threw a curveball and gave rookie Dakari Johnson the starting job, and he repaid the favor in spades. Johnson played 23:13 minutes scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shots at 60 percent he was able to get to the free throw line shooting 3-of-6 at 50 percent Johnson also was able to get one block and one steal.

If you’re a lover of stats, you didn’t get to see how good Johnson was against the Clippers. Johnson was fantastic against the Clippers all-star big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Johnson’s size, and athleticism was massive for the Thunder on defense and offense.

Jordan only managed nine points on 4-of-8 shooting at 50 percent. Jordan was still impactful on the boards recording 12 rebounds, but he was a minus 18 player for the Clippers when on the floor. This was a fantastic game for Johnson and may have earned himself some playing time going forward.

Finding the hot hand

When this new big three were put together, there was this constant discussion of will these three iso players be able to sacrifice and play as a team. There have been signs of them being able to work together look at their first game against the New York Knicks. There have also been signs of them not being able to play together, look at the game against the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings. For me this game put that question to bed, against the Clippers Paul George was red hot, in the past, Westbrook would have still tried to get his 20-25 shots and the same for Carmelo Anthony but not tonight. Westbrook knew it was George’s night and both he and Anthony got the ball to George every chance possible.

Westbrook shot the ball 16 times and Anthony 12, George finished the game scoring 42 points on 13-of-22 shots at 59.1 percent and 4-of-7 from three at 57.1 percent. This game was a perfect example of Westbrook sacrificing to make this teamwork. This was the first time we got a strong message from Anthony that he wants this to work as well and it leads to a Thunder 120 – 111 win over the Clippers.

MINUS

Letting teams back into games

The Thunder were up by 20 points in the last quarter but let the Clippers comeback to within single digits. It’s been a common theme for this team; it seems to be a lack of concentration and taking an unnecessary risk on the part of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook often leaves his opponent to try and anticipate a pass or gambles on a steal which in turn leave’s his opponent wide open and in the first 10 games the opposition has made Westbrook and the Thunder pay.

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Thunder blow it in second half

The second half wasn’t pretty nor was it fun to watch. The Oklahoma City Thunder (4-4) blew an 18-point halftime lead and eventually fell to the Boston Celtics (7-2) on Saturday night 101-94.

This was a bad loss.

It’s hard to pin point what went wrong for the Thunder. Was it their lackadaisical defense or the fact they couldn’t hit a shot? It could be both. However, credit the Boston Cetlics for coming out and hitting shots. They could’ve rolled over but didn’t. They fought hard.

Oklahoma City led 55-37 at halftime after a massive end of the half highlight which saw Andre Roberson block a Celtic’s shot. Westbrook rushed down the floor, nailing the three. Everyone was on cloud nine as the Thunder were beating the socks off the hottest team in the NBA. The Thunder were shooting 48 percent, holding the Celtics to 31 percent.

“Who we can be was out in front of us the first 24 minutes,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “And what we can be on the other end of it, the second 24 minutes.”

The shots stopped falling for Oklahoma City and they started falling for Boston. The script flipped in the second half as Boston outscored Oklahoma City 64-39 in the second half, nearly doubling their first half total. The Celtics also shot 55 percent in the second half.

Shots didn’t fall for the Thunder as Al Horford and Kyrie Irving lit up the Oklahoma City sky like it was the Edmond Fourth of July parade. They created great mismatches through screens and ball movement. Three times in the final two minutes, Boston was able to switch Steven Adams on Irving. All Irving did was blow past Adams for the easy bucket.

“That’s who we are, that first 24 minutes,” Anthony said. “That first half is who we are, that’s what we established ourselves to be. In the second half, coming out in that third quarter, it was just too many mental lapses. That’s not who we are. We know what type of team we are, and that first half we showed that.”

The Big Three combined to shoot 19-of-57 for the game (33.3 percent) and 9-of-32 in the second half. Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony struggled in the second half, with Anthony struggling for the game. Anthony finished 3-of-17 on the night. While he rebounded well, that’s about the only thing well he did. Actually, all of the Big Three had a double-double in some fashion.

“It’s good to struggle now, this is our first year together,” Paul George said.

