By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
It’s been a looooong time coming but finally at The Peake the Thunder showed their fans, not to mention the rest of the NBA, what they’re capable of when playing at a high level.
OKC 128, Portland 94 and it really wasn’t even that close.
The Thunder actually did stumble a bit coming out of the gate trailing 22-16 with 4:46 to go in the first quarter. The Blazers had hit four of their first six 3s and it looked for all the world like it might be one of “those” nights.
But from that point on the Thunder went on a blistering 42-10 run that sent the Blazers reeling and Russell Westbrook came within finger or two of recording the fastest triple-double in NBA history.
Westbrook let a rebound slip through his fingers in the second quarter that would have given him the Triple-D in just 16 minutes, besting the NBA record set by Jim Tucker of the old Syracuse Nationals in 1955.
As it was he picked up that additional rebound five minutes later and finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists. It was his 12th triple-double this season and OKC is now 12-0 in those games.
Another key stat for Russ, those 16 assists came against zero turnovers. Saturday at San Antonio he had nine. His superstar teammate Kevin Durant has also been plagued by givebacks lately but KD too had a great night holding on to the rock with just two turns. He also had 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
The Thunder shot 59.0 percent (a new season high) while holding Portland to just 34.1 percent (a new season low). The 24.9 differential is a franchise record. But perhaps the biggest stat was just six turnovers through three quarters and the Trail Blazers didn’t manage to score a point off those givebacks.
It was something Billy Donovan felt was coming.
"We’ve made some progress, even though we haven’t gotten the results we wanted,” he said. “I think we have gotten better and tonight I thought we played really well and I thought they really put a complete game together on both ends of the floor.”
It’s been awhile since anyone could say that, at least sometime back before the All-Star break probably during that time when Oklahoma City was on a streak of winning 16 of 18 games.
The bench played a huge role with three reserves scoring in double figures. Enes Kanter led that group with 26 points, a whopping 18 of them coming in the third quarter.
“He was good,” Durant said of Kanter. “ He made himself available on a lot of pick-and-rolls and was scoring down there. That’s what we need him to do the rest of the season.”
Rookie point guard Cameron Payne got his first extended action in a while, playing 21 minutes and scoring six points on 3-for-4 shooting while grabbing four rebounds and handing out three assists. Anthony Morrow got some burn too and took full advantage scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting including 3-for-4 on threes.
All together the Thunder bench players scored 31 points on 13-for-21 shooting.
“Great game for our team,” Westbrook said. “I thought we did a great job of coming out and competing at a high level. It was a good win for us.”
Any win has been hard to come by lately and make no mistake this was a good one. The Trail Blazers are in sixth place in the Western Conference, charging toward fifth. They’d won 20 of their last 28 games coming into Monday night.
“We had a good game plan coming in,” said Blazers center Mason Plumlee who finished with eight points. “We just didn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Damian Lillard ended up with 21 points but he had just seven at halftime. Portland was just 7-for-27 on threes after going 19-for-44 when these teams played in Portland and OKC lost 115-110.
It was a great way to send the Thunder off on a 3-game road trip while the NCAA Basketball Tournament takes over Chesapeake Energy Arena later in the week.
And to make things even better, Dion Waiters joined the bench coming out at halftime, just back in town from attending his brother’s funeral in Philadelphia. Durant gave his teammate a big hug.
It was that kinda night. Finally.