Despite trailing by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder would not quit and pulled it out in overtime in Denver against the Nuggets winning 132-129. Overtime is not ideal for Oklahoma City on the first night of a back-to-back, but the Thunder avoid falling under .500 as they move to 9-8 on the season.
Defense Struggles, Locks In Late
For the tenth game in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder allowed their opponent to score over 100-points, and in those first nine games, the Thunder only won two. Tonight, however, was a different story.
Despite the offense shooting extremely well, the Thunder could not seem to get stops early in the game. Oklahoma City allowed Denver to shoot 47.5% from the field and 12/34 for 35.3% from behind the arc. Down by 11 with a little over three minutes to play, the Thunder defense put on the clamps and made play after to play to get back into the game.
With a three-point lead and only eight seconds left in the game, Steven Adams inadvertently fouled Denver SG Jamal Murray from behind the arc, giving Murray a shot at three free throws. Murray made all three, forcing overtime after a Russell Westbrook blocked layup at the buzzer.
For the second time in the last 4 games, the Thunder found themselves in overtime on the road, only this time, the defense showed up big to help Oklahoma City get the win. In the final three and a half minutes of overtime, the Nuggets only made one field goal, which was at the buzzer, and a single free throw. Oklahoma City’s defense led to free throw opportunities, which ultimately sealed the game for the Thunder.
Westbrook’s Video Game Numbers
For the sixth time in the Thunder’s first 16 games, Russell Westbrook earned another triple-double putting up 36 points, 18 assists, and 12 rebounds. Despite scoring only four points in the first half, it was yet again on the back of Westbrook that the Thunder picked up the win tonight, as he scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to help Oklahoma City force overtime.
Russell Westbrook’s 18 assists are a new league-high for a single game so far this season, and four of those came in the final eight and a half minutes of the game. Essentially, Russ did everything he could to be involved and forced the Thunder into a comeback situation. While trailing by double digits midway through the fourth quarter is never an ideal situation, Westbrook continues to prove that this team will not quit playing until the final buzzer sounds.
Second Unit Shows Up
Russell Westbrook typically steals the show, but the Thunder could not have won tonight without support from the bench. Specifically, Joffrey Lauvergne had an outstanding first half as he scored 15 points, and Anthony Morrow showed up big in the second half as he finished with 10 points. Enes Kanter finished with a quiet 11 points, and Jerami Grant played all five minutes of overtime as he finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds to go with some outstanding defense to finish out the game. While Westbrook continues to look like the best player in the NBA, there is no doubt that he needs continued support from the second unit to ensure wins for the Thunder.
Thunder Back at Home on Saturday
Tomorrow night the Thunder host the Detroit Pistons for the second night of a back-to-back. The Pistons won the first meeting handily in Detroit just a week and a half ago, so the Thunder will look to avenge that loss. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CST. The game will be televised on FSOK, broadcast by WWLS the Sports Animal on 98.1 FM, and as always, you can follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter for live in-game updates.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.