When the Big Three struggle like this, you’re probably going to lose more games. You can have one struggle, maybe even two, but in reality when all three struggle, we’re going to see glimpses and more of these. We need at least one of them to be one. Tonight, they all struggled.

I’m sure there were some positives but frankly, this is a bad loss. When you blow an 18-point lead at home, you get a bad loss sticker. It’s like a frowny face but with all the contempt on it from what should’ve happened and not what happened.

“We’ll be totally fine,” George said.

Oklahoma City will now try and regroup quickly as they head back on the road for another road trip. It doesn’t get any easier as they go to Portland on Sunday. That’s an 8 p.m. tip-off at the Moda Center. They’ll travel to Sacramento and Denver to cap off their road trip. The’ll be home on Friday night against the L.A. Clippers.

Keys to the Game

Rebound: D

If I wanted, I couldn’t made this strictly about the second half stats but I didn’t. Though, Boston outrebounded Oklahoma City 26-22 in the second half and by one overall. Oklahoma City drops to 0-4 when they’re outrebounded by their opponent. Credit Boston for really limiting Oklahoma City one-and-done.

Share the Ball: B

Westbrook had 11 assists but can you imagine if more shots fell in the second half? The man might’ve had 20 assists. This wasn’t on the lack of sharing tonight, that’s for sure. Oklahoma City has to find a way to get shots to fall.

Get to the foul line: F

14 attempts. Four. Teen. An Absoultely travesty of a number. There are multiple factors going into this. The officiating, not calling it. That’s going to happen. Being aggressive. The Thunder settled for a LOT of mid-range jumpers. This is what Boston wanted. Care. I don’t think Oklahoma City cares enough this season about it. However, they’re not called free throws for any reason. Westbrook needs more than two attempts.

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Thunder throttle Bucks

While the Milwaukee Bucks dressed as pretenders, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s costume appeared to look as a team that found some really impressive things out as the Thunder thumped the Milwaukee Bucks 110-91 on Halloween night.

Oklahoma City improves to 4-3 on the season and now have won five of the last six again Milwaukee.

While everyone was focused on Giannis Antetokounmpo and his monstrous start to the season, the Thunder jumped out by double digits in the first quarter, never looking back. It started with the defense of Andre Roberson. The defensive specialist out of Colorado locked down one of the MVP candidates this season. Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points but had four turnovers and was negative-11 while on the court.

Roberson fought off airball chants, nailing back-to-back free throws and then rattled in a contested three-pointer. Roberson finished with nine points and was plus-4 on the court. Oklahoma City really saw the money Roberson earned tonight.

“I don’t really pay attention to all the noise. Besides that dude that was heckling me all game,” said Roberson, who blew a kiss in the fan’s direction during the game. “It’s all part of the game.”

Oklahoma City saw their lead balloon to 28 before Antetokounmpo finally checked out. The damage had been done and the Bucks stood no chance by the Thunder’s defensive pressure. The Thunder held the Bucks to 42 percent shooting from the field and only 30 percent from deep. They also forced 14 turnovers.

The Thunder led 60-42 at the half.

“It’s the people that we have on the floor,” Adams noted. “It puts the defense in really tough bind. It’s either they’re giving up a three, closing out to a really good player or giving up a dunk.”

The closest Milwaukee would get within the second second half was only 17 in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City played fourth quarters and the Bucks stood no opportunity of a real comeback.

Westbrook missed his triple-double by a single assist. While the stats said he had nine, there is a questionable play at 5:15 left in the first quarter. It will be reviewed by the NBA.

Westbrook finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in only 26 minutes. Westbrook checked out less than three minutes left in the third and did not return.

“He [Westbrook] really set the stage right away from the beginning of the game. He just was dominant and imposing,” Donovan said. “He got a lot of hockey assists where he passed the ball and it led to something else. The competitive spirit and presence was there and it was really helpful for us, especially playing on the road.”

Oklahoma City used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to really put this game out of reach for good. The run was capped off 20-7 overall. The Thunder led by as many as 20 in the first half.

“We did a good job there. We were fortunate a little bit in the first half,” Donovan said. “They had some relatively decent looks that didn’t go down. Sometimes that happens. Our effort to get out there and contest shots was a good thing.”

Oklahoma City now takes a couple of days off before hosting the scorching Boston Celtics on Friday night. Boston (5-2) has won five straight heading into Tuesday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on Friday night at the Peake.

