Even without Serge Ibaka in the lineup, the Oklahoma City Thunder came through with defense. That’s what you get for having Kendrick Perkins, who can guard big men inside and outside, including denying a potential game tying shot by LaMarcus Aldridge. For everything else, there’s Kevin Durant.
When Russell Westbrook is having a bad day, the Thunder are still favorites to win. When Westbrook is having a terrible day, they’re in for a rough ride. Westbrook finished with 5-21 from the field and still nearly managed the triple double: He finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists while shooting 20% from the field. Only 11 times in the past have players gotten a triple double while shooting so badly, the last of them being Rajon Rondo, shooting 3-11 from the field, adding 10 rebounds and 20 assists to his 10 points. There’s still hope for Westbrook.
At least he didn’t fall asleep on defense as Damien Lillard had an awful day as well, making only 3-of-14 from the field, coming up with only 9 points in a game that surprisingly turned into a defensive battle, while Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge had some kind of duel going on.
Durant finished with 33 points, having a bad day from beyond the arc (2-9) but almost scoring at will when deciding to drive towards the basket, something he should have done more of. The Thunder in general were terrible from three, finishing with 6-23, including 1-5 from Westbrook and 0-5 for Kevin Martin.
Perkins was the one who came through, although his 3 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only forcing LaMarcus Aldridge to take a very tough shot in the final seconds, but also stopping almost every pick n’ roll attempt for Batum and Lillard. Batum did finish with 21 points, but was only 6-17 from the field.
After Perk made his one free throw to give us a little cushion, he came back down and played some great defense on LA. ou can’t ask for much more than that from a big man. He was unbelievable on that play.
It was one of our best defensive games of the year, and it’s kind of surprising because we did not have two of our best defensive players in the games. But that’s what team’s do. Teams have to step up and figure out ways to win, and our guys came off the bench and did a great job.
Maybe it was the Rose Garden, an arena the Thunder have now won nine in a row in, but maybe it was something else. A team rallying together on defense despite missing both Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha, causing a surprising effort from everyone who don’t always pitch in when it comes to giving the key defenders a hand.
What used to be the big Northwestern rivalry might be coming back, but that didn’t stop from former Sonics fans to arrive into the Rose Garden wearing the old green shirts, as they do when the Thunder come into town. Maybe that’s why the Thudner feel so comfortable going into Portland, improving to 29-8, the best record in the NBA.