The real help for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be when Scott Brooks and his coaching staff starts drawing up plays that don’t involve isolation and simple screens that are easy for a defense to attack, but actually make the Oklahoma City Thunder look like a thinking team, instead of one that relies only on pure individual talent.
There was nothing new about the Thunder’s win over the Toronto Raptors. Just a bit more enthusiasm, and the right shots falling in early on. OKC had a 30-17 lead by the end of the first quarter, and that was that. No huge night from Kevin Durant, who is acting more as a ballhandler this season, seeing his assist numbers go up. He finished with 15 points, 4-11 from the field. There was no need for anyone to play more than 29 minutes.
Russell Westbrook didn’t play like Steve Nash all of a sudden. He was a tad more responsible with the ball, his shots and its distribution. He also finished with 8 assists and only 1 turnover, which is quite a rarity for the most criticized player in recent years for what he does on the court despite putting up All-NBA type numbers.
It was the guys around them that made this game so easy after all. Not just the aggressive and swarming defense that wasn’t there in the previous nights, as if someone has been reading the blogs and papers, or maybe even listening to the head coach.
Serge Ibaka has a problem of disappearing offensively on some nights, but he has a pretty good mid range shot that just doesn’t have enough opportunities to shine. Again, as easy as it is to blame Westbrook for all of that, Scott Brooks holds just as much of the blame for the way this offense is (mis) run.
Ibaka finished with 17 points and a fantastic 8-9 from the field. Life is easier when the soft Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas are the ones you face in the paint.
You’re not going to be able to beat teams with three guys, and tonight Serge stepped up and Eric Maynor played well. They’re going to have nights like that and we’re going to need them.
Kevin Martin is not James Harden, but in terms of points, they keep coming. This time Martin finished with 15, shooting 4-9 from the field. He gets to the line more than Harden does. He might not be as versatile and an able passer as Harden is, but Martin knows how to get points and how to draw fouls from defenders. All he needs is someone to pass him the ball.
The Thunder have a lot of options to run plays that don’t necessarily involve Durant and Westbrook as the finishers, which down the road should make life much easier for them both. Against weak teams, with some sort “we’re out to prove something” attitude, pure talent, speed and aggression are enough.
Against tougher and smarter foes, like their next opponent, the Chicago Bulls, it might be a good chance to try and add the missing parts to their limited game, that works great when Durant and Russell Westbrook are in the zone, but probably needs a bit more sophistication to rely on for another deep playoff run.