For the second game in a row the Thunder's bench was the deciding factor. Tonight we were treated to a game in which the bench came out and scored 33 points, 29 in the first half, and helped get the team back from a early deficit. I was thoroughly impressed with almost every single member of the squad in this blowout win.
Full disclosure here, I might be the biggest Deron Williams fan you've ever met, so it's obvious that I was very impressed with how well Russell Westbrook played tonight. Let's take a look at both of the point guards stat lines.
Williams: 14 points, 11 assists, 4 turnovers, 0-for-4 from three.
Westbrook: 33 points, 10 assists, 2 turnovers, 4-for-4 from three.
I cannot believe that Williams, the guy I think is the best point guard in the league, was outplayed this badly on his home court. Westbrook absolutely hounded him on both sides of the ball, which can be best seen in his electrifying fourth quarter crossover that left Williams searching for his jock strap.
This is probably the best I've seen Westbrook play in his entire career; he was by far the best player on the court. This is the kind of performance that makes people question whether or not he is a better player than Kevin Durant.
Speaking of Durant, he also had a very solid game, picking up yet another double-double. I must say that if he can continue to rebound at this rate OKC may be able to overcome their size deficiency. If he's able to gobble up rebounds while guys like Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green are blocking their guys out it's going to help keep teams from destroying them with second chance points.
Green had another good scoring night, getting 20 points on almost perfect shooting. His recent string of great shooting performances is one of the big reasons the Thunder have won five of their last six.
As I mentioned, the bench played admirably again tonight. The biggest contributors were James Harden and Eric Maynor. Harden filled the stat sheet again with 14 points, 6 boards and 5 assists. Some people are calling for him to break into the starting lineup, but I really think we need to keep either him or Green on the second team to give them a bonafide scorer to lean on.
Maynor dropped 10 points on perfect shooting and added 3 assists. Serge Ibaka didn't have a great game statistically, but his work on Al Jefferson helped turn the tide in the first half.
As per usual, I have to mention Nick Collison. Tonight I'm not going to mention how great he played, but how tough he is. After halftime he came back out on the floor with six stitches. I don't know about you, but if I had six stitches on my chin I don't think I would come back out and play. His toughness as a veteran leader is something you can't help but love to see.
With his veteran leadership and Durant and Westbrook's accession to superstardom it's not out of the question that this squad could make a big run in the playoffs.
Before I finish I want to mention a couple of Jazz players that impressed me; most notably Paul Millsap. As I said at the first of the season, I think that the Jazz might be one of the best teams in the West due to their quality bigs.
Millsap had a monster night, going off for 34 points, 10 boards and 6 assists. It was almost like he couldn't miss. His partner in crime, Al Jefferson, added 21 points and 8 boards. Usually that kind of production from your bigs is a sure sign of a "W," but the big boys couldn't get any help from the bench.
Tonight's contest seems to be a payback game from the first game in this series, in which the Jazz blew the Thunder out in Oklahoma City. Last night I said I would love to see the Suns and Thunder play a seven-game series, but I think I'd rather see these two division rivals play a series.
The two teams both have elite point guards, but very differing play styles. Hopefully if it happens we get some closer games and see Deron Williams play up to Russell Westbrook's level.
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