State of the Thunder: From coast to coast

This is a nice little run the Thunder have going.

Make it three in a row and six out of seven wins for Oklahoma City. After getting its best road win of the year on Sunday in Los Angeles against the Clippers, the Thunder figured it out again on the road on Thursday in New York.

But it’s the second game in a row in which the Thunder have played exceptional defense when it counted most.

While Oklahoma City led from beginning to end on Tuesday night at home against the Lakers, the Thunder held Los Angeles scoreless for the final 6:14 after the Lakers cut the lead to five points.

And Thursday in New York, in a decidedly different kind of game (nine lead changes in the fourth quarter), the Knicks had one field goal in the final 3 minutes and didn’t score at all in the last 1:58.

Sunday against the Clippers after falling behind with 1:30 to play, OKC forced the Clippers into one-of-six shooting the rest of the way, including getting a block from Serge Ibaka.

Certainly the Thunder are going to win because of their offense. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are as good as any duo in the league, but the recent defensive run has been pretty good, too. Westbrook was great in the last 2 minutes. He forced a turnover and played exceptional defense on J.R. Smith’s last shot.
Carmelo Anthony didn’t play for the Knicks on Thursday which limits New York, but Smith had 36 points, yet the Knicks shot just 40.7 percent and were outrebounded. The Thunder held New York to just 13 points in the fourth quarter and only 38 in the second half.

Oklahoma City may not catch San Antonio for the top spot in the Western Conference, but the last week has shown the Thunder can play some pretty good defense on the road.

That, and having Durant and Westbrook is a nice combination.

Who’s Hot: Heading into Thursday’s game against the Knicks, Russell Westbrook was averaging 34.7 points per game in three March outings. He’s also shooting 53 percent and getting 7.3 rebounds. No one on the Thunder team is playing as well as Westbrook is.

In the first quarter, Westbrook was five-of-nine shooting. He was 3-of-13 the rest of the game and seemed to be limited after rolling his right ankle. Westbrook finished with xx points, but the biggest play was on defense. He forced J.R. Smith into a tightly contested jumper on a potential game-winner.

Who’s not: Hide your eyes. Going into Thursday’s game in New York, Kevin Martin was 7-for-29 in his last three games (24.1 percent). He’s scored a total of 24 points in the three games. The good news is Martin hit his first 3-pointer against the Knicks and finished 16 points on four-of-six shooting, including three-of-five on 3-pointers.

3 Thoughts

1. Must have been Sweeps Week for the Thunder. What a schedule. In the past week, the Thunder have played the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks and have the Celtics on Sunday. As big as the NBA is, there’s another level of excitement when the high-profile teams line up. And the schedule set up nicely this week for the Thunder. The NBA is relatively new in Oklahoma City. I admit it, I’m still not used to it and still a bit amazed to drive downtown, see Chesapeake Arena and think about the fact there are very few cities in the world that get this kind of professional basketball. Makes it even more fun when the big-name teams come through.

2. I’m still a little surprised Serge Ibaka didn’t get suspended for his Sunday Special to Blake Griffin in Los Angles. Ibaka didn’t get ejected because the play wasn’t rule a Flagrant Foul 2, which is excessive contact by a player against another player as well as unsportsmanlike. Kind of seemed like it was, actually. Instead, refs called it a Flagrant Foul 1, which is unnecessary contact by a player against another player. Ibaka was likely not suspended because he hasn’t had a history of causing any problems.

3. I’m on the Reggie Jackson bandwagon. There’s plenty of room. He brings a Russell Westbrook-like aggressiveness and can create his own shot. Derek Fisher played admirably in a win Tuesday against the Lakers, scoring 10 points on three-of-four shooting in 18 minutes, but he can’t do what Jackson can in terms of speed and shot-making. Now, Fisher is a steadying force, but give me a Jackson 3-pointer over a Fisher 3-pointer any time. Jackson was five-for-seven against the Lakers for 10 points and three-of-five for eight points against the Knicks, including a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.


“No, I don’t think we’re working on that. I’ve seen the Heat’s. That was the funniest stuff I’ve seen in a while. Once they put it out, it’s kind of tough to follow that act right there. That video’s going to circulating here for a long time. I enjoyed it.” – Kevin Durant to The Oklahoman on the Miami Heat’s Harlem Shake video.


Kid Blake: Who are you? Future Blake: you from the future… Don’t listen to anything else I’ve told you just start wearing a cup.” – Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin 32) clearly referencing the shot he took from Serge Ibaka Sunday.

Numbers Game

2: The number of turnovers the Thunder had, tying an NBA record, against the Lakers on Tuesday.

16: The number of turnovers the Thunder had the very next game in a win against the Knicks Thursday.

83.2: The Thunder’s team free throw percentage this season, tops in the NBA. Golden State is next at 80 percent.

16: Points the Thunder scored in a row against the Knicks in the first quarter.

Up next

After a Friday game in Charlotte, the Celtics come to Oklahoma City for the only time this season for the rare noon tipoff on Sunday. The Thunder travel to San Antonio on Monday and then are home against Utah on Wednesday.

Tower of Power

After this streak by the Thunder, you’d have to think things are improving. The Thunder have beaten the Clippers, Lakers and Knicks in a row and will face a hot Celtic team on Sunday. If the Thunder win in Charlotte and against the Celtics, they will have won five in a row and eight of nine.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @theandrewgilman