Keys to the Game

Defend the mid-range: A

The Bucks were 8-of-22 from from the 8-16 foot range. Oklahoma City did a good job of forcing contested, mid-ranger jumpers. This is what you want out of this defense. They were on point and there really was nothing Milwaukee could do about it.

Fast Breaks: F

While Milwaukee didn’t do much, the Thunder were held to only three fast break points, their lowest point out put of the year. This game could have been a lot worse if the Thunder hit some of their transition shots. Oklahoma City surprisingly can be better.

Get to the foul line: C

Only 22 attempts for the Thunder. Slowly but surely they’re figuring out what it takes to get to the free throw line. Paul George had zero attempts and that was weird. Westbrook was 2-of-3, which is a bit of an improvement. Still need to see a 30-32 free throw attempt night.

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The Curse of 3

Doug McDermott joins the unfortunate list of Thunder players who’ve changed their number to No. 3. It’s a long list and the list isn’t good.

It’s the same number he wore his rookie year in Chicago, before changing to No. 11 last season. That number is taken by Enes Kanter.

McDermott who was No. 25 last season took over No. 3 while many Thunder fans, who still own real estate on Waiters Island, thought the number would be retired forever. There were other players who never panned out or were just down right frustrating in a Thunder uniform.

McDermott, 25, averaged 9.0 points on 37 percent from three last season. His minutes dwindled and the frustrated mounted for him. However, he is still considered a key piece in the Thunder’s rotation going forward. Oklahoma City has the former Creighton star signed through this season.

Let’s take a look on how those who wore No. 3 did for the Thunder:

DJ White

White spent three seasons in Oklahoma City, amounting to a grand total of 186 points in 451 minutes. He appeared in only 19 games his first two seasons, mainly due to injuries. So, he’s essentially an after thought. Fun trivia question answer for you: Oklahoma City had three players drafted in the 2008 NBA Draft. Two of the players were Serge Ibaka (No. 24) and Russell Westbrook (No. 4), who was the third? DJ White (No. 29).

Nate Robinson

On the same day DJ White was traded to Charlotte for Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson was acquired with Kendrick Perkins in the Thunder famous trade that changed the face of the organization.

Robinson only appeared in four games in the regular season and his stats were abysmal. Fans chanted his name but his production did not meet the demand. Following the 2010-11 season, Robinson was essentially told not to show up to training camp and the Thunder would be releasing him. They eventually did and his legacy would be over in a Thunder uniform.

When Robinson was released he signed with the Warriors a month later.

Perry Jones

The number would remain idle until Perry Jones decided he would desecrate the number by changing from No. 8 to No. 3 in 2013. In his two seasons while wearing No. 3, Jones put up some of his best numbers in his career. That’s not very hard as his only three seasons in the NBA were with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In two of his three seasons, including one of the years wearing No. 3, Jones was picked as the worst Thunder player. He also was voted the third and sixth worst Thunder player of all-time.

Jones was traded in July of 2015 and was waived by the Celtics before even playing a minute.

Dion Waiters

Waiters spent a little over a season in Bricktown. During his time, he shed his selfish demeanor and became a true teammate. He’s shown that in Miami. Most Thunder fans love the guy. When Waiters changed from No. 23 to No. 3, the transformation was essentially complete.

He was efficient. He was consistent. Most of all, he was an all around good teammate for the Thunder. He was vital in their playoff run to the Western Conference Finals. His games against the Spurs go down as some of the best in Thunder history.

It is a shame the Thunder and Waiters had a falling out, as Waiters accused the Thunder of toying with him with the Durant signing. Despite his bad words about the Thunder, most agree and still have property on Waiters Island.

Domantas Sabonis

The Sabonis prodigy never really formed for the Thunder. The son of Arvidas Sabonis, the former Portland Trail Blazers never really could find his confidence as the season went along. He shot the three well but towards the end of the first part of the year, the Thunder knew they had issues. They made the move to rent Taj Gibson and the writing was on the wall for Sabonis.

Sabonis was acquired on draft night with Victor Oladipo from the Orlando Magic for the rights to Serge Ibaka. Oklahoma City’s rebuilding process began with this trade. At the time they didn’t know it but it had began.

