Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Thunder are talented, but how good?
If you spent your Sunday starting to deal with all things Christmas — putting up Christmas lights, starting your shopping — they you probably weren’t getting to chill and watch some NBA. We’ve got you covered... on the NBA stuff. You’re on your own with the gifts; we don’t know what to get your sister either. But here are five things to know from Sunday around the Association.
1) Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant save the day for Thunder. Again. And show where the team is at right now. The Oklahoma City Thunder had led by 17 in the third, 10 entering the fourth and seemed to be in control — then midway through the fourth quarter the visiting Sacramento Kings went on an 11-0 run, took the lead, and until the final minute looked like they would steal a big win on the road. That the Thunder blew the lead at all speaks to this team’s struggles and inconsistencies (specifically on defense), and it shows why they are not yet a real threat to the Warriors and Spurs in a seven-game series.
But Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant showed why they can be — talent wins out. In the 34 minutes those two were on the court together, the Thunder were +9, in the 14 minutes one was rested they were -6. Westbrook had his third triple-double of the season with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. But when it was crunch time the ball was in KD’s hands — and that made up for a lot. The best example: The game was tied in the final minute, the Thunder ran some actions to get Durant the ball out top but then they didn’t bring a pick, rather let him go one-on-one, and he took a 20-foot leaning step-back deep two — which he drained. It wasn’t a good shot, but Durant can hit it and did. On the other end you saw what it was like not to have Durant: The Kings ran a pick to get Steven Adams switched onto Rudy Gay then isolated Gay, but he couldn’t quite get by Adams on the drive, plus Rajon Rondo’s man didn’t fear Rondo’s jumper and helped off him in the corner on Gay, the result ultimately being a steal and turnover. The Thunder have the talent to win games like this because they have KD and Westbrook, but they are not a team threat yet.
2) Rajon Rondo had the pass of the day, maybe the season. Rondo is playing well right now, but this pass is wicked, even for his standards.
3) The Warriors are now 22-0. Which is insane. To beat the Raptors Saturday it took the full Stephen Curry — 40 points and a lot of help from teammates. To beat the Nets Sunday, it took one quarter of Curry. He went off for 16 in the third, Golden State pulled away, and the win streak just keeps on rolling. The Warriors have the best offense in the NBA (114.1 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com) and the fifth best defense, and are outscoring opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions. It’s all historic if they can keep it up — the 72-win Bulls had two losses at this stage in the season, for comparison.
4) Jeff Green with a game-winning alley-oop dunk for the Grizzlies — the Suns find another way to lose. The game is tied, and there are 0.8 seconds left, if you’re Phoenix and defending the inbounds play the first thing you do is zone off and take away a lob pass to the rim (if someone beats you with a rushed, leaning jumper that’s one thing, but don’t give up the easy bucket). Phoenix failed at this, and Jeff Green made them pay with a Memphis win.
The Suns are not a terrible team (8-13) but they find more ways not to execute then get beat down the stretch than I thought existed.
5) Wesley Matthews is coming off a torn Achilles? He dropped 36 on the Wizards. He tied the Dallas record with 10 made threes in a game and was just phenomenal in Dallas beating the Jekyll and Hyde Wizards on the road.