Final Score: Thunder 106, Bulls 95
Scoring: Durant with 30
Rebounds: Westbrook with 10
Assists: Westbrook with 9
One of the interesting things that I have found surprisingly challenging is how to give a post-mortem on a game, regardless of win or loss. Do I choose straight reporting? Do I add colorful commentary? Am I the play by play guy, the color commentator, or the oft-irrelevant sideline reporter? Not such a bad thing, by the way (It kept Ahmad Rashad employed for a solid decade chasing Jordan around Chicago stadium).
Since this will be a learning process for me as I go, both in style as well as in substance since I’m such a newcomer to the Thunderous Oklahoma pro basketball scene, it will likely evolve over time. Gosh, I hope it does, because so far I’m kind of sucking at this.
Anyway, the game. We sometimes use the maxim “A tale of two halves” to describe how halftime coaching adjustments can completely reverse a team’s momentum, positive or negative. Last night’s game on an incremental basis was statistically even through three quarters, tied at 82. Neither team was playing particularly well. Durant, shooting only 9-24 for the game, frequently rushed pull-up jumpers. On the other side of the ball, Derek Rose kept defaulting to the weakest element of his game, the outside shot. As a result, even though the game was contested, there was up to the 4th no discernible flow. And that key word, “flow,” is what really defines basketball, isn’t it?
Anyway, this game had none. And nothing so epitomized it as seeing their leader Durant writhing in pain, grabbing his back, after he was called for a charge in the closing seconds of the 3rd.
So to recap, the Thunder had no rhythm, and Durant hurt his back. This probably was not the way they foresaw their season beginning. Luckily for us all, Durant is only 22 and my my, what a great thing youth can be. And lucky for them, they still had the 4th to play, because that was when their team finally found some purpose. Passes became crisper, players became more patient, and defensive sets led to rebounds and steals. With 2:30 left to go, Durant led a 3 on 2 fast break, ending with a Westbrook slam and a +1. By the time Jeff Green’s 3 from the right corner found the bottom of the net, the game was effectively over.
The other note worth considering is the job that the team did on Rose. Through 3 quarters, I would have said that it seemed like they were doing a very poor job in keeping him out of the paint; Rose seemed to be able to get to the front of the rim at will. However, I was startled by his end of game statistics – he scored 28, but on 12-31 shooting. Given that Rose is their point guard, that shooting statistic is a clear giveaway as to the Bulls’ ultimate futility. What I can’t yet decide is whether the Thunder’s defense wanted him to take that approach and he just missed badly most of the night, or if he was being impatient and took far too many shots, many of them contested.
So until Friday in Detroit, when we get to behold Rip Hamilton’s fabulous new Amish beard, get some ice for Durant’s back and rest easy. We’ve got 81 more regular season games to go.