Super Bowl Sunday: Thunder Edition did not disappoint as the Oklahoma City Thunder hosted Northwest Division rival Portland Trailblazers. Oklahoma City started off with a strong first quarter despite missing a number of shots at the rim thanks mostly to the defense. The Thunder took a 24-16 lead early, but the Trail Blazers stormed back in the second quarter to outscore Oklahoma City and take a 52-46 halftime lead.
Both teams came out of their locker rooms at the half ready to go, but the Thunder just barely edged the Trail Blazers to cut the 6-point deficit to 2 as Portland led 73-71 after three quarters. The Thunder bench started the final quarter off strong with an 11-4 run before Russell Westbrook checked into the game and took over completely. Portland, however, would not go away, and they continued to stick around, but Westbrook and Oklahoma City were too much as the Thunder grabbed their 30th win of the season with a 105-99 victory.
Dipo and Dre Dominate
The Thunder has desperately needed players not named Russell Westbrook to step up and make plays, and a couple of guys did just that today. When Victor Oladipo went down with a sprained right wrist in December, Enes Kanter started playing some of the best basketball of his career. Now that Kanter is out with a broken forearm, the Thunder needs to start playing on a higher level, and he definitely impressed today.
Victor Oladipo had perhaps his best all-around game as a member of the Thunder today as he scored 24 points while shooting 8/18 (44.4%) from the field, despite making only 1/4 (25%) from three. He also made 7/9 (77.8%) from the free throw line, grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, stole the ball twice, and blocked two shots.
Andre Roberson also had a solid game as he tallied his second career double-double. Roberson scored 14-points, tied for his second-most in a game in his career, on 6/8 (75%) from the floor and 2/2 (100%) from the free throw line to go with 11 rebounds. He also had three steals.
For the second game in a row, different players have stepped up to fill the scoring void that Enes Kanter’s injury has left, and if Oladipo and Roberson can become somewhat consistent, the Thunder should be able to put up some wins while waiting on Kanter’s return.
Defense Digs Deep
The Portland Trail Blazers came into the game with one of the top offenses in the league, and Oklahoma City has struggled lately to prevent teams from scoring, but the Thunder stepped up defensively today in a number of ways.
The Thunder started the game off strong defensively by forcing the Trail Blazers into 6 turnovers and holding them to 16 first quarter points on 5/19 (26.3%) shooting. Portland had a monster second quarter, putting up 36 points while shooting a lights out 14/23 (60.9%) from the field, but that was as effective as they would get for the night. In the second half, the Trail Blazers were held to 47 points on 16/45 (35.6%) shooting.
Overall, the Thunder held the Trail Blazers to 99 points, Portland’s fewest points scored since January 20th. By forcing Portland into bad shots and poor passes that lead to turnovers, the Thunder were able to get out and run in transition, scoring 23 fast break points. If Oklahoma City can keep up the intensity that they showed today, they will be able to frustrate opponents and turn defense into offense.
Clutch Russ Shows Up in the 4th
For the second game in a row, Russell Westbrook had an impressive fourth quarter that helped lead the Thunder to victory. In the fourth quarter alone, Westbrook scored 19 points on 6/9 (66.7%) shooting from the field, including 1/2 (50%) from the three, and 7/8 (87.5%) from the free throw line, all in the final 7:28 of the game.
Westbrook finished the game with 42 points shooting 16/34 (47.1%) from the field and 9/11 (81.8%) from the free throw line, along with 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Russell has consistently proven that he is the most clutch player this season. The Thunder are not always able to get the win, but Westbrook without a doubt puts forth maximum effort on a nightly basis.
Early Road Game
The Thunder heads out on the road for a rare February road game to play the Pacers in Indiana tomorrow. The Pacers are on a 6-game win streak, and they have won 8 of their last 9 at home. Oklahoma City has won two in a row, but the Thunder is 12-15 on the road for the season. The Thunder lost to the Pacers 115-111 at home in overtime on November 20th. Tip-off is set for 6 PM, and the game 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.