By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Despite 22 turnovers, Oklahoma City fought through a sloppy effort to beat Chicago, 97-91, in an impressive road win on Thursday night. Here’s some rapid reaction:
Russell Westbrook struggled with his shot all night, forcing at times and going 7-22 from the field. But after a long rest to start the fourth quarter, he reentered with 6:58 left, immediately delivered two beautiful assists (two of his season-high 12 on the night) and made an acrobatic lay-in, shifting momentum and helping OKC open up a five-point lead.
It was over when…
…Kevin Durant, finally, decided to take over. He was hesitant on the offensive end all night, but crunch time was KD time. First, he hit a beautiful jump hook over Luol Deng, putting the Thunder up four and delivering the presumed dagger with under a minute left. But the Bulls showed fight, scoring immediately and shifting pressure back toward OKC. But Durant, a man who doesn’t feel pressure, lofted a picturesque fadeaway through on the next possession, essentially clinching the big road win.
Unsung hero – OKC’s bench
The starters closed it out, but they would have never been there without strong play from the second unit. Kevin Martin, Eric Maynor and Nick Collison went a combined 7-11 from the field, scoring 29 points and accumulating an impressive plus-minus of +29. In contrast, the Thunder starters combined for a plus-minus of negative-10.
Trending upward – Ibaka’s play
All things considered, this was Ibaka’s best performance since signing that lucrative offseason contract. He was 8-15 shooting for a season-high 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. He looked more confident offensively, even hitting a corner three, and made a huge impact on defensive, swatting some shots, altering others and rebounding in traffic. And he did it against a pretty formidable frontline.
Trending downward – Perkins effectiveness
Kendrick Perkins’ first-half line: 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists in 12 minutes, contributing a plus-minus of negative-11. In the second-half, Perkins did add five rebounds (and no other positive stats), but he never really had any impact. I don’t even remember noticing him at all. And that’s a problem for OKC.
Stat of the game
At one point late in the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had combined for only one free throw. Meanwhile, Chicago benchwarmer Marco Belinelli (who played six minutes) had two. Durant got two garbage time freebies, but three combined from the two stars isn’t enough.
“Just a sloppy game, I can’t have six turnovers, that’s not me.” -Kevin Durant
Tweet of the game
As a collective unit, tough to argue
The Thunder come home for what should be a favorable weekend, facing the struggling Detroit Pistons on Friday night and the inexperienced Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Anything other than two convincing wins would be a disappointment.