The Thunder played good basketball for about 3 quarters, and that was enough to get them the win against division rivals, the Utah Jazz, 106-94. It was an important win in the early season for the Thunder, giving them a 4 game lead in their division.
My biggest problem with the game was the end of the third quarter to the middle of the fourth quarter. They let Utah claw their way back into the game that should have been decided earlier. The Thunder were up by 17 at one point in the third quarter, and they let it get down to as few as 5 points before the Thunder turned up the defensive intensity again and finished the game out strong. The other big problem I have is the 21 offensive rebounds the Thunder gave up tonight. That is just way to many, even though Utah is one of the better offensive rebounding teams. This has been a problem for this team for the past couple of years, but it seems to be worse this year. It will keep a key stat to watch throughout the year and hopefully they will improve on the numbers they have been giving up lately.
Russell Westbrook had a huge game tonight with 23 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 steals, but he also added in 8 turnovers. But more than what he was doing on the offensive end, which he seemed to be pressing in the first and fourth quarters, was his presence on the defensive end. He not only had the 7 steals, but he set the tone for the Thunder on that end of the floor all night long. There were also times tonight when I thought Westbrook really wanted to punch someone or something. He seemed very frustrated with himself (he missed a few free throws along with the turnovers). All around though, Westbrook played well and with him there is always going to be a little bit of bad and you have to accept it because his good is usually great.
The Thunder missed a lot of free throws tonight, which is really unusual. There had been shooting 85.3% for the season, but tonight they only shot 72.7%. Kevin Durant missed a few, Kevin Martin missed one, Nick Collison missed one, Westbrook missed 3, Kendrick Perkins missed the only 2 he took tonight. Overall it was a really bad night at the line for the Thunder. I’m not really worried about it just an off night, but they need to continue to hit a high percentage from the line, because that is a huge part of their offense.
A huge stat tonight was the 14 team blocks the Thunder had tonight, led by Serge Ibaka who had 7. Blocks by other people beside Ibaka has really been the story for the Thunder this season. They are defending the paint much better than they ever did last year and they are forcing the bigs of the other team to shoot the ball farther away from the basketball. This is the main reason Al Jefferson struggled so much in the first half. But in the second half he started hitting his outside shot, which the Thunder were okay with him taking. He finished the night with 16 points.
I really would have like the Thunder to have finished this game off in the third quarter, because they have another game tomorrow night in New Orleans. Kevin Durant had to play over 40 minutes again tonight to get this W for the Thunder. But it’s over with now, and the team will fly to New Orleans tonight to get ready for another game, and they better come out ready to play, because after the embarrassing loss to the Thunder the last time they played, the Hornets will be ready for this game and want some revenge.