Spark From the Bench Fuels Oklahoma City to Another Win

The Oklahoma City Thunder earned their fifth straight win tonight over the Brooklyn Nets. This win puts the Thunder at a season high seven games above .500 for a total record of 27-20. Brooklyn gave Oklahoma City everything they wanted and more tonight, but the Thunder was still able to come out on top.

Even though the Thunder put up 30 points in the first quarter, it seemed rather uneventful. Russell Westbrook and Paul George got things going with four points a piece. After that hot start, no one else could seem to score. Paul George somehow put together 16 points, and without that the Thunder would’ve been in trouble from the very beginning.

The Thunder got off to a rather slow start in the second quarter. The Brooklyn bench was lighting up the scoreboard, while the Thunder’s bench had no answer. Oklahoma City was struggling to finish around the rim. They had plenty of great looks but simply couldn’t get anything to fall.

The struggles on offense led to poor transition defense and Brooklyn was essentially scoring at will. Oklahoma City wasn’t closing out on shooters, which allowed the Nets to shoot 10/18 from beyond the arc in the first half. While they were lighting up the scoreboard, the Thunder couldn’t get anything to go in. Russell Westbrook was 5/15 and Steven Adams was 2/9.  The energy was sucked out of the arena and the game felt like it had slipped away from the Thunder at halftime.

The Thunder gained some momentum at the start of the third quarter as Russell Westbrook got a steal right off the bat. OKC managed to go on a 16-5 run which cut the Thunder’s deficit down to 5. However, the Nets started fouling Andre Roberson to send him to the line on purpose. Billy Donovan had no choice but to take him out of the game which killed the defense for Oklahoma City. It was at this point that the Nets began to score at will once again. All of the sudden, the Thunder were down by 15 points.

Down by double digits heading into the fourth quarter, everyone knew the first few minutes would be make or break for this Thunder team. The second unit was on the floor for OKC, and they couldn’t have played better. Raymond Felton scored a quick 10 points in the first two minutes. The bench as a whole created great spacing on offense and played terrific defense during this run.

However, the Thunder’s second unit wasn’t done yet. Patrick Patterson hit back to back 3’s which made it only a 5 point game. At this time, the starters checked back in and took over. Carmelo Anthony hit some shots during this stretch, but it was mainly Russell Westbrook who led the way. Down by 1 with only a few seconds left he drove to the basket and scored to give the Thunder the lead. During the following play OKC displayed excellent defense on a last second shot attempt from Brooklyn and they sealed the deal for a 109-108 victory.

3 Quick Thoughts 

  • OKC Often Plays Down to the Level of Their Opponent. 

Its no secret at this point in the season that the Thunder often comes out flat against bottom tier teams. While Brooklyn certainly isn’t the worst in the league, they still aren’t a top tier team. Tonight, the effort at some points in the game simply wasn’t there. This has become a regular occurrence for this team.

However, tonight was different. The Thunder allowed a lesser opponent to take a lead by as much as 15 points, but then turned it around. It felt at like at certain points of this game that the Thunder had let it slip away. Instead of letting Brooklyn run away with the lead, the Thunder always had an answer.

It would be nice to see this team come out with the same energy every night. If only they could play Golden State, Houston, or Cleveland every night they might always be playing at their full potential. Even though they can’t always come out with that kind of energy, it’s nice to see them respond and bounce back for a win. At the end of the day, all that matters is getting the win. Regardless of how it comes, a win is a win.

  • Paul George Was Snubbed in All-Star Voting. 

Listen, Paul George is an All-Star in this league. He is a top level talent at scoring the basketball, and his defense is nearly unmatched. It’s unbelievable that the leagues leader in steals isn’t playing in this game.

Paul George getting snubbed might be good for Oklahoma City. Tonight, he played with some attitude. He played as if it bothered him, and it should bother him. George produced 28 points and had 9 rebounds. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t selected as an All-Star, but it’s even more unfortunate for the Thunder’s upcoming opponents. I expect Paul George to be playing with this same attitude and intensity for the remainder of the season.

Russell Westbrook had a few things to say about his teammate not being selected as an All-Star:

  • The Thunder’s Bench is not An Issue! 

Anyone who thinks the Thunder’s bench is an issue at this point of the season is out of their mind. Are they a top five bench in the league? No, but they certainly aren’t causing this team to lose games. They aren’t an elite bench, but they get the job done.

This isn’t like a year ago when the bench would simply give away games to the opponent. Sure, there will be games where they are having an off night, but you can say the same for the starting lineup. Tonight was the best evidence in that. They were being flat out dominated by the Brooklyn bench, but then they turned things around in the second half.

Raymond Felton does an excellent job at leading the second unit. He could hands down be one of the best back up points guards the Thunder have ever had. The way he controls the floor is esssentially as good as a starting point guard in this league. When a guy like Patrick Patterson knock down back to back 3’s like he did tonight it always helps. This bench also has Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson who are capable of going off on any given night. It’s time to stop putting blame on the bench, but instead holding the team as a while accountable for what takes place during a game.

Home Again on Thursday 

The Thunder will be back in action again at the Peake on Thursday night. Oklahoma City will take on Eastern Conference foe Washington Wizards. Playing a team from another conference is always great to see how you match up with the rest of the league. Considering the game is at home, this will be a great opportunity to pick up a solid victory and keep this win streak alive.

Thr game will tip-off at 7:00 PM CST and it will be televised on TNT. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.

Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram! 


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