With a 3-game losing streak on their minds, the Thunder returned to the Peake in Oklahoma City tonight to take on the Denver Nuggets. After an abysmal first quarter in which the Thunder shot 8/22 (36.3%) from the floor and 1/7 (14.2%) from three, Oklahoma City led Denver 24-22. Things heated up for both teams in the second quarter as shots finally started to fall all around. The Thunder and the Nuggets were all tied up at 60 at the half, and then Oklahoma City played intense defense for most of the third quarter to take an 88-80 lead into the final period. In the fourth, the Thunder continued its lockdown defense and solid shooting to maintain a lead that stretched to as many as 18 points at just over four minutes to play. Oklahoma City finished strong and came away with a 121-106 victory over Denver.
Russ In the Zone
Just two days after having a career-game in a number of ways, Russell Westbrook continued his antics by earning his 17th triple-double of the season, just one fewer than his entire total a season ago. Westbrook finished with 32 points on 10/20 (50%) shooting from the field, including another incredible performance from behind the arc in which he shot 7/11 (63.6%). Russ also pulled down 17 rebounds while dishing out 11 assists.
Russell Westbrook’s impressive 3-point shooting came at a critical time when the Thunder desperately needed a win. Despite making a career-high 8 threes on 15 attempts (53.3%) from beyond the arc just two days ago in Houston, the Thunder fell to the Rockets for their third loss of 2017. Tonight, Westbrook made four threes in a two-minute and twenty-second span in the middle of the fourth quarter, which pushed the Thunder to their largest lead of the night. Russ is shooting 34.3% for the season, a career-high for him, but he has made 15/26 (57.7%) over the last two games. If Westbrook can continue with the hot hand that he has had as of late, he will have more opportunities to get his teammates involved by being able to space the floor even more than he already does.
Team Effort Spells Victory
On top of Russell Westbrook’s triple-double, four other Thunder players, three of them starters, finished in double-digits, and several others impacted the game in one way or another. While the defense was weak at times, in the end, Oklahoma City shut down Denver from all over the court. In the end, it was a team effort that pushed the Thunder to grab the win.
Steven Adams was the 2nd-leading scorer for the Thunder behind Westbrook, and he finished with 16 points on 7/10 (70%) shooting to go along with 8 rebounds and a career-high 4 blocks. Victor Oladipo had a rough shooting night as he made only 7 shots on 19 attempts (36.8%), and he missed all 8 of his three-point attempts. Andre Roberson had a quiet 13 points on 3/7 (42.9%) from the floor to go along with 8 rebounds, and Domantas Sabonis had a solid first quarter in which he scored all 9 of his points. Sabonis finished the game shooting only 2/7 (28.6%), but he was 5/5 (100%) from the free throw line, and he also tacked on 5 rebounds.
Off the bench, Enes Kanter led the second unit with 14 points on 7/12 (58.3%) shooting to go with 6 rebounds. Cameron Payne scored 8 points on 3/4 (75%) shooting in his return, and Alex Abrines added 7 points on only 1/4 (25%) from the floor but 4/4 (100%) from the free throw line.
Welcome Back, Cam!
Thunder backup point guard Cameron Payne made his return to action tonight after injuring his foot in the Thunder’s Annual Blue-White Scrimmage just a month before the beginning of the season. Payne’s playing time was being closely monitored, and though he saw only 13 minutes of action, he returned in impressive fashion.
Payne checked into the game with just over 2 minutes to go in the first quarter, but he did not take a shot until the 11:16 mark in the second quarter when he knocked down a three. He made another three just three minutes later, and he finished the half with all 8 of his points on 3/4 (75%) shooting to go along with 2 rebounds and 1 assist.
While his stats were not mind-blowing, Payne showed that he has the potential to push the Thunder to the next level of play, which in turn will equate to more victories. Also, the glory of Russ and Cam pre-game dancing returned to the Peake.
On to the Windy City
The Thunder leave for Chicago tomorrow for their first matchup of the season against the Bulls on Monday. Chicago is 8th in the Eastern Conference with a 19-18 record, and they are fresh off a 123-118 overtime victory at home against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls are on 3-game win streak and are 12-7 at home. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CST and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.