You have to watch a team very closely in order see the small improvements in their game, and I did just that tonight as the Oklahoma City Thunder handed the Los Angeles Clippers their fifth loss of the season.
Even though the Thunder were 7-3 prior to this game, they had been under fire for showing inconsistency and not being able to beat elite NBA teams. Their problems took a back seat to their outstanding play tonight. It’s a long season, and I’m sure things won’t always be perfect for this young team, but fans in Oklahoma have to be proud of this team’s play so far this season.
In their big win tonight, the Thunder showed improvement in several areas, the most important being their defense, holding the high-octane Clippers offense to only 91 points. As usual, the Thunder put on a clinic when they had the ball in their possession, scoring 105 points. Another area the Thunder have been looking for more from has been the bench; that bench came through in a major way tonight. Jeremy Lamb stepped up with 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Reggie Jackson also had a good night, as he continues to impress. Jackson finished with nine points, while Russell Westbrook‘s struggles continued. Kevin Durant continued his MVP-like play with 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
One thing I’m continually puzzled by is the Thunder’s faith that Kendrick Perkins is still good enough to maintain his role as starting center. Perkins had one highlight — an air-ball on a wide open jump shot. Perkins’ backup, Steven Adams, gave the Thunder some valuable minutes, as he showed good hustle on his way to putting up six points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
The Thunder has a tough week ahead, and winning a game like tonight is a great way to start things off. This team is constantly improving, as they try to slowly work their way back into being one of the top two teams in the league. It may not take long before this team is playing at mid-season form, blowing out teams left and right as they did the season before. Things are looking good in Oklahoma, and it’ll be great to watch this team progress as the season rolls on.
A fun note on the defense side: after the game, Durant stated that, “It was good not to give up 40 points in the first quarter.” He’s obviously impressed with the Thunder’s defensive efforts tonight.