Despite getting a win after dropping a game without Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks‘ plan to rest Westbrook apparently did not change.
The decision to sit No. 0 vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers once again looked to be hurting the Thunder as they struggled out of the gate. Eventually, Kevin Durant would save the day, putting up 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists en route to OKC’s 102-95 victory on the road. Aside from Durant’s ample performance, key Thunder players stepped up to the plate in spite of their recent struggles.
Reggie Jackson looked like the confident young player he appeared to be earlier in the season, running the offense smoothly and getting the ball to Durant in tough spots. Most notably, Jeremy Lamb played 25 minutes, scoring 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Lamb has spent a lot of time on the bench lately after his production slid.
His performance may have been good enough to for Brooks to restore some confidence in his game, but he definitely has more to prove before he returns to the role he assumed earlier this season. Derek Fisher contributed 12 points, going 3-of-6 from beyond the arch as well. Serge Ibaka was up to his usual antics, playing proficiently, scoring 16 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and swatting away three shots.
When the Thunder get solid production from their role players, they are very hard to beat. They have enough good players that they can equally distribute the workload to the point where no one is doing too little or too much. Unfortunately, we have seen them play collectively bad basketball during some stretches, and that is something this team cannot afford this late in the season, especially with Westbrook resting to preserve is energy for the playoffs.
If Thursday’s win is a sign of what’s to come for the Thunder as the season winds down, then Brooks’ decision to rest Russell won’t seem so bad. No matter what happens, all of the Thunder’s players need to be on the same page if this team is going to hold onto that No. 2 overall seed, or maybe even slide into first place in the Western Conference.