By Connor MacKenzie @grandepadre94
The 3rd Quarter Oklahoma City Thunder is a scary sight. It seems that no matter how much they are up/down, or tied, the Thunder kick it into another gear and ramp up the intensity. Oklahoma City sweeps Orlando with 132-122 victory at the Peake. Down 69-62 at the half, Paul George had 3 fouls, and Oklahoma City was in serious trouble. Staying the course and cranking up the intensity on both sides of the ball, Oklahoma City was able to take a 98-92 lead heading to the 4th.
OKC was again lead by George with 39 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists (9-26 shooting, 15-16 FT). Russell Westbrook contributed with 14 points, 16 assists, and 15 rebounds (7th straight triple double). Westbrook was 5-14 from the field and 6-10 from the charity stripe. He continues to make consistent improvements night in and night out. It appears the game plan when the result is on the line is: get the ball to the hot hand, which is more often than not, Paul George.
Westbrook is a methodical player as is, but this season he has made it a focal point to get everybody involved, and take shots at the rim or midrange post-ups when in rhythm. This team has developed great chemistry at a pivotal time of the season, 2 top 10 players in the league, an ever-improving Steven Adams, and lastly a plethora of role players that have the confidence to step into big moments.
Grant chipped in 19 points and 11 boards.
The Thunder bench was outscored 40-34, 20 of those coming from Schroder.
For example, against Boston on Sunday down 5, Westbrook kicks an open layup for a right wing 3 to Jerami Grant who calmly knocked it down to make it a one possession game. Plays such as that, dishes to Abrines, Ferguson, and Patterson are just shades of how much trust Russ has in his teammates, but even more so the heightened level of confidence his teammates have. These are the types of trends that elite teams use to make deep runs in the playoffs. Last years Thunder team could not string these trends together because they lacked the pieces necessary. The additions of Noel and Schroder, the leap that Ferguson has taken, and the always reliant play of Grant cannot be overstated. This squad went through a difficult 6 game stretch shooting and defending and made the adjustments as good teams do.
No one questions the Thunder’s ability to defend on the perimeter and switching certain players, however, their rotations in help defense still remain an issue. Too many times Boston had wide open looks of cutters sitting under the basket. This is something that will knife up a defense in the playoffs and should be, if it hasn’t already, be addressed going forward.
The Thunder once again have 7 players with double figures, and a couple tunes of “fergalicious” whenever Terrance Ferguson makes a shot.
Oklahoma City shot at a 43 percent clip from deep (again), and 50 percent from the floor (27-37 FT). The Thunder shot incredible again and have now done so for nearly the last 2 months. The Magic were held to 30 percent shooting from deep, 47 percent for the game, and 27-34 from the charity stripe.