The Thunder grieve...but still roll big over NOLA
By Addam Francisco
In what everyone knew would be a pretty solemn game, Oklahoma City dominates New Orleans in a 121-95 victory. Seemingly everyone on the court was noticeably bothered, especially in the first half playing the first game since losing assistant coach Monty Williams' wife Ingrid Williams. However the second half really changed everything for Oklahoma CIty, as they increased both the offensive and defensive intensity led by of course Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
It was clear this game wouldn't be the same from the player introductions, when Serge Ibaka didn't do his pre-game ritual we've all gotten used to, and in fact shook his head in what looked to be disgust following his introduction. As anyone would expect, even the coaches seemed down as well as everyone on the Pelican's bench, Monty Williams and his family really helped a lot of the guys on that New Orleans team when he was head coach there.
Both teams started the game slow, in what made for a very boring first half with no one seeming to play with much energy, for the exception of who else? Russell Westbrook, who ended the game with 23 points, 10 assists, and just one rebound shy of his ninth triple-double without even playing in the fourth quarter. Some of his passes tonight resembled passes from all-time great Steve Nash. Kevin Durant did a great job getting active in tonights game by also hitting 23 points, and dishing out a somewhat surprising 6 assists. He was really able to manipulate this depleted New Orleans team tonight with ease along with Serge Ibaka. Yes, something was clearly wrong with Serge tonight whether it was the loss of a big part of the Thunder family, trade speculations or a little of both, but he finished tonight's game with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Enes Kanter was a huge spark off the bench, along with Anthony Morrow, combining for 21 points and Kanter's 12 rebounds to secure another double-double for him. Offensively, well scoring wise this was an off-game for young Cameron Payne but his tenacity wouldn't stop him from dishing out 8 assists in a game where he got increased playing time due to the blowout, playing 25 minutes. Oklahoma City shot 52.3 percent on the night and almost 40 percent from 3-point.
Defensively this game appeared to be just like any other games, after the Pelicans put up 53 points. It really looked like they were in for at least 105 points for the night, but Oklahoma City's starters came out after halftime strong defensively and that didn't happen. The starters set the tone defensively in the second half and the second team did a great job maintaining and better yet, extending that 21 point lead at the end of the third quarter to a 26 point lead to finish out the game. Winning the rebounding battle 50-31 and getting 16 second chance points to NOLA's 4 probably had something to do wit that success as well.
With all things considered, this was a great game offensively and defensively for OKC and the second team did some maturing, getting to play an entire quarter and executing like the media and fans love to see. This is the last game until after the All-Star break. Friday, Feb. 19 they will start their treacherous final third of the season against the (28-25) Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City is now (40-14) on the season.