Overview: The Thunder outscored the Cavaliers 30-13 in the third quarter of a 106-77 blowout. Four Thunder players finished with more points than any Cavalier player did. At one point, the Thunder broadcast team began to feel bad for the Cavaliers.
Bullets of misery and Russell Westbrook:
Yes, Cash Cab is indeed fake. Everything else you ever loved is also probably a lie. Onto the game:
– After playing shockingly competent basketball in five of the eight quarters they played since the starting lineup change, the Cavs went back to wire-to-wire awfulness against the Thunder. Right from the beginning, you could tell a blowout was coming. The Cavs didn’t keep the floor spread, rushed their shots, couldn’t find any cutters around the basket, and turned the ball over way too much, which led to easy transition buckets for the Thunder.
– Speaking of easy baskets, the Thunder got a lot of them. There were the transition baskets. There were the baskets that came after the Cavs would lose Kevin Durant on off-ball screens and give him a wide-open three or lane for a dunk. There were the times Russell Westbrook would effortlessly get into the teeth of the defense and find a wide-open man for a dunk or a three. There were the times the Cavs forgot that Jeff Green can drive to the basket. It was a horrifying, horrifying defensive performance, as well as the kind of defensive performance we’ve come to expect from this team. 94 of the Thunder’s 106 came from the paint, the three-point line, or the free-throw line. I remember when I pointed that stat out against the Spurs and thought splits like that would be a one-time thing. I was mistaken.
– The bench was horrifying: Hickson was a -30 in 24 minutes, and Manny Harris was a fascinatingly awful -27 in 16 minutes. Both guys looked completely lost on both ends of the floor, but neither of them were as bad as Jawad Williams, who played about as badly as it’s possible to play. I counted three airballs and two turnovers that led to easy baskets, and there were stupid fouls as well. I’d say it’s time to get Jawad out of the rotation, but that would mean relying on Joey Graham or Manny Harris.
– Varejao had a great rebounding game and fought for every missed shot. Very few other good things happened.
Bullets of Randomness:
– This team looks completely different than it did last season, and it’s entirely because of Russell Westbrook. I know Durant finished with 25 points, but almost all but two of his buckets were assisted and he only shot four free throws. Everything is running through Westbrook, and that’s freed up Durant to run the break, slash to the basket, and make open threes. For all the SKILLS SKILLS SKILLS! talk that’s always surrounded Durant, his best attributes are that he’s a powerful finisher who can get to the basket in two dribbles and make any open shot. The truth is that he’s more like a better version of Kevin Martin than Kobe (and that’s not an insult), and the Thunder are learning to integrate his talents into an actual offensive system. Once his shot comes around, it’ll be scary.
– Good lord, Russell Westbrook. His court vision is insane, he can make home-run passes as well as anybody else can, he’s fallen out of love with that tweener pull-up jumper, he’s a better finisher, and he seems to be a more confident outside shooter, even if the numbers don’t bear that out. He took complete control of this game from the opening tip in every way — passing, shooting, making steals and pushing the break, getting offensive rebounds. He’s a legit MVP candidate. When the “LeBron vs. Durant” stuff was happening this off-season, who would’ve thought that KD would be more of a #2 guy on the Thunder than LeBron is on the Heat?
– When Harden looks good, he looks really good, but he’s one of those guys who plays off of his outside shot, which makes him a bit streaky. That said, HOLY CHRIST DID HE BAPTIZE HICKSON. Did anyone know he had that kind of athleticism?
On that note, I’ll leave you. Until tomorrow.