The Oklahoma City Thunder earned a much needed and hard fought victory over the Golden State Warriors tonight. In a game with such high emotions, the Thunder was able to maintain composure. They did an excellent job at playing at their pace and not playing into the Warriors’ strengths.
The Thunder got things rolling early due to the play of Russell Westbrook. This game was so much more than just two teams going at it. All eyes were on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When only one could come out as a winner, Westbrook rose to the occasion. Oklahoma City shot great as an entire team which gave them a 9 point lead after the first quarter.
The second unit was on the court for the first few minutes of the second quarter. They were able to do just enough to keep the lead in favor of Oklahoma City. The starters checked back in with about eight minutes remaining in the half, and that’s when things turned even more so in the right direction for OKC. The entire team made great decisions with the ball and were able to maintain a level of energy that the Warriors simply couldn’t. The Thunder, and Paul George specifically, shot the ball extremely well to end the first half. Giving Oklahoma City a 65-48 lead at halftime.
To start out the third quarter you kind of felt like the Warriors were bound to go on a bit of a run at some point. However, the Thunder was able to squash any sort of momentum that the Warriors could build. The Thunder were dominating the boards which led to the team dominating in other categories as well.
Things began to get a little chippy in the third quarter when both Draymond Green and Steve Kerr received technical fouls. As the intensity of this game began to build, we saw Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook square up and exchange words. In the end, the Thunder was the team who kept control of their emotions. The Warriors seemed a bit rattled and never really recovered.
Heading into the final quarter, the Thunder held a 23 point lead. The Warriors gave one final effort to make a push, but the Thunder shut it down quickly. Halfway through the quarter Steve Kerr decided to pull the starters. Oklahoma City would go on to maintain a solid lead and pulled out a dominating 108-91 win over their rivals.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Don’t Poke the Brodie…or His Friends: One thing is for certain, and that is Russell Westbrook has definitely not lost his MVP touch. After struggling for basically the entire season, Russ broke out in a major way tonight, and the timing could not have been more perfect. Westbrook finished the game with 34 points on 13/27 (48.1%) shooting from the field and 7/8 (87.5%) from the free throw line to go along with 10 rebounds, nine assists, and four steals. Despite not having any real ties with Durant like Westbrook does, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were all-in on tonight as well. Melo finished with 22 points on 8/17 (47.1%) from the field and 3/4 (75%) from the free throw line and five rebounds, while George tallied 20 points on 8/19 (42.1%) shooting, 11 rebounds, and four steals. Lastly, Steven Adams poured in 14 points on an efficient 4/8 (50%) from the floor and 6/8 (75%) from the free throw line while grabbing 12 rebounds. When it came down to it, Good Russ showed up, and his teammates showed up along with him.
- Composure is Key: When you take away all the different stats and numbers from tonight, one facet of the game stood out: the level of composure of each team. Early on, Oklahoma City had a number of different situations where they could have rolled over, but they prevailed by controlling all of the energy in the building. Kevin Durant hit two threes in the first six minutes of the game, and he looked like he might put up another big performance against his former team, but Jerami Grant checked in and shut that down really quick. Grant blocked Durant twice within a couple of possessions of one another, and while Durant tried to maintain a level of confidence, he struggled at times the rest of the game. In the second half when Oklahoma City has been known to give up big leads, they stayed strong and focused on the matter at hand, and despite Golden State’s best effort, the Thunder stayed composed and continued to play hard-nosed defense while moving the ball and knocking down shots on offense. Tensions rose at one point late in the third quarter when Westbrook and Durant went nose-to-nose with one another, but the officials got it under control and kept their whistles to themselves. However, Warriors head Coach Steve Kerr got a technical midway through the third, and less than a minute later, Draymond Green got one as well. These moments just fueled the home crowd, and in the end, it was the Thunder who was able to stay under control, while the Warriors lost their composure.
- We’ve Only Just Begun: While tonight’s game was huge on number of different levels, it is important to keep things in perspectives. Beating the Warriors for the first time in eight regular season games, and handing Kevin Durant his first loss against the Thunder since leaving Oklahoma City were nice milestones, but it’s time to look forward to the next game. In his postgame interview before he had even left the court, Russell Westbrook made a comment in reference to some of the newfound chemistry tonight saying “We’re just taking it one day at a time.” It’s okay to celebrate tonight’s win, but the Thunder must come in to Friday’s home matchup with the Detroit Pistons primed and ready to put out the same level of effort that they put into tonight’s game. After that, Oklahoma City will travel to Dallas for what should be an easy win over the Mavericks. If the Thunder can win both of those games and get above .500, perhaps they can truly start to turn the season around and start playing at the high level that they did tonight.
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Pistons on Friday
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be back in action again on Friday night against the Detroit Pistons at home. The Pistons have been one of the league’s hottest teams with their 11-6 record, but they suffered a brutal 88-116 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. The game will start at 7:00 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 and Zachary Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram, and give The Thunder Guys a follow on Facebook.