(Photo by Torrey Purvey)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Stan Van Gundy isn’t one to mince words. The Detroit has no problem giving honest appraisals about almost any topic that is put to him.
But Van Gundy saves some of his most biting and frank comments about his team whenever they play below his expectations. That was the case Saturday when the Pistons travels to Oklahoma City.
Behind Russell Westbrook’s seventh triple double of the season the Thunder defeated the Pistons 106-88 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Van Gundy didn’t hold back on his assessment of his team’s performance.
“Our defense was pathetic,” Van Gundy said. “Pathetic. We didn’t compete. It’s mind boggling with how different we are home and on the road. We didn’t take care of any of the areas we were supposed to focus on. We made very little effort and Oklahoma City played a whole lot harder than us and deserved to win.”
Westbrook posted 17 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds to earn consecutive triple-doubles on back-to-back nights. It was also his 44th career triple-double, which ties him with Cleveland’s LeBron James. However, it took Westbrook 395 fewer games.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “I mean that’s really what he I. He’s a Hall of Fame player.”
The Thunder had five players score in double figures. Anthony Morrow came off the Thunder bench to lead the charge. He poured in a season-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Steven Adams added 16 points and nine rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 18 on only 10 shots as Oklahoma City improved to 10-8.
Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting. Ish Smith, who once played for the Thunder, posted 14 points and three assists. As a team, the Pistons collected only 11 assists, which was less than Westbrook by himself.
Detroit dropped to 8-10 overall. But what had the players and staff most perplexed is there 1-8 record on the road.
“For everybody, including myself, that goes out there on the floor, we have a job to do,” Harris said. “It’s all about team winning. It comes down to all of us being more focused, more drive to grind it out and get a win. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve proven we can do it at home. So it’s going to take that attitude at home to take it on the road and get a win.”
It was the combination of Westbrook and Morrow who helped the Thunder get off to a fast start against the Pistons. While Westbrook attacked the basket and pulled down rebounds, Morrow finally started to find his shot. After shooting 40 percent on the season, Morrow came off the bench and hit 3 of his first 5 shots.
“I love coming into the game and getting a layup or a free throw or a floater,” Morrow said. “It’s something I usually want to do before taking a 28-foot 3-pointer. Billy said he was going to use me on the some post ups so I was just ready for it before the game.”
But it was an entire team effort that allowed Oklahoma City to build its lead up to 18 points in the first half. Eight of the 10 players who touched the court scored.
However, the Pistons whittled away at the lead late in the second quarter. Morris, Harris and Aron Baynes led a charge to cut the deficit to 10 by halftime.
Oklahoma City didn’t help itself by barely shooting over 50 percent from the free throw line. This allowed the Pistons to get within four points in the third quarter.
But a late surge by Morrow pushed the Thunder advantage back to 77-68 heading into the fourth.
The Thunder didn’t allow the game to get any closer. The players took turns scoring at will against the Detroit defense.
At one point, Westbrook shook Caldwell-Pope on his way to a layup, and laughed as he ran back up court.
Oklahoma City outscored Detroit 29-20 in the fourth quarter to close out the game.
“”They are good, but we just didn’t do our jobs,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t make them make the plays we even wanted them to make. We didn’t do our jobs guys. Guys just did not do their jobs. We were bad, they were good. I thought it was actually worse than the final score indicated.”
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