The Thunder traded Sabonis and Victor Oladipo for Paul George, another rental in June. So, his time with the Thunder was short lived, despite being a lottery selection.

History shows No. 3 is not a lucky number. Only Waiters had a good season while wearing the number and the odds of McDermott, who’s coming off a subpar seasons since being traded is against him. He’ll need to show he’s worth the minutes he wants. He’ll have to fight across the curse of three.

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Player Grades: The bench

The Thunder certainly had a season that they can be proud of after the slap in the face that ruined July 4 for Thunder fans everywhere.

There are several gaps that need to be filled if this team hopes to compete for a title during the Westbrook era, assuming he signs the “super max” deal this July which would be the biggest contract in NBA history. The Thunder made headlines at the trade deadline after acquiring Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson from the Bulls in exchange for Anthony Morrow and Cameron Payne, which was a steal for the organization in terms of what the Thunder were lacking which was a sharp shooter from three to spread the floor and a veteran big man with experience to bring positive energy to the locker room.

Even though the trade was in the Thunder’s favor, they still lack a deep and productive secondary unit to get the weight off Westbrook’s shoulders. Fans who religiously watch Thunder basketball all have that one player that comes to mind that when they are on the court or have the ball in their hands, they make you want to throw the remote at the TV.

Here we rank and grade the Thunder’s bench  players of the 2016-17 season in terms of productivity and minutes played per game.

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Westbrook’s postgame comments provides insight

Russell Westbrook may take 43 shots but the man will also take the blame when the Thunder lose.

Despite scoring an NBA playoff record 51 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds, the MVP candidate admitted he needed to do a better job in involving his teammates late.

“I have to do better job of finding my guys and trusting them when it’s not going for me,” Westbrook said.

While that sentence may be a generic off the cuff statement from most players, it’s a bit of a slip from a man that often doesn’t let many things slip out. Westbrook, in all of his glory last night, struggled in the fourth quarter. He took more shots in the fourth than any of his teammates attempted all game long. On a normal night, that’s not a bad deal. Often, it’s why the Thunder win. Westbrook was obviously frustrated by the lack of calls and his shot went awry. Oklahoma City went the same way of his shot.

This is something we’ve come to expect and love about Westbrook. The man doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t sit back and go well “I picked up a 50-point triple-double, how about dah?” No, His response is eloquent in verbage, despite hostile.

“I don’t give a f*** about my line. We lost.”

Westbrook’s statements are as loud and at times, as controversial, as his outfits.

It’s easy to say Westbrook is chasing stats. The man has appeared to snatch rebounds out of the hands of his own teammates and fly down the court like a tazmanian devil on Looney Tunes. Statements like “I don’t give a f*** about my line” show what most of the Thunder fans have known, there’s not a lot of stat chasing for Westbrook.

He does what he does out of necessity.

When Westbrook came back in after only sitting for a couple of minutes in the fourth, the frustration was already on Westbrook’s face and the damage was done.

The Thunder coaching staff may make excuses but No. 0 wonn’t. He says it’s his job to win games and when they don’t win, he says it’s his fault, even if it’s really not his fault.

A Westbrook style game with a Westbrook style presser. Nothing than what we’ve come to expect with the NBA Playoffs.

When the Thunder roll out of bed for Friday’s game, expect a renewed vigor within the locker room that we may have not seen on Wednesday night.

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Westbrook’s case for MVP

41 triple-doubles and counting for Russell Westbrook. The talking heads around the NBA still cannot make up their minds on who they want to be the NBA’s MVP.

We here at Thunder Digest think the choice is obvious: Russell Westbrook.

What goes into deciding who’s going to be MVP? Is it value to a team? Is it the league’s best player? Is it the best player one of the best teams? There’s a stat and an argument for either Westbrook or James Harden. It really depends on how you want to spin it. Is it the best player on one of the better teams award? Then it could be Harden’s.

However, if you break it down, Westbrook and the Thunder have 45 wins. That’s 10th best in the NBA. Why should the 10th most wins be really that much different than the third most wins? If we’re going to equate it to that, then this is really a team award. Let’s sit back and name it the Most Valuable Team award.

This is a personal award and while I think everyone can concede the player should be on a playoff team, are you really going to punish Westbrook for the shortcomings of his teammates? I don’t think so. The Rockets are probably a playoff team without Harden, the Thunder are not.

