Oladipo, Westbrook Pace Thunder to Victory

Man, did the Thunder need that win. Coming off four straight losses, the Thunder were able to come from behind and beat former Thunder Buddy James Harden and the Houston Rockets 105-103 at the Peake on Wednesday.

Victor Oladipo was the man tonight, finishing with a season high 29 points and 10 rebounds, along with 5 assists. It was his first double-double with the Thunder, and games like this make you feel better about the 84 million-dollar extension he signed earlier in the season.

Nov 16, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oladipo and Westbrook were the whole show for the Thunder tonight. Westbrook added 30 points, 7 boards and 9 dimes to Oladipo’s solid line. The pair combined to shoot 21-38 from the floor, good for 55%. Nobody else on OKC reached double digits.

On the other side, Houston responded to OKC subduing Harden (13 points on 4-16, but 13 assists as well for number 13), with an extremely balanced offensive attack. 7 players finished in double digits for the Rockets, and everybody who hit the court for Houston finished with at least 9 points. Ultimately the downfall for Houston was an unfathomable cold streak to end the game, missing every shot over the last six and a half minutes, except for Eric Gordon’s last second three-pointer.

The Thunder did what they needed to do to get the win tonight, but they trailed by double digits for long stretches of the game, and were often times forced to essentially play at a 4 on 5 disadvantage on offense, as Houston ignored Andre Roberson several times down the court. With good reason, too, as Roberson finished with 4 points on 2-11 shooting from the field and 0-5 from behind the line. He’s a beast on defense, but he’s an offensive albatross who’s failing to finish at the rim as well as from deep.

You guys may want to sit down for this one. I’ve got some shocking news, and you may not like what you’re about to read. The bench was terrible. Again. I know, I know, it’s okay. There, there.

No, but seriously, excluding Nick Collison (+3) who only played for three minutes in the first, every player off the Thunder bench finished in the minus. The bench as a whole finished -35. The blame falls on both Sam Presti, who put the team together, and Billy Donovan, who still hasn’t figured out the proper way to effectively stagger his starters to prevent the bench from giving up too much of a lead.

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It’s not quite time to panic just yet, as it’s still only the middle of November, and Donovan is still tinkering with different lineup configurations (he debuted some new pairings tonight); but the reserves have been nothing short of awful for the most part to start the season. Donovan did mitigate the damage done by his reserves as none of them played for more than 18 minutes tonight.

Oladipo tied the game at 100 on a 3 with three minutes left in the fourth, and OKC would take the lead on a vicious Westbrook-Roberson alley-oop after a pretty back cut by Roberson. Westbrook put the dagger in Houston’s heart with a vicious, heart-stopping, left-handed posterizing tomahawk jam over Clint Capela with 5.5 seconds left. And we got one of the best snarling stomps from Russell after.

Eric Gordon hit a three to trim the lead to 2 with .9 left, but Andre Roberson made a head’s up play inbounding the ball on the quick to Russell, allowing the clock to expire before the Rockets could set up to foul quickly.

The Thunder were able to keep Harden uncomfortable for a majority of the game, and they did it without fouling, as he only got to the line seven times. Steven Adams was ineffective on offense but he played through a hand injury, and with the significant amount of tape on his shooting hand it was easy to understand why his shooting touch was a bit wayward this evening. Adams, like always, did a lot of the dirty work that doesn’t show up in the box scores.

The Thunder improve to a shaky 7-5 after tonight’s victory, and will host the surprisingly tepid Brooklyn Nets at the Peake on Friday.

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