Performance of the Season, OKC Throttles Pistons With Defense
By: Addam Francisco, Senior Writer.
The opening game of this Eastern Conference road trip was expected to a challenge for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were tasked with the (13-7) Detroit Pistons, who have won five-straight games, including four wins against playoff-caliber opponents. Thanks to their league-leading defense, they handled the Pistons with ease, 110-83.
Oklahoma City's defensive intensity was obvious from the start of this game and never slowed down. Actually, in the second half, it only improved and because of that, their offensive game was clicking all cylinders.
In the opening period, the Thunder jumped out to a quick lead on Detroit. In Terrance Ferguson's first game back from his ankle sprain, he showed his value by doing all the intangible things. Ferguson opened the first couple possessions with defensive stands; one block and tough on-ball defense that resulted in a Paul George steal.
The Thunder held Detroit to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half and an extremely ineffective 17.6 percent from the 3-point line. Blake Griffin did his best to keep his Pistons in the game during the first half and only trailed the Thunder by 10 points at halftime, but couldn't maintain that for the game. The former University of Oklahoma standout scored a team-high 20 points on 3-of-8 shooting from three. he was by far Detroit's best performer.
Side note: This season, Andre Drummond averages 18.6 points and 16,4 rebounds per game. He's known for getting his points and collecting an unusual amount of rebounds every game. Monday night, he finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
That speaks to Steven Adams and his play on the defensive end. Drummond had issues creating anything with Adams as his defender and with the help of OKC's stellar rotations, even when Adams got switched off of Drummond, the Thunder found a way to serve as a nuisance in his game. Adams didn't just thrive on the defensive end, he may have been more impressive on the offensive end. Adams scored 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting while also connecting on all seven of his attempted free throws. Adams is a career 56.5 percent free throw shooter, so that's a very significant achievement for him.
The second half for Oklahoma City was much better than the first. They outscored Detroit 60-43. While maintaining their dominance defensively, they ramped up their offense and improved their shot selection. They re-established their assertiveness in the second half after playing an impressive first half, which eventually started to get to the Pistons.
Russell Westbrook committed five turnovers in the first half due to misjudged passes deep in the paint. In the second half, he adjusted his game and didn't commit another one. He increased his shooting percentage, yet lowered his shot output. In the first half, Westbrook shot 4-of-12 to go with his five turnovers. In the second half, Westbrook shot 3-of-5 and committed none. As soon as Westbrook stepped his game up in when the Thunder blew the lead out of the Pistons reach.
Jerami Grant had an efficient night as well, scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Stat-stuffing Paul George did just that once again, by scoring 17 points, collecting 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks.
The Thunder shot 50.6 percent on the night to defeat the Detroit Pistons and have improved to (15-7) on the season. Monday night was the toughest test of this road trip, as their next two opponents, the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls have a combined record of (13-35).