So, the Thunder big men, the Stache Brothers, are back at it.
And this time Andre Roberson joins the fun.
For most of the NBA, it was getaway night before the All-Star break, with 28 teams in action. Here are the three stories we pulled out as worth knowing from the busy night around the league.
1) Russell Westbrook’s triple-double enough to out duel Carmelo Anthony, Knicks. This looked like Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks’ night to start. While the Thunder started out ice-cold shooting, hitting just 1-of-10, Anthony made Adam Silver look smart for picking him as an All-Star and could not miss. Oklahoma City had assigned their best wing defender in Andre Roberson on Anthony and Roberson was doing his job — Anthony was not getting shots from his spots on the floor, and everything was contested. Didn’t matter. Anthony started the game 7-of-7 and had 19 points in the first quarter on his way to an eventual 30 points.
The Knicks even got a little defensive help inside from Kristaps Porzingis.
Then Russell Westbrook started doing Russell Westbrook things.
The MVP candidate finished with his 27th triple-double of the season: 38 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists, shooting 13-of-22. It was another powerful performance in a powerful season from Westbrook.
2) Suns’ Derrick Jones Jr. finally dunks in an NBA game. Looking for someone to challenge Aaron Gordon in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, the NBA went deep in the Suns’ bench to get Derrick Jones Jr. — a rookie who can dunk but has now only played 24 minutes all season, spending most of his time in the D-League. But in limited minutes against the Lakers Wednesday night, Jones got loose and threw down three big dunks.
Consider this a little All-Star Saturday taste.
3) Raptors come from 17 down to start fourth to win. Serge Ibaka didn’t suit up in a battle of struggling teams, and for three quarters the Raptors showed why they needed him — the lane was clogged, the offense couldn’t hit shots, and the entire thing was like watching an elephant walk through mud. Charlotte, maybe more desperately needing a win than Toronto, had built a 17-point lead after three quarters behind 20 points (to that point) from Kemba Walker.
Then Raptors coach Dwane Casey started the fourth using a lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll, Delon Wright, Cory Joseph, and Jakob Poeltl, and they went on a 24-2 run to regain the lead. What I love is that Casey rode the hot hand — he didn’t go back to DeRozan or Jonas Valanciunas or Norman Powell, those guys stayed glued to the bench and the five that started the run stayed in. And sealed up a much-needed win for Toronto 90-85.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are not a bad team. Saturday night in prime time Russell Westbrook showed why he should be in the thick of the MVP race, scoring 47 points with 11 rebounds and eight assists.
But the Thunder’s offense and depth of talent are simply not good enough to compete with the Golden State Warriors. You know, the team Kevin Durant left the Thunder to play for.
Thunder fans got their cathartic chance to lustily boo Durant, and those same fans had moments to cheer, but a focused Warriors team was just far too much for the hometown heroes on the court and cruised to a 130-114 win.
As for all those boos, it didn’t bother Durant who had 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, plus pulled down nine rebounds on the night.
“I actually thought it would be a little louder,” Durant said of the boos in a televised postgame interview. “It was fun, I was on the other side of it but to become one of these guys where they boo you is kind of fun. I got to embrace it, that’s all I can do, and keep playing my game, keep preparing the way I prepare, and enjoy every game.”
Emotions were high. Durant jawed with Westbrook at one point, and went face-to-face with Andre Roberson at another. Draymond Green had words with a fan behind the Thunder bench. But none of that mattered on the court.
What was clear from early on is that as great as Westbrook played, you could see why Durant left for a better team.
Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry each had 26 points, and while the Thunder defense tried to focus on those three JaVale McGee cut to the rim and got 16 points. McGee got exposed on defense plenty in this game, but it was part of the theme where that didn’t matter because of how good he made their offense. As a team, the Warriors shot 52.9 percent for the game.
The big difference, the Warriors shot 41.9 percent from three and hit 13 from deep, the Thunder hit just six and shot 25 percent.
The Thunder scored 50 points on 53 first half possessions, but the Warriors already had 73 points. OKC could never begin to close that gap.
Westbrook had 47 and played smart, driving hard at the Warriors big men and then either drawing them into fouls or dishing to open men. It was a tour de force.
The Thunder fans made the arena feel like it was a playoff game. At least to start. But it just didn’t matter as the Warriors team as a whole embraced the challenge. And when the Warriors are shooting like that, is there any team that can beat them?
The game on the court wasn’t much of a contest, Golden State with Kevin Durant is clearly a better team than Oklahoma City. The Warriors won by 16 and it wasn’t that close.
And it showed itself when Draymond Green argued with a Thunder fan behind his team’s bench.
Green should be smarter than to be lured in by these things.
Police were there, but nothing impacted what happened on the court.
It was not much of a play. But the emotions of the game and in the building made it something.
The Warriors Kevin Durant drove the lane, he was bodied up by Andre Roberson of the Thunder as he did. Roberson was rightfully called for the foul, but Durant fell awkwardly into the stanchion. As the two principles walked away, they had words, which led to a lot of people getting involved.
So who got the technical? Andre Iguodala. Obviously.
Mostly, this is much ado about nothing.