The on-off win pace for the four major candidates adds perspective. To calculate win pace, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports used Pythagorean win percentage multiplied by 82, the number of games in a standard NBA schedule.

As you can see, the Rockets still are a 51-win team without Harden. Without Westbrook, the Thunder drop to a sub 20-win team. Westbrook’s value to the Thunder equates to 34 more wins. Only LeBron James (42) is more impactful as the lead man.

Why do you reward Harden for having better teammates and shooting more threes? Mike D’Antoni’s system is set up for the point guard to thrive in the system. He was the head coach when Steven Nash won back-to-back MVPs. With years gone by, it’s been questioned if Nash deserved that award or if the credit should go solely to the system. Do Ryan Anderson, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon mean Harden is the MVP? Then, like I said, let’s make this a team award.

When James was busying winning MVPs in a four out of five year pace, it was understood that voters would eventually start choosing other players out of sheer boredom. That’s why some think Derrick Rose won his MVP in 2010-11.

Many see three players as the league’s best player: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. James is in the MVP discussion, but do we give it to him just because many think he’s the current day Michael Jordan? Do we give it to Curry because he’s been the best player over the last couple seasons? Or do we give it to Kevin Durant because he’s the best player on the league’s best team (see our previous point, too).

All of the above is no. This isn’t a team award. It’s the current best player of this season.

Westbrook’s season has been far and away better than anyone else, and that includes Harden. 41 triple-doubles. 60 double-doubles. 45 wins with no other All-Star while Oklahoma City is continuing to rebound with what transpired over the summer. When we look at the advance stats that all the other stat gurus love, Westbrook is head and shoulders above Harden. His triple-double average is something that is comparable to hitting .400 in a MLB season.

It’s easy to say LeBron takes off due to his older body frame and Harden is recovering from a wrist injury. Westbrook doesn’t take days off. He doesn’t take games off. He plays 100 mph every game, every play. The Thunder would be a fringe playoff team without him doing so. His statistical line shows that as much. When you break it all down, Westbrook is better than Harden. He has more rebounds and points. He is second in assists. He surrenders less turnovers per game and registers more triple-doubles.

Here are the comparable lines after the All-Star break:

Russell Westbrook
33.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 11.3 APG, 43.8%-36.4%-87.7%

James Harden
29.1 PPG, 7. 5 RPG, 10.9 APG, 44.1%-32%-84.2%

Another stat to consider is the turnover percentage, or TOV%. TOV% is estimated percentage of turnovers per 100 players. It allows the factoring in of usage. While Harden’s 5.8 turnovers and Westbrook’s 5.4 turnovers per game are high — in fact, both players are No. 1 and No. 2 for single season turnovers — you may think Westbrook and Harden are careless with the ball. Harden is 42nd with 19.2 percent and Westbrook is 106th at 15.9 percent. Westbrook and Harden, despite the high per game numbers, handle a great deal. Yet Westbrook takes care of the ball considerably better than Harden. Also more to consider, the Thunder’s three-point shooting compared to the Rockets isn’t close.

The Rockets take and make more threes than anyone right now it seems. We saw a couple of weeks ago as they caught fire and thumped Oklahoma City. The Thunder rely on Westbrook more than we would like to admit. However Westbrook has shot the three at a career high clip.

After the win against Memphis. Westbrook is shooting 34.7 percent from three. He’s a career 30 percent shooter. Harden is a 37 percent career shooter from three-point range, but is currently sitting at 34.5 percent — his career low. That’s a measly 0.2 percent, but is is another piece of evidence that slides into Westbrook’s favor as you expect Harden to make those threes.

Westbrook’s triple-doubles are in a league of their own. Harden has 20 triple-doubles, Westbrook has 41. Westbrook has 20 triple-doubles in his last 29 games. Through his greatness, Westbrook has normalized the triple-double. Oklahoma City is 32-9 when Westbrook registers double-digit numbers in three categories, while Harden is only 15-5. If Harden was on Westbrook’s triple-double pace, the Rockets would be 31-10.

We haven’t even began to talk about his average of a triple-double, which hasn’t been done in over half a century. It was done pre-merger, with a third more possessions per game. Not to mention with less teams to compete against. 41 triple-doubles. Averaging a triple-double for the season and leading his team without a former MVP to the playoffs is enough to win the season’s best player award.

