In their second game without their star point guard Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder showed that they will be just fine without him as they took down the Houston Rockets in a 117-86 blowout victory. The win means a lot to this team because they were facing a lot of questions going into it.
Most of those questions revolved around how they would fare without Westbrook in the lineup. OKC answered most them in the win. This team was firing on all cylinders, something few people may have expected of them this early.
I wrote an article earlier about how their key players will now have the opportunity to shine with Westbrook down, and they did just that against the Rockets. Jeremy Lamb had a career-high in points with 22 off the bench. Reggie Jackson was coming off a one of his worst games of the year, but he found a way to get it right on his way to 16 points and eight assists.
Kevin Durant was up to his usual antics with another dominant performance, scoring 33 points and 13 rebounds in 38 minutes.
One stat that stood out to me was that no other player besides KD saw more than 30 minutes. This shows that Scott Brooks was experimenting with the lineups, obviously having to adjust due to Westbrook’s injury. Steven Adams‘ minutes have dropped consistently since about the third week of the season. He only saw six minutes tonight, but he made the most of them, scoring six points.
I want Adams to get more minutes, but there’s no need to fix something that isn’t broken. Messing with the team’s chemistry in any way could be trouble, but if they’re good enough to adjust and win without Westbrook on such short notice, then they should be able to throw Adams a few more minutes without interfering with the grand scheme of things.
After watching this game, I know that the Thunder’s younger role players are going to learn a lot as their workload increases over the next 20-plus games. You can see that they aren’t down about Westbrook’s injury; instead, they look even more confident, playing with a different type of fire in their eyes. This is the type of team that will purposely set the bar higher and still be completely confident in reaching their goals this season.
When Westbrook returns, he may not even recognize his own team. By then, they will have improved greatly as a unit, and they will only get better when their All-Star does make his return to the court. I’m impressed with this team, but it is early. They will have to continue this high level of play and beat good teams if they want to keep all of the respect they have already earned.