The big question before the game was who is more anxious to get a win: The Oklahoma City Thunder or James Harden? It didn’t really matter. The best team on the floor were the Thunder and the best player on the court was Kevin Durant. That individual rivalry and the game weren’t really close.
How bad was it for the Rockets? They lost by 22 points; James Harden, the barometer for them this season was obviously excited, despite everything he said, about coming back to OKC. He shot only 3-16 from the field and scored 17 points, most of them from the line. The 3-guard setup completely collapsed without Chandler Parsons in the lineup. There was no sign of the Oklahoma City Thunder missing James Harden.
And why should they? It took them a week or two to get used to Kevin Martin coming up from the bench; for Russell Westbrook to do a bit more of point-guarding and for Kevin Durant to do the same, like it or not, but they’re on their expected course: 12-4, on top of their division and third in the Western Conference.
When you have the best player in the NBA, adjusting is easier. Kevin Durant enjoyed the small Rockets lineup and torched the visitors with 37 points. Durant is probably the hottest player in the NBA right now: He has scored 37 twice in three night; over 35 three times over the last five games; 34 points or more four times in the past two weeks. Maybe he felt Kobe Bryant was building too much of a lead in the race for yet another scoring title.
It was interesting to see how Kevin Martin reacts. Well, he looked unfazed to the whole situation. He has been doing exceptionally well, exactly what is expected from him. Knocking down open shots and not forcing himself too much on the game. He finished with 17 points and three field goals from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 15.8 points and 48.8% from three-point range. People are talking about Martin not staying with the Thunder when the season ends (free agent) or maybe even getting traded in the middle of all the action, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason to give up on such a great scorer coming off the bench.
Another player destined to shine was Serge Ibaka. Remember: James Harden didn’t get a max contract because Ibaka already got one. The two hour ultimatum Harden got was pretty much “We don’t need you as much as you think we do” and Harden moved on. Revenge? Not even close. Ibaka proved, at least for one night, to be the right choice, scoring 23 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and adding six blocks, making 11 of his 13 field goal attempts. He’s also enjoying a bigger bulk of action this season when it comes to offense, averaging 15 points per game.
We’ll realize if the Thunder made a mistake by not holding on to James Harden when the season is over, and how far they’ve gotten before it all ended. For now, everyone’s a winner. James Harden is a star and an important player like he always thought he should be. The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their three most important players, got another who is just as good of a scorer as Harden is, and the record, for the meantime, isn’t effected at all.