Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson Win Game For Thunder In Mavericks Rematch

By A. Suave Francisco

Things didn't go the Oklahoma City Thunder's way in their last trip to Dallas, TX to face the Mavericks and it honestly didn't go their way Monday night either...until Russell Westbrook exploded for 16 points in the final quarter, propelling his team to a 92-91 victory, while tallying his 37th triple-double in the process. 

In a world where so much credit has been put on the offensive side of the ball, the outcome of this particular game would've been vastly different if Andre Roberson wouldn't have performed the way he did late in the game defensively. He effectively shut down both Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews on the perimeter and in the post. Barnes finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting and Matthews had a very nice game, until the fourth where his shooting percentage plummeted to 38.5 percent, including a 2-of-9 shooting night from three. Reflecting back on the fundamental stages of basketball, everyone should have learned that defense turns into offense and without Roberson's All-Defensive First Team quality of play late in the game, Russell's offensive effort would've gone to waste, just like it has a few times this season due to lackluster effort on the defensive end. This was a team effort, orchestrated by Andre Roberson on the defensive end and capitalized on by Russell Westbrook on the offensive end. 

Russell finished the game with 37 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. Victor Oladipo fell just short of a double-double with 15 points and 9 rebounds while Taj Gibson continues to have a huge impact on this Thunder squad, finishing with 13 points and 6 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive. Gibson was also a team-high +27, which proves his huge impact on this young and learning team. The Thunder are now (7-2) with Gibson in the starting lineup, so obviously, his impact isn't coincidental. 

Although tonight's outcome ended on a positive note, the majority of the game was sloppy and inefficient for the Thunder. It appeared the mentality from Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets carried over through three-and-a-half quarters of this game. Steven Adams hasn't grown into the center the Thunder hoped for after a great postseason last year, scoring just 8 points and pulling down 6 rebounds, while only taking 6 shots as OKC's starting center. Dallas's gameplan on Enes Kanter worked. Nerlens Noel and Salah Mejri did a great job making Kanter virtually a non-factor during this game. 

Nevertheless, Oklahoma City won and improved to (42-31) on the season, sitting just one game shy of a streaky Los Angeles Clipper team for fifth place in the Western Conference with 9 games remaining, 7 of which are against non-playoff teams which should make their road to fifth place a little bit easier. 

Extra notes: 

  • Russell Westbrook's 37th triple-double leaves him just 4 shy of Oscar Robertson's 41, with 9 games remaining. 
  • When Westbrook tallies a triple-double, the Thunder are (27-7).
  • The Thunder need to go (8-1) through the remainder of the season to reach the coveted 50-win mark.
  • With 9 games remaining, the Thunder still only sit 2 games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth in the Western Conference. 

Billy D Gets A Chuckle Out Of Hoosier Hysteria On Twitter

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Billy Donovan had no idea he and his wife had flown to Bloomington, Indiana, late Thursday and then flown back to OKC early Friday.

He’s not quite as plugged into the “TwitterSphere” as others, "I don't really follow it to be honest," he said Saturday.

All sorts of reports were posted on Twitter Friday afternoon and on other spots around the internet claiming that Donovan had been at the Bloomington airport and on the Indiana University campus Thursday night and Friday morning.

Of course Donovan took it all in stride, laughing at how he wouldn't have to answer any more Indiana questions now that someone else (Archie Miller) had actually gotten the job.

But he did answer a couple more questions about all the Hoosier hysteria that seemed to swirl around him for the last few days and especially on Friday.

“I was here,” Donovan said when officially asked after Saturday’s Thunder practice where he was on Friday morning.

“I was not there (Bloomington) I was here at practice and actually had a couple meetings and then I was at Russell’s bowling charity event last night.”

As for all the internet chatter Donovan said “I don’t really follow it.”

And then he said again how much he enjoys his current job.

“I love it here, I’m committed here, I’ve said that from the beginning. Now I’m not gonna talk about other situations or specific jobs because I don’t think it’s fair to the institution or the people that are in charge there. So even though somebody had me flying out of town, that’s fine, I wasn’t it’s not like I was hiding, I was here.”

He did end up with some nice things to say about the Hoosier program.

“Indiana’s got great tradition, a great program, incredible fans. But again, all my concentration focusses on here in getting ready for Houston tomorrow.”

Oh yeah...the Thunder do have kind of a big game with the Rockets Sunday afternoon. A team the Thunder tend to match up well against, the three previous games have all been close, coming down to the closing seconds.

With that in mind and since the Thunder and Rockets could very well meet in a first round playoff series is he tempted at all to hold anything back? Keep anything special under wraps?

“Yeah we’re gonna hold the triangle-and-2 and the box-and-1 for a little bit later,” he joked. Everyone got a good laugh and then Donovan got serious.

