Final Score: Thunder 82, Bucks 81
Points: James Harden with 23, Brandon Jennings with 25
Rebounds: James Harden with 9
Assists: Westbrook with 6, Harden with 4
My thoughts will be brief do to lack of time, post-game.
Raise your hand if you thought that, after a 3-3 start and a bad loss to Boston that in short order they would have gone on a 6-1 run during which they lost both Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. The turnaround has been remarkable to watch, as a team went from believing its own hype, to being embarrassed, to figuring out that they are capable of living up to the hype.
The less said about this win against the Bucks, the better. What is important though is that good teams win these kinds of games. These kinds of games are the ones where you don’t have your best guy and your best offense and your best rebounding, but you find a way to win. It is a W, just like the Celtics win was.
Another way to look at this as a confidence booster is, consider the message it sends to the rest of the league. The Thunder were without 50 points of their total offense and they were still able to not just compete, but to win against solid teams.
The other big item worth mentioning is James Harden’s performance. He was tasked with being a primary offensive player this game, and he responded well. He only took 13 shots, making six. All six of his shots were 3-pointers, which bodes well for his shooting percentages as well as the team’s overall success from behind the arc. His stat line – 23-9-4, is exceptional given his struggles this year. The question is still though where he fits in. Those are great numbers for a starter, but can he bring that kind of production consistently? His place on this team appears to be destined as the first or second guy off the bench. My prediction that starter minutes would help him out seem to have come true, but since that isn’t his long term place on this team, I worry that Harden is at risk of turning into the former version of Lamar Odom – nice guy, good potential, but any exceptional performance is purely gravy.
A few notes:
- Westbrook played a subpar game, continuing his 4th quarter struggles from the Celtics win. I think that teams are learning how to key in on him a little bit more. It seems that what happens is that his PG hat is either on or it’s off. If it is off and he sees himself as an offensive threat, then he rarely passes the ball to the open man when he’s in attack mode.
- Eric Maynor had another strong game with 12 points on 5-8 shooting. I think he’s really settling into a groove running the 2nd team. If he keeps it up, I also expect he’ll be in another uniform next year. His stock is rising.
- The only Bucks player who really hurt the Thunder was Brandon Jennings, who dropped 25. However, he did it on only 8-24 shooting. It seemed like the Thunder were willing to cede his offense, and set on stopping everything else.
Next up: Minnesota Timberwolves at Thunder on Monday, 11/22 at 8:00PM EST