Thunder 111, Sixers 93
News, notes and observations from Tuesday’s 111-93 win over Philadelphia…
- You could tell the Thunder’s defense came to play from the opening possession. Thunder players packed the paint, swarmed as the ball swung from side to side and collapsed on the ball when it was dumped down low. Russell Westbrook blocked Elton Brand on the opening possession and the Thunder forced Brand into a miss after the Sixers recovered the loose ball. The sequence set the tone for the entire night.
- On the Sixers’ second possession, Westbrook played the passing lane and stole a pass intended for Jrue Holiday.
- The early defense led to an early 21-12 lead, and from there the Sixers never came close to threatening. OKC was ahead between seven and 11 for much of the game and led by as many as 25 points.
- Westbrook, and Nenad Krstic didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, which could be a big boost going into Boston on Wednesday night.
- Really not sure why Scott Brooks insists on playing starters’ late in blowouts. Kevin Durant didn’t come out until the halfway point in the fourth quarter despite the Thunder being up 20. And when he exited, Thabo Sefolosha and Jeff Green checked in. James Harden played until the final buzzer. One of the rotation guys obviously is going to have to play. But if I’m Brooks, I make it a point to make my garbage time lineup Eric Maynor, Kevin Ollie, Kyle Weaver, Serge Ibaka and Etan Thomas. You could reason that Harden’s a rookie and could benefit from the experience. But Harden is fifth on the team in average minutes. Doesn’t seem like that logic will wash. Harden nearly sustained a serious shoulder injury while flying in for a dunk against the Lakers the other night. I wouldn’t risk an injury to Durant, Green, Sefolosha or Harden. No way. No how.
- With Westbrook leading the way, the Thunder had just 10 turnovers on the night.
- Westbrook didn’t have his shot going, shooting just 3-for-12 from the field. But he had 14 assists and only one turnover. He had five assists in the first quarter and six in the third, carrying the offense effectively as he’s done so many times this season.
- Durant got it going offensively early on and had one of his easiest scoring nights this season. The thing that stood out most was his growing ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He did it on the Thunder’s opening possession, blowing by his man from the left baseline and drawing a foul at the rim. He then went coast-to-coast a few trips later. And his drive to the cup at the end of the first quarter, although the officials overturned the foul call and whistled him for a charge, was impressive because it illustrated how he no longer settles nearly as much as he once did.
- In fact, the entire team didn’t settle tonight. After shooting just 3-for-15 from long distance against Portland, and 2-for-18 against the Lakers, the Thunder utilized much better shot selection tonight and worked inside, out. The Thunder made 6-of-12 shots from 3-point range and was 3-for-4 in the first quarter, but those looks were wide open attempts off drive-and-kicks or the result of players coming off screens.
- The best example of the improved shot selection came when Durant had Marreese Speights isolated at the top of the key but took two dribbles in and pulled up from the free-throw line extended rather than the 3-point line.
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