By Addam Francisco
The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't been playing well since the All-star break, but Monday night against the Portland Trailblazers, they played like Oklahoma City fans expect them to play night-in and night-out. Tonight this team beat the No. 6 ranked squad in the Western Conference 128-94, in what was an all-around successful game.
This game started on a good note when Russell Westbrook had 8 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, and Kevin Durant had 15 points at the end of the first quarter. It was a pretty good feeling in the arena. Also, when rookie point guard Cameron Payne entered the game midway through the first quarter the fans erupted in applause. When Payne plays 15 or more minutes in a game, the Thunder are 11-0...well, now 12-0. That's no coincidence, he clearly has a positive effect on this team. Defensively, they held Portland, who scores at ease most games to just 21 points at the end of the first quarter, and at the half Damian Lillard only had 7 points.
In the second quarter Russell set the bar for the rest of the NBA with the fastest triple-double of this NBA season, just 16 minutes. From the jump, he controlled the game and did a great job frustrating Lillard and getting him out of his usual game. Russell finished with 17 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds and didn't play in the final quarter. He probably would've broken his previous 20 assist record posted just a few games ago if he did.
11 Thunder players saw more than 10 minutes of action tonight, and 12 played. This is a great sign for this team going towards the future considering the fact that head coach Billy Donovan has had a rough time getting a rotation that is consistent enough to be a serious contender to the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers for a NBA title. Going deep into this bench won't do anything but help the team. It gets fresh legs out there on the court at all times and also allows players like Payne and Anthony Morrow to gain some confidence and in Payne's situation, experience.
Out of the 12 players that saw the court tonight, seven of them scored in double-figures. There was a new high-scorer too, Enes Kanter, who scored 26 points off 15 shots. That's a guy who really has played well here lately. For Oklahoma City to make a run, Kanter will have to produce big time like this. Another player that has a big impact on this team's success in the past is Serge Ibaka. A guy who hasn't played his best ball really all year, and especially here lately. That's wasn't the case tonight after he scored 15 points off 70 percent shooting and also added 7 rebounds to that stat-line. Durant didn't amaze anyone today, simply because he didn't have to, (even though he did make the crowd go wild in the fourth quarter when he was dancing on the bench to "Don't Worry"). He's another player that didn't need to play in the fourth quarter due to the blowout, but he scored 20 points in 26 minutes of play. Steven Adams added 13 points in about a quarter and a half, with Randy Foye and Morrow combining for 22 points off 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Payne didn't have a huge game, but was effective with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes.
Oklahoma City will play Wednesday, at the Boston Celtics who are third in the Eastern Conference. It will be a test, but if they can play like this, they can beat anybody in the NBA. As you may know, former Oklahoma State standout Marcus Smart plays for the Celtics, and when they played in Oklahoma City, Smart shut Russell down and got the win. Let's hope for a different outcome this time.