07 March 2011
You have to like the way this team is coming together.
The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Phoenix Suns in overtime last night, 122-118. After suffering their first three game losing streak of the season in which they scored less than 90 points in two of those games, the Thunder have now won three straight games in where they have scored at least 111 points in all three of those games.
Keep in mind, this team is still playing without Kendrick Perkins.
Oklahoma City is playing great ball right now, and things will only continue to improve for this young squad. Their time is now.
The offense has been more in sync as of late, and they are still working with new lineup combinations following their deadline deals as well as battling through some injury issues. Once those all work themselves out, this is going to be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.
Kevin Durant had an awful shooting night from the field, converting on just 3 of 14 of his attempts. But like all great players are capable of doing, Durant made up for his poor shooting performance by connecting on 11 of 12 free throws. He also added 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in the winning effort.
But the strength of this team has been unity, where so many players lately have picked up the slack when one of their stars suffers an off game. Last night was no different.
Russell Westbrook led the way with a game high 32 points and also added 11 assists. His five turnovers are still a bit high, but the Thunder could not have won last night's game without his strong play.
Still coming off of the bench must suit James Harden well, as he tied a career high with 26 points last night. His shooting was spectacular, as he hit 8 of 12 field goals and 8 of 9 free throws. Harden also added six rebounds and four assists to go along with his career night.
Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka continues to thrive in the starting lineup for the Thunder. The slam dunk contest participant finished last night's game with 15 points, seven rebounds and four more blocks. It was just a matter of time before Ibaka found his niche with this team.
Also contributing key minutes is Daequan Cook in a reserve role as he continues to knock down big three-pointers. Nick Collison has stepped up his game, especially defensively, and Thabo Sefolosharemains one of the more quiet stars for this team. It may not always show up in the box score, butSefolosha's importance cannot be measured.
Head coach Scott brooks has a tough job as he continues to try and find out which lineups work the best together on the court. So far, you would have to say that he is tinkering in the best way.
Tonight, the Thunder will match up with the Memphis Grizzlies, and it would have been the perfect game for Perkins to make his debut.
Oklahoma City has struggled all season defending Zach Randolph. Jeff Green could never get the job done, and Brooks will have to use a combination of players against Z-Bo tonight.
But Perkins would have been more than up to the challenge. His nastiness and physicality could have been the answer to slow down Randolph's inside scoring ability.
But alas, we will still have to wait another week or so to find out how Oklahoma City's newest investment will pay off on the court.
Regardless of what happens before and for the first few games that Perkins plays, the Thunder continue to do the important things right.
Although they are often undersized, they continue to do a great job at rebounding the ball. They rank seventh in the league.
We all know that they can score, and once Perkins enters the mix, the defense will drastically improve.
But it is statistics like free throws that can make a world of difference, especially late in close games.
Last night against Phoenix, Oklahoma City got to the free throw line 47 times, tied for a season high. They converted on 37 of those attempts. The Suns, in comparison, made just 8 of 14 tried for the foul line.
Little things cannot be overlooked.
This young team is coming together at the right time.
And in case you haven't been paying attention, this is still without the services of Perkins.
This has all the makings to be a very special season for the Thunder.
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