Losing two of their first three games against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Oklahoma City Thunder felt that they had to something to prove Friday night. Tempers flared early on as Kevin Durant picked up an early technical foul for his reactions to a bad call. It was not just your arm-flailing incident. Durant’s teammates had to restrain him — a move that helped him avoid ejection.
Durant would go on an offensive rampage in response to the technical foul and suspected wrongdoing by the NBA‘s referees. He got in the zone and never looked back. KD would finish the night with 36 points and 10 rebounds. The Blazers still maintained their composure and made it a tight game as the final score would be 98-95. OKC did a great job defensively, limiting the Blazers with their highly effective schemes. No single Blazers player cracked the 20-point mark. Nicolas Batum led the team with 18 points.
Reggie Jackson would come through with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists after a rough start in a game where he began shooting 1-for-10 from the field. He ripped off 13 points in the third quarter and made key shots down the stretch. Jeremy Lamb‘s contribution was second most important next to Durant’s input. Lamb was smooth, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. It is important that he gets things rolling as the second half of the season closes in. Playing good is only half the battle. Having the confidence is the other ingredient. Confidence comes from consistency which makes the contributions of Jackson and Lamb an even more valuable piece of the puzzle.
The latest news on Russell Westbrook is that he is about 10 days from returning to the court. His ability to penetrate the lane and dish to the rock to a wide-open Durant will be needed as they push towards becoming NBA Champions. Friday’s win is more precious because of the looming All-Star break. This team has shown up every night, even in losses, and they are a world away from playing their best ball. Still, I guess we will have to see how it all works out when Westbrook returns, but odds are that this guy will feed of the doubt, turning it into dinner en route to perhaps what could be the his first championship ring.