“Going into the game I don’t think you don’t wanna have a game plan of let’s hold things back and be very vanilla because you still wanna go out there and perform. And the other thing is every game is on film...EVERY game is on film.”

In other words the Thunder and the Rockets know each other’s tendencies quite well. Now in a playoff series, you can make some changes and some tweaks. But for a regular season game you tend to do what you’ve done all season.

There is one aspect to Sunday’s game that has Billy D curious.

“I’m anxious to see how we play (Sunday), an afternoon game, three days after our last game, how do we come back out?”

Afterall the Thunder have won six of their last seven games. The lone loss was to Golden State “and maybe give Golden State the credit for maybe why we didn’t play so well but outside of that game we’ve played really well.”

So Donovan is wondering if his team can keep the momentum going or has the time off broken their rhythm?

There’s not much evidence to draw from. OKC has just played two games on three days rest and the record is 1-1. The Thunder are 4-1 on two days rest and 1-0 on four days rest...so 6-2 with a little extra time off.

Does it mean anything? Maybe we’ll find out Sunday afternoon.

Oh and by the way, for everyone out there who thinks Donovan misses coaching college basketball and can't wait to get back at it guess what?

He didn't even watch all of his old team's thriller with Wisconsin which Florida won with a buzzer beater.

"It was a late game, I only watched the first half."

He was probably really tired from that imaginary trip to Indiana.

Thunder Bounce Back, Westbrook Made More History

By A. Suave Francisco

Following one of the more embarrassing outings of the season on Monday against the Golden State Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder circled Wednesday night on the calendar as a redemption game by playing against an improved, but still lackluster Philadelphia 76ers team. 

Everything went as planned after the Thunder exploded offensively in the third quarter, outscoring Philly 32-20 en route to a lopsided 122-97 victory over the now (26-44) 76ers. The triple-double conversation has become overly repetitive, simply because Russell Westbrook has normalized something that the NBA labeled as being very challenging. With that being said, Russell did it again and made history this time. For the 35th time of the season, finishing with 18 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds, while not missing a shot, going 6-for-6 from the field. This was the first time any player has recorded a perfect triple-double, by not missing one shot. He's now just 5 short of Oscar Robertson's record of 41 with 11 games remaining. 

The game didn't start off the way head coach Billy Donovan assumed because it took the Thunder nearly three minutes to get their first bucket. The fans were also cranky because they had to stand for that long due to Thunder tradition. They eventually rebounded well from that, though, and ended up scoring 29 in the opening quarter. 

After the first, the Thunder just improved and carried that over to the second quarter where they scored 34 points and went into the half up by 13. At this point in the game, three things were clear: Russell Westbrook would end up with a triple-double, Enes Kanter would finish with a double-double, and the Thunder would win by a significant margin. All three things happened. Kanter finished the game with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes and the Thunder dismantled the 76ers in every way possible, especially on the boards, 54-25. 

As you would probably guess, the Thunder did most of the taxing work during the first half, but they still had a little more in their tank offensively in the third. The highlight was Westbrook's night, but Kanter continuously exposed Jahlil Okafor's lack of defense and helped the Thunder expand their lead from 13 at halftime, to 25 by the end of the quarter. Russell sat the final 12 minutes which obviously signaled a Thunder win. 

The fourth quarter went as planned and Thunder reserves were able to get some meaningful minutes which resulted in Doug McDermott scoring 13 points and his role model, Nick Collison, getting 7 quick points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in just 8 minutes of play. 

The quest for 50 wins is still alive for Oklahoma City, now sitting at (41-30) on the season, with 11 games left. The Clippers sit one-and-a-half games in front of the Thunder for fifth in the Western Conference but face a tougher schedule to conclude the regular season. Next for OKC will be against fellow MVP candidate James Harden and his Houston Rockets in a game that could play an immense role in deciding this year's MVP. 

Uncharacteristic Night For Thunder Causes Fourth Loss To Warriors

By A. Suave Francisco

 

In the final regular season matchup against the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder once again fell short, losing 111-95. Kevin Durant is still recovering from a knee injury, so this game was circled on the Thunder's list as a very winnable competition but after an uncharacteristically bad rebounding and free-throw shooting night, OKC fell short once again. 

As expected and especially after ESPN's Chris Haynes published a story voicing the Warriors disgust with the way OKC handled KD's return in February, this game was extremely heated. Semaj Christon and Steph Curry got into a shoving match in the final seconds of the second quarter while trying to get position on a tipoff. Russell Westbrook got into the shoving match while originally trying to break it up, then Draymond Green got into the mix as well, resulting in four total technical fouls called. The Thunder faithful hoped for a comeback following that sequence, but Curry inevitably cherry-picked down the court for a buzzer-beating three to end the first half, putting the Warriors in great command, up 59-39. 