If people can stop looking at Westbrook from 2011 and realize that this is a grown man who’s matured and knows how to lead this team, we will see come June, Westbrook accepting an award. Oklahoma City can become the eighth team to have multiple players win MVP.

It is really simple. He deserves it more.

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History for Westbrook as OKC thumps Milwaukee

It was an extraordinary night, as the Oklahoma City Thunder (44-33) defeated the Milwaukee Bucks (40-38) 110-78. History was made as Russell Westbrook obtained his 41st triple-double of the season, tying Oscar Robertson with the most triple-doubles in a season. He also tied himself with Wilt Chamberlain, 4th in career triple-doubles all-time, marking his 78th triple double of his career.

It was amazing to watch, as Westbrook got a huge standing ovation, as thousands reigned the Chesapeake Arena with MVP chants when Westbrook obtained the triple-double early in the second half. It was fitting, as Russell tied the record against Oscar Robertson’s very own Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook finished with 12 points, 13 assists and 13 boards. He also recorded enough rebounds tonight to be able to guarantee a double-digit average in rebounds for the season. He now only needs 16 assists in the last five games to be able to average the double-digit assists.

It was one of those nights that everyone will remember, and it seemed to be especially magical in the arena. Westbrook got countless MVP chants, especially loud ones as he jogged into the tunnel post-game, with all smiles.

As far as the game goes, the rest of the Thunder squad knew how important tonight was and what was possible for their superstar. They were locked in from the beginning, and Oklahoma City got great play from a ton of guys.

Defensively, this might have been one of the best performances from the Thunder all season long. Andre Roberson, who was a thorn in Milwaukee’s side all night, led the way defensively. He finished with three steals and three blocks, one of those blocks at the rim on Giannis. He also chipped in offensively with some nice assists, and cutting action.

Thunder held the Bucks to just 79 points on 36 percent shooting from the field. Milwaukee also shot just 17 percent from three, which was huge by Oklahoma City, as the Bucks are top ten in three-point percentage in the league.

Another big part of the win was Oklahoma City’s bench play. From beginning to end, Thunder’s bench outplayed Milwaukee’s in every faucet of the game. Given the blowout, the bench played more than usual, but they were still able to put up 65 bench points. 38 of those points came from Semaj Christon, Domas Sabonis, and Enes Kanter combined.

McDermott and Abrines also were big off the bench with their outside shooting. Unfortunately, Abrines was injured late in the first half and did not return. Per Thunder, it was a knee sprain so hopefully he will be back in the rotation soon.

Though the Thunder needed this win to bounce back, and to stay in contention for that five seed, all that seemed secondary tonight, as Westbrook’s triple-doubles was what everyone was watching. Everybody was watching the stats as Westbrook pulled down each rebound, attained each assists, and scored each point.

He grabbed the rebounds at an absurd rate early, pulling down five of them in the first quarter. He was only two rebounds and two assists away from history at halftime. This was Westbrook’s eighth triple double that he recorded in less than 30 game minutes played. It was historical, magical, and another of several bullets on the long list of Russell’s MVP resume.

Thunder have five games left, meaning Westbrook will probably not only break Robertson’s record, but, even break it by more than just one triple double. Witnessing this history has been amazing, and we get a chance to do it all again tomorrow night as Oklahoma City goes on the road to take on the Memphis Grizzlies.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Turnovers: B

The Oklahoma City Thunder turned it over 13 times compared to the Bucks’ 11, but outside of that, they played a very clean, efficient game. They got ahold of the game early, and dominated from there on out. They locked in and never looked back.

Fastbreak: A

Though Milwaukee only turned it over 11 times, the Thunder took advantage of every single one, pushing the pace all game. They out ran the Bucks’ defense countless times for easy buckets, especially when Milwaukee had long misses. The Thunder are at their best when they push the ball up court and it showed tonight.

Bench production: A+++++

The Thunder’s bench was phenomenal tonight. They put up 65 points, and were consistent in contributing all game. They increased the lead when they were in, and were not a liability like many nights in the past this season. Abrines, Kanter, and McDermott were making shots, while Christon and Sabonis played with great confidence.

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