The Oklahoma City Thunder grinded out a tough road win on the second night of a back to back against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder struggled in various areas throughout the game, but still managed to come out on top. This game is a perfect example of just how tough this team truly is. We got to see exactly where this team is heading into the playoffs. Winning close games on the road shows the true character of this team.
The first quarter started out in favor of the Thunder. However, the tides quickly changed. Memphis took over the scoreboard after going on a run in the middle of the quarter. After that, the Thunder responded and led for the entire first half. The lead grew to as much as ten at one point, but the Thunder ultimately lead by seven at halftime.
The Grizzlies actually outscored the Thunder in both the third and fourth quarter, but the first half performance of Oklahoma City allowed them to stay on top. The Thunder seemed to be out of rhythm late in the third and early fourth. Led by a couple of deep balls from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder got right back into it. Memphis led with under two minutes to go, but Westbrook sealed the deal for OKC with a couple of baskets and a steal at the end.
Free Throws Need Improvement
The Thunder nearly let this game slip away, and it’s largely due to the amount of missed free throws. Doug McDermott missed two costly free throws early in the game, and Russ missed several throughout. On two separate occasions, Steven Adams made his free throw, but it was waived off due to a lane violation. Little mistakes like that can come up costly in the post season. The Thunder is not good enough to allow little mess ups and still come out on top on a regular basis. This will need to be an area of improvement heading into the playoffs.
Team Effort Fuels Win
When it comes to contributing on offense tonight, just about everyone did their part. Enes Kanter was just as reliable as usual, contributing 10 points and 5 rebounds. The big man has struggled in recent games, but seems to be finding his stride again. Victor Oladipo had a great night with 15 points and 5 assists. It isn’t just the stats that are impressive from Dipo, it’s the way he led the second unit throughout the game. He did an excellent job at running the team while Russ got his rest on the bench.
The biggest contributor from the Thunder bench tonight was undoubtedly Doug McDermott. McDermott recorded 10 points and 7 rebounds on 3/6 shooting from beyond the arc. All three of Dougie’s shots came in clutch opportunities. This type of performance is exactly why Sam Presti brought McDermott to Oklahoma City.
Westbrook Steals The Win
Russell Westbrook did himself another favor in the MVP race with his performance tonight. The leading candidate in the race recorded 45 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals. He missed making history yet again by only one rebound. He shot an outstanding 8/13 from beyond the arc tonight, which ties a season high. After rallying the team to a comeback with some clutch three point shooting, Russ came up with a steal at the end of the game to secure the win.
Tonight shows how many different ways Westbrook can impact a game. It certainly put even more distance behind him from his nearest competition in James Harden. While Harden had the momentum in the race for awhile, it seems as if Westbrook has taken control. Lately, Harden has struggled to shoot the ball, and hasn’t been putting up the same kind of numbers. On the other hand, Westbrook has been hitting one clutch shot after another. After tonight, Russ is now shooting a better percentage from 3 than Harden. We can’t be certain the Brodie will win MVP, but he certainly has our vote.
The Thunder will be back in action again on Friday night as they fly to Phoenix to face the Suns. The matchup against the young legs of Phoenix will be a tough matchup for Oklahoma City in the middle of their road trip. The game will start at 9:00 PM CST, and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.