The second half wasn't any more gracious to the Thunder after the Warriors weathered a 13-5 Thunder run to start the half by making it all look minor as they expanded the lead to 27 at one point. 

The story behind the poor offensive (and defensive) night for the Thunder was easily poor free throw shooting and lack of rebounding on the defensive end. OKC finished the game 17-of-31 from the free throw line and lost the rebounding battle 37-28, resulting in 11 second-chance points on the night. 

Despite Thompson and Curry being in a rather significant shooting slump lately, the combined for 14-of-27 from three and 57 points. The Warriors as a team shot 45.5 percent from three and the Thunder shot just 19 percent. 

Not only did Russell finish tonight's game with just 15 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds, he also owned a team low -25 plus/minus statistic which is an obvious recipe for a Thunder loss, in addition to him not getting a triple-double. 

Just a combination of a lot of things, but it was just one of those nights. Shots didn’t fall. We had some over-shots that didn’t fall. They made shots, as well. A few mishaps defensively, but we’ll be alright.
— Russell Westbrook on differences he saw in tonight's game.

A few good things to look at moving forward for the Thunder: They lost all four regular-season games last season to the Warriors, then beat them three times in the playoffs, so all is not lost for the Thunder in the slightest. OKC is currently trending in the right direction, getting more consistency out of key players and have been victorious in 5 of the last 6 games. Last but not least, the Thunder still remain just one game behind the Clippers for the fifth spot in the Western Conference with 12 games remaining and a relatively easy schedule compared to Los Angeles. 

Wednesday night the Philadelphia 76ers will enter the Peake with hopes to slow down Westbrook and the Thunder for the second consecutive game. OKC will use Wednesday as an opportunity to rebound and release some anger against a non-playoff team after what happened in Monday night's game.
 

Thunder Overwhelmed By Warriors Again

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Thunder started with a sizzle, hitting four of their first six shots to lead 8-3, then quickly fizzled at both ends of the floor.

A 27-8 Warriors run early in the 2nd quarter turned a 25-25 tie into a 52-33 Golden State lead giving the visitors all the cushion they’d need en route to a 111-95 win to sweep the four game series.

OKC could never get going offensively and after a good start on defense, limiting Golden State to 34.6 percent shooting in the 1st quarter, the Thunder couldn’t stop the Warriors in the 2nd quarter and couldn’t score either.

“You know I thought our missing shots there in the 2nd quarter kinda bled over into our offense,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.

Golden State shot a whopping 63.2 percent in the 2nd quarter overall and 57.1 percent from beyond the arc. The Thunder fell to the other end of spectrum, hitting just 28.6 percent of their shots.

“Nothing on the offensive end was working for us,” Donovan said. “Some shots that had been falling for us recently weren’t tonight.”

Oklahoma City shot just 42.5 percent overall. During their five game winning streak the Thunder were hitting just shy of 50 percent of their shots. They’d been hitting almost 45 percent of their threes during the streak but they fell back to earth with a thud against the Warriors managing to hit just 19.0 percent (4-for-21).

The shooting woes extended to free throws too. OKC has struggled from the stripe much of the season but tonight it was much worse than it’s been as the Thunder were a pathetic 17-for-31 at the stripe (54.8 percent).

Russell Westbrook ended his night early, not playing at all in the 4th quarter. He finished with 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting (1-for-6 on threes), eight rebounds, seven assists and one big technical foul.

Westbrook and Semaj Christon got into a shoving match with Steph Curry and Draymond Green late in the 2nd quarter and the skirmish resulted in technicals for all four. For Westbrook it is his 15th “T” of the season, one more and he earns an automatic one game suspension.

“Russell knows what he needs to do and how he needs to handle himself,” Donovan said, seemingly not too concerned that he could lose his best player at some point before the end of the season.

The Thunder struggled to contain Curry and Klay Thompson who each drained seven 3-pointers. Thompson led all scorers with 34 points and Curry had 23.

The Thunder came into this last regular season matchup with the Warriors with a lot of optimism, riding a five game winning streak and playing their best ball of the season. While Golden State had gone just 6-5 since Kevin Durant had been injured and at times had looked dazed and confused.

No matter.

Everything the Warriors had been struggling with lately they excelled at tonight and everything the Thunder had done so well in their winning streak disappeared.

“I look at it as just one game,” Donovan said. “We’ve gotta get back to practice and get ready for Philly.”

The 76ers will be in here for a Wednesday night game, then the Thunder head to Houston for a Sunday afternoon date with James Harden and the Rockets.