Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Durant, Westbrook look fearsome

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There are so many good options on television these days. Personally, I’m just finishing up season three of House of Cards, am just a couple of episodes behind on The Knick (my current new favorite), Fargo is brilliant, and I’m a Top Chef addict. I fall behind on all of that because League Pass dominates my television this time of year, I even watched some of Nets/Sixers, so you don’t have to (and I’m not going to subject you to a recap). If you chose other shows, here’s what you missed on an NBA Thursday.

1) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be striking fear into the heart of the league. There are still a lot of things Billy Donovan and the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to work out — from the spacing Andre Roberson is on the court to the inconsistent bench play of Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and others — but they have the ultimate trump cards: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When those two are on the court together the Thunder outscore their opponents by 17.6 points per 100 possessions.

The Thunder played that trump card beautifully in beating the Hawks Thursday. Durant came out facilitating — he had five assists and took just one shot in the first quarter. The ball was moving for the Thunder — the team had 24 assists and Westbrook and Durant had 20 of them (10 each). Durant had his first triple-double of the season (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), and Westbrook had 23 points and 10 assists. What was impressive was they got those numbers in the flow of the offense, being efficient and getting everyone involved. If that keeps happening those other questions become almost moot.

2) Chicago keeps winning in spite of their offense. The Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 — it was all because of their defense. The Bulls had an offensive rating of 90.2, which pulled their season average down to 97.1 — only the Philadelphia 76ers are worse this season. Pau Gasol was his usual efficient self (24 points on 19 shots) but Jimmy Butler was 4-of-14, Joakim Noah 1-of-5, Nikola Mirotic‘s slump continued he was 2-of-8, Doug McDermott was 0-of-5. It wasn’t all the Clipper defense: Chicago shot 33 percent on uncontested looks, according to NBA.com. The Bulls are 12-8, but their point differential is that of a team barely over .500. The Bulls need Derrick Rose to pick his spots, they need to find offensive rotations that work, and they need to start knocking down their looks, or they will slide fast in an improved Eastern Conference. 

3) Rajon Rondo is back. The Rondo playing for the Sacramento Kings — the one that helped lead them to a 99-97 win over the Knicks — is the best Rondo we have seen since his days in Boston. He’s healthy, he still knows how to dish the rock, averaging 11 assists per game. But I wasn’t sure he still had this in him.

4) All-Star voting open. In case you missed it, voting is open for the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto come February, so of you want to cast your ballot for Nick Young or Elfrid Payton you can do it. 

There are roughly 8 million ways to vote: at NBA.com; through the NBA app on your phone; Twitter (use the hashtag #NBAVOTE); Facebook; Instagram; or you can text the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) on any wireless device. You also aren’t limited to one vote a day.

5) DeMarcus Cousins throws it down. Rajon Rondo wasn’t the only King player dunking on the Knicks Thursday.