OKC's Defense Looks Even More Impressive After Win In L.A.
By A. Suave Francisco
Wednesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder made an early season statement by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 85-83 on the road. Impressive, but when you hear that Russell Westbrook had 10 turnovers and was the only player that scored in double-figures, that score becomes five times as impressive.
Defense and rebounding were the answers for this Thunder team tonight. That's exactly what was on Billy Donovan's game plan too. Los Angeles is known to be a scoring team, and a scoring team with a powerful, athletic, and agile frontcourt in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
The Thunder are sending a distinct message this year, a message to the NBA that the loss of some key players has opened up a whole new can of worms. They aren't an offensive powerhouse by any means whatsoever. What they've seemingly done this season is swap offense for defense. Last season they were exclusively an offensive-minded team while frustrating everyone on the defensive end. It's literally the other way around now. Victor Oladipo motivates Westbrook to hustle on defense every play like he did in college and Russell motivates Oladipo to hustle harder in every other aspect of the game.
Steven Adams and Enes Kanter didn't help much in the scoring column with just 8 combined points, but they took Blake and Jordan off of the offensive boards by pulling down 18 defensive rebounds. They created extra possessions as well with 5 combined offensive rebounds for a total of 23. It wasn't just them, though. Russell pulled down 6 rebounds, Victor got 5, along with Roberson and Lauvergne combining for 4. The Thunder out-rebounded the Clippers 52-41.
Defensively, they contained L.A.'s go-to players and shut down the role players. No one on the Clippers scored 20 or more points and they held Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to only 29 combined points on 11-of-32 shooting. Los Angeles as a team only shot 39.1 percent from the field which is rather uncharacteristic of them as of late.
Newly acquired forward Jerami Grant was traded to OKC Wednesday. He ended up playing 17 minutes against the Clippers and he did at a high level. He wasn't shy nor did he look like a 22-year old in this situation. He only tallied 6 points and 2 rebounds, but he also blocked 2 shots and brought a ton of energy to this group. Many were skeptical about him after the trade, but maybe this opening performance was evidence enough that Sam Presti knows what he's doing.
Oklahoma City's resting time will be on the plane and in the hotel tonight, because they'll be right back at it in less than 24 hours against the Golden State Warriors. No need to mention the significance of the game but expect Russell Westbrook to be at his best and expect his team to follow suit.