On a snowy day in Brooklyn, New York, the Oklahoma City Thunder matched up with the Nets looking to end a 7-game road losing streak. The Thunder got off to a hot start offensively, shooting 63.6% from the field in the first quarter, but the defense could not get a stop as the Nets made 68.4% of their attempts. After one quarter in Brooklyn, the game was tied at 32-32. The Thunder second unit started off the second quarter showing some defensive intensity, and Oklahoma City was able to create a little space as they led by as many as 10 at one point, but the defense continued to falter, and Brooklyn managed to tie it up at 62 before the half.
A big part of the Thunder’s poor defensive effort in the first half was due to Andre Roberson getting only 6 minutes of playtime as he picked up 4 fouls early. He was able to play his regular minutes in the third quarter as Oklahoma City played much better defense and finished the quarter with a 91-83 lead. The Thunder had no intentions of giving this game away as they came out in the fourth quarter playing as efficient as they had all night. Oklahoma City finished strong and came away with a road victory for the first time in over a month as they defeated the Nets 122-104.
Another Game, Another Russ Triple-Double
For the 33rd time this season and 70th for his career, Russell Westbrook tallied yet another triple-double, which puts him 8 away from tying the all-time single-season leader Oscar Robertson, who had 41 in the 1961-62 season. The Thunder improve to 27-6 on the season when Westbrook gets a triple-double compared to 11-23 when he does not.
Westbrook finished the game with 25 points while shooting only 6/18 (33.3%) from the field, but 11/13 (84.6%) from the free throw line, to go along with 19 assists and 12 rebounds. He was able to get the team going early as he tallied 8 assists in the first quarter alone, but he had a pretty solid game from start to finish. Critics continue to downplay what Westbrook is doing, stating that he is merely padding stats, but the facts say otherwise: when Russell gets a triple-double, the Thunder have a REALLY good chance at winning the game.
Taj Gibson Finds His Place
The Thunder has had the same starting lineup for a majority of the season. That has recently changed when Taj Gibson replaced Damontas Sabonis at the power forward position. Gibson struggled in his first game as a starter for Oklahoma City, but has played extremely well in the last two. He recorded 17 points, 8 rebounds, and finished with a +3 for the night in player efficiency.
He has been a good contributor to the Thunder on the offensive side of the ball since he arrived. If he can continue to have these kind of games, it will take a huge load off the shoulders of Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo. Having a third scoring threat will spread out the defense. This will allow other guys like Steven Adams to score, making the team even harder to stop.
Defense Steps Up
The Thunder struggled a bit in the first half on the defensive side of the ball. Luckily, the offense was able to keep up, allowing Oklahoma City to stay in the game. However, the second half was very different. The Thunder made the necessary adjustments at halftime, and allowed only 42 points in the second half. Andre Roberson led the way, but a total team effort on defense is what won the game for the Thunder. If Oklahoma City can find some consistency on defense, they should be in a position to make a run heading into the playoffs.
Oklahoma City continues it’s brief road trip as it heads to Toronto to take on the Raptors for a Thursday night matchup. The Raptors edged the Thunder 112-102 in Oklahoma City back in November, so the Thunder will look to even the season series. Toronto is 39-28 (22-11 at home), but this will be only the 2nd home game for the Raptors in their last 7, so they will be excited to play in front of a home crowd. 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 Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.