Phoenix misses at the buzzer, and that's all she wrote. Thunder win the home opener 113-110 and move to 2-0.
— Zack Low (@ZacharyLowNBA) October 29, 2016
On the night of their home opener, the Oklahoma City Thunder treated fans to an evening that included free basketball, some incredible plays, and a wide array of emotions as they defeated the visit Phoenix Suns 113-110. The Thunder trailed by as many as 18 points in the first quarter, but thanks primarily to the incredible effort by Russell Westbrook, the good guys were able to pull out a win in the end.
Westbrook Makes History
Russell Westbrook managed his first triple-double of the season tonight, but it was not any ordinary triple-double. He made history as the first player to have a 50-point triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975.
Westbrook finished with 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in one of his more wild games in recently memory. Russ did not shoot well from the field, managing only 17 makes on 44 attempts. He shot 11/19 in the paint, which is not bad at all, but only 6/21 outside of it, including 2/9 from beyond the arc. One bright spot in his shoot was that he managed to get to the free throw line 20 times, making 15 of his shots.
While it may be easy to look at his total number of field goal attempts and his low field goal percentage, it’s hard to overlook the greatness that he achieved in tonight’s game. He had 10 assists, but he probably should have had several more as teammates simply did not convert on plays that they absolutely have to make in the future.
Watch the best of Russell Westbrook's epic home opener. pic.twitter.com/176pVE2I6f
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 29, 2016
Defense Struggles, But Shows Bright Spots
Oklahoma City started the game off in close to the worst way they could have imagined, allowing Phoenix to start off 12/14 from the field and finishing the first quarter with 40 points by shooting 69.6%. T.J. Warren, Eric Bledsoe, and Tyson Chandler shot 10/10, and the defense could not get a stop to save their lives.
The defense picked up in the second quarter as the Thunder held the Suns to only 13 points on 5/25 shooting, closing the Phoenix lead to only 4. Unfortunately, the Suns came out in the 3rd quarter firing on all cylinders, and the Thunder gave up 30 points, bringing the deficit to 6 points as the quarter came to a close.
Just like on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder trailed by 6 entering the final quarter, and just like on Wednesday, the Thunder did not allow that to stop them. The defense once again tightened up to hold the Suns to 19 points, which forced overtime.
In overtime, Phoenix Suns SG Devin Booker scored four points in the first two minutes before the Thunder were able to make a shot. Oklahoma City finished the game strong as Booker drove down the baseline for what looked like an easy game-winning layup, but Andre Roberson came down the lane to tip it just enough to force the miss. Russell Westbrook was able to rebound the miss, and the Thunder held on for the win.
"Roberson got a piece of it!" Huge block from Dre in final secs of OT. pic.twitter.com/L7KZ3I7Rdc
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 29, 2016
Role Players Must Improve
Behind Russell Westbrook, it was a tough time finding other players to impact on the game offensively. Victor Oladipo had a strong first half, scoring 15 points in the first half, but he was hardly noticeable in the second half and overtime. He finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals, which is a solid improvement from the first game in Philadelphia, but as he is the clearly expected to be the second option behind Russ, Oladipo has got to step up.
As far as the rest of the team goes, nobody had a good game. Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and Kyle Singler all saw extended minutes, but none of them impacted the game in a major way, tallying up minor stats here and there. On a positive note, all three made clutch plays in the fourth quarter and overtime to contribute to the win, but in order for the Thunder to be continually successfully, these guys need to play a more well-rounded game.
One thing that Phoenix did especially well was set lots of screen and move guys all around the perimeter, which made it challenging for Thunder defenders to know who was their man. Enes Kanter only played 12 minutes because he kept getting lost in the traffic, and he is simply too good on the offensive end to not have on the court simply because of his defensive liability. If Kanter wants to be a major contributor like he is capable of being, he needs to buckle down and start playing defense on a higher level.
Oklahoma City hosts the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday before heading out on the road for a gruesome back-to-back featuring the L.A. Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder need to take care of business at home and move to 3-0 on the season, and then they can focus on the more challenging tasks at hand.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter.