Thunder Appear Ready For Regular Season
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put the pedal to the metal in the fourth quarter last night in Utah, igniting a scoring burst and securing a 113-102 win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
Durant finished with 29 points on 11-for-16 shooting (4-for-5 on threes) and Westbrook, with an alley-oop pass to KD for a dunk, finished with a triple-double. He scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and thanks to that last minute pass to Durant he dished out 10 assists too.
The downside was that the Thunder needed a final boost from their stars in the first place.
They had held a 21-point lead but allowed it melt all the down to just three points a little more than halfway through the fourth quarter. That's when head coach Billy Donovan changed his mind about keeping Durant and Westbrook on the bench (this was still a pre-season game after all) and decided to let the dynamic playmakers try to finish off the Jazz.
"Those two guys just sort of exploded in a short period of time," Donovan said afterwards.
65 seconds to be precise.
Durant got things started with a nifty 13-foot jumper and then nailed consecutive 3-pointers off assists from Westbrook. Eight points for the man some are already calling the "Slim Reaper" again in a minute and five seconds.
"He got hot," Westbrook said of his teammate, "and when he gets hot it's my job to find him."
The entire rally took about four minutes with the Thunder sprinting out on a 14-6 run to close things out.
This was far from a two-man game though for OKC. Forward Serge Ibaka had 16 points and five rebounds, center Steven Adams cranked out a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and shooting guard Dion Waiters (likely the Thunder's sixth man or at times even the starting shooting guard) dropped in 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
The Thunder shot 57 percent overall and 50 percent (12-for-24 on threes) while handing out 21 assists.
“I was really pleased with the ball movement,” Donovan said. “The unselfishness I really liked. The ball movement was really good. Coming out of the Denver game and seeing how open the floor is when they do make that extra pass.”
“It was good to play in a real game and close it out the way we did,” Durant said. “It wasn’t a bunch of iso ball. We moved the ball and found shots we can all create. Sometimes you have to let your players be who they are. Russell made plays for us. We hit a few jump shots."
It wasn't all sunshine and flowers, a couple of problem areas continued to show up last night too.
The Thunder turned the ball over 21 times and they were whistled for 25 fouls sending the Jazz to the free throw line 30 times and scored 23 points. OKC managed just 11 makes out of 19 attempts at the stripe.
Those will be areas the Thunder will work on for the next week in practice as they get set for Opening Night against the Spurs.