Thunder beat Heat, move three games ahead for eighth playoff spot
If every game went like Sunday, the Thunder would be planning their championship parade route through downtown
And if the weather was like it was Sunday in Oklahoma City, it would be called San Diego.
Hard to say what’s more like to happen again, as March weather is more unpredictable than the Thunder starting lineup.
But for now, it’s probably OK to just sit back and enjoy what’s happening, including a 93-75 victory over Miami.
What happened Sunday afternoon was glorious weather and basketball to match. The Thunder led throughout, never had to absorb any real pressure from Miami, won again and moved three games ahead of New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Spin it forward now. We know this type of weather will turn. We don’t really have any idea if the Thunder can duplicate what we saw Sunday, which was a combination of defense and balanced offense. Another triple-double from Russell Westbrook and five other players scoring in double figures.
Oh, and of course another injury, too. It’s the tie that binds this season together. This time, Andre Roberson left the game during the first quarter after spraining his ankle. He did not return and wasn’t around the lockerooom after the game. The only comment on his status came from Scott Brooks who has gotten extremely comfortable talking about injuries this season.
"All we know is he sprained his ankle," Brooks said. Which is what he said about Nick Collison Friday night, who is not even the newest Thunder player to get hurt. Collison will miss about two weeks. Kevin Durant is unlikely to return until allergy season ends and Serge Ibaka is out for somewhere between, who-knows-how-long to six weeks.
Yet, here we are once again, another day another injury and now another win. That’s five in six games, all of them without Kevin Durant, all of them without Ibaka.
And in that same stretch, the Thunder have gone 5-0 at home, losing only to Dallas, but Sunday’s was different. In all the others, OKC gave up runs, or looked choppy. A slow start against the Hawks, a rally against Chicago. Sunday was The Thunder holding the Heat to 39.5 percent shooting and everyone on the roster contributing and falling in right behind Westbrook’s 12 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists. Kanter had another double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Steven Adams had 10 points and 20 rebounds
"I don’t want to say it was a perfect game," said Mitch McGary, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. "The mistakes we made, we made up for them the next possession."
Now, can the Thunder make it work? The burden on Westbrook to produce is heavy, and of course it’s eased when the foot soldiers fall in, but the pressure to not only produce, but to dominate on the regular is something Westbrook has never had to shoulder.
So, is this all duplicatable?
The Thunder did score 100 or more points in 22 games in a row. That streak ended Sunday but it was acceptable, considering the Heat scored just 38 points in the first half and 37 in the second. It was the fewest number of points OKC has allowed since the day after Christmas. Meanwhile, for as good as the Thunder offense has been, they had allowed 100 or more, themselves, in 11 of the past 12 games.
"You have to focus on playing possession by possession," Brooks said. "That is what they have been doing. Things changed, but Russell and our guards are playing well. I like what we’re doing. We moved the ball well. We just have to keep doing that and finding great shots."
Everything was easy on Sunday from the breeze to the baskets.
Wonder if we see either, on regular occasion, again?
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK