Final Score: Thunder 99, Bobcats 81
Points: Durant with 32, Stephen Jackson with 20
Rebounds: Collison with 10, Boris Diaw with 7
Assists: Diaw with 8, Green with 5
I did not come to praise the Thunder, but to bury them (apologies to Mr. Caesar). And oh how I wanted to bury them. The Bobcats, as previously stated by me as well as their own coach, are pretty terrible. They don’t have a ton of talent, they don’t play as a team, and they don’t know how to finish. We had to endure three quarters of agony watching this Thunder team all the while wondering if all of those nasty comments people like Hollinger and Barkley said were true.
To wit, at the half:
- The Thunder were only up by five on a team that has been blown out by 30 points three times this year.
- Westbrook had five turnovers against a team that doesn’t even pressure the ball.
- Free throws, the standard diet for Thunder-men everywhere, was a pitiful 15-21.
- Field goal percentage was at a barely breathing 38.9%.
- The team had eight total assists, offset by seven turnovers.
- A record number of shots of Coach Brooks looking like he just got a whiff of the world’s most noxious flatulence.
- Durant was the only player getting it done, scoring 17 at the half.
- The saving grace was that the team had 26 rebounds, seven offensive.
I, and I suspect many of you, watched those first three quarters feeling like a dagger was slowly being turned in my abdomen. It would mark the third consecutive game where the entire offensive scheme seemed out of focus and the defensive discipline was pondering how much easier it is to play defense in NBA 2K11 than real life.
Wait, I said I didn’t come to bury the Thunder.
No, I can’t. Because as poorly as they played through three quarters, there was a shining beacon of hope that has emerged in the last few games – Kevin Durant appears to be back. Darnell Mayberry wrote about it earlier this week in the Oklahoman that Durant is finally getting dialed in. You can see it in his face and in his posture. There are fewer wasted movements, fewer bad shot attempts, and we are finally seeing the array of offensive moves that defined Durant a year ago. More than that, Durant essentially told his teammates, “I’ll carry this for a while.” When all was said and done, he had 30 through three quarters on only 13 shots. He carried his team when they needed him to, and that is something we haven’t seen for quite a while. Even more, it seemed like the easiest thing in the world for him to do.
How did the Thunder eventually right the ship? They were down two going into the 4th, and we collectively wondered if this would be a repeat of the Suns collapse. It was not. Once again, the trio of Maynor, Harden, and Jeff Green spearheaded the assault. For the first time all night, the Thunder were on the same page in a pure attack mode. They swung the ball to open shooters, they penetrated, and they finally started making open shots. Durant’s mission was completed; he had set up his teammates to be primed for the 4th, and they took it from there. Durant only had two free throws the rest of the way. In that 4th quarter span, the Thunder went from two down to being up by 21 – they had executed a 28-5 run that looked like something straight out of the Lakers’ playbook. It was ruthless. The defense held the Bobcats without a field goal until there was only 2:51 left in the game.
Truthfully, I don’t know how to feel about this team. I can’t help but feel this nauseous feeling in my stomach every time they fall into these same bad basketball rhythms where they do a reasonable job of looking like the LA Clippers. I can’t take it, or so I think. But then they run off a quarter like this last one, and I can only conclude that it was worthwhile; to see a quarter and a finish like that, the twisting dagger is a little more ticklish.
Next game: Wednesday, December 22, at the NY Knicks, tipoff 7:30PM EST