A week ago on Friday night, I returned home late after covering a high school football game to watch the Thunder vs. Timberwolves, which I had recorded. The high school game didn’t go great, and left me a little down in the dumps. Watching the Thunder look hopeless vs. Minnesota basically had me depressed.
What a difference a week makes.
My Friday night plans were exactly the same this week. Except the high school game went a little better, and the Thunder game really did.
OKC beat the Detroit Pistons 119-110 on the road last night to improve to 4-1 on the year.
Overall, so many players played well for the Thunder that the game never really felt in doubt. But the Pistons were hanging around for awhile, which resulted in Durant playing 44 minutes and closing them out with 11 in the fourth quarter.
Durant finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. He shot 9-of-15 from the field and went 17-of-19 from the free throw line. After getting just three assists through the first three games of the season, Durant has 17 in the last two. He’s leading the league in points per game (29.6) and free throw attempts per game (14.0) so far this season.
Last night, Durant shot better than he has for most of the season. While struggling with his shot a bit early on, he has focused on getting to the line more. Last night, he did both and the result was domination.
Russell Westbrook looked as aggressive as ever last night. Amazingly, he didn’t end up with one assist in the game and he shot 5-of-19 from the field. But he sliced through the Detroit defense all night, it felt like he set them back on their heels early on, and the rest of the success OKC had came largely due to Russ’ penetration. This is just another reason why Westbrook is so valuable to the Thunder. On paper, he didn’t have a good game, but I think the Thunder might lose this game without him.
The real story of the night was Steven Adams, who posted career highs with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Last night vaulted him to first among all rookies with a PER of 22.6 on the season. Yes, it’s early but Adams has been nothing but impressive. He’s also second in the NBA in offensive rebound rate, and half of his boards came on that end vs. Detroit. His touch around the rim has probably been the most impressive aspect of his game. He is so comfortable moving down around the rim and finishing in a variety of ways. He had a tear drop over Andre Drummond, easier said than done, last night that really blew me away. Brooks is playing Adams the rest of the half after subbing him in when he’s playing well. I’m kind of starting to feel bad for Perkins because it looks like Adams may be taking his spot very soon.
Jeremy Lamb had a very Kevin Martin-like game. He scored 10 points and made two threes but didn’t register a stat in any other category for the night. When Lamb’s shot is falling, that’s all the Thunder need from him right now. It looks like he’s always going to compete on the defensive end, and he’s athletic enough to do alright over there.
The Thunder had 17 offensive rebounds in the game, with every starter getting at least one. They didn’t shoot well from deep as a team, going just 6-for-17, but that’s not terrible when on the road. Sefolosha went just 1-for-6 from three as he continues to struggle in that department.
Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson each had nice, quiet games. Both played a little less than you’d usually expect, but they produced in that time, which is nice to see. Ibaka seems to be settling down after forcing a lot of shots in the first few games of the year. Jackson is just so much more valuable as a backup point. When you don’t need him to do much, what he does do feels like gravy. When he runs that set that Harden always used to, a high pick-and-roll from the wing where he is flanked by Durant or Russ on the other wing, he’s pretty deadly.
The Thunder will return home for their next game Sunday night against the Wizards, who are 2-3 on the season and coming off an overtime win over Brooklyn last night.
With Adams and Lamb playing this well so early on, and Westbrook already back, this season has gone from “kind of worried” after two games to “maybe the Thunder will win it all this year.” It’s funny how quickly things can change but it’s hard not to be super optimistic about OKC right now.