Westbrook, Thunder stomp out Rockets

Photo by Torrey Purvey

By Michael Kinney, Eyeamtruth.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – When Russell Westbrook is on the court, he doesn’t have much compassion. The same man that was handing out Thanksgiving dinners to the poor Tuesday night, was trying to rip the heart out of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

So when the Thunder needed a play to be made, Westbrook wasn’t going to do it nicely. The 6-3 point guard came up with a crowd erupting dunk to preserve the 105-103 victory over the Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“I just stay in attack mode,” Westbrook said. “I’m honest with myself and I’m honest about my game and what I’m able to do at a high level. Getting to the basket is something I do well. That’s what I try to do.”

Westbrook scored 30 points on 9 of 20 from the field to go with nine assists and seven rebounds. He also shot 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.

Thunder guard Victor Oladipo posted 29 points and 10 rebounds. No other player from Oklahoma City scored in double figures as they broke a four game losing streak.

“We were just getting good looks, shooting with confidence, starting to get comfortable,” Oladipo said. “Lots of guy’s shots are going in and just shooting it with confidence.”

The Rockets had seven players score at least 10 points. Ryan Anderson led the charge with 14 points. James Harden added 13 points and 13 assists. Eric Gordon and Clint Capela also scored 13 points in the loss.

The Rockets shot 48 percent from the field for the game. However, they managed on 6 of 21 shooting in the pivotal fourth quarter.

“We got the looks that we like, the looks that we’re going to take,” Houston’s Trevor Ariza said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t hit them tonight. We felt like we gave this one away. But they were the hungry team tonight. They came out did what they needed to do.”

With 5:38 left in the fourth, Westbrook nailed a corner 3-pointer to cut Rockets lead down to 100-97. Oklahoma City came up empty on their next three possessions before Oladipo tied the game with another 3-pointer.

Harden missed a jumper and the Thunder came down and took advantage with a Westbrook to Andre Roberson alley-oop dunk to give Oklahoma City a 102-100 advantage with 1:43 left.

Houston got the ball with a one minutes on the clock. Harden passed to Trevor Ariza, who missed a 3-pointer from in front of the Thunder bench.

Oklahoma City got the rebound and Westbrook was fouled. He missed 1-of-2 from the line as the Thunder went ahead by 3.

Harden missed a 3-pointer but the Rockets got the loose ball. However, they threw it away trying to set up another 3-point attempt.

Oklahoma City threw the ball inbounds with 12.4 on the clock. Alex Abrines got the ball and drove to the rim instead of making the Rockets foul him. He missed the layup and the ball went out of bounds.

After a replay, the ball was given to Oklahoma City. This time the ball went to Westbrook, who drove straight to the rim and threw down a ferocious dunk on the Rockets Clint Capela, who stands 6-foot-10. But that didn’t seem to bother Westbrook as he put the game to sleep.

“I It don’t matter,” Westbrook said. “The game is on the line. You get blocked or you make a dunk. It’s one or the other. Fortunately it went in and closed the game for us.”

After a string of subpar games, Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams started out the night looking to have an impact offensively. He hit his first three shots for a quick six points in the first quarter.

The combination of Adams, Oladipo and Westbrook combined to score 23 first-quarter points as the Thunder took 38-32 lead.

It was the Rockets bench that got them back into the game after being down by 13 points. The 3-point shooting of Anderson, Ariza and Sam Dekker gave the Rockets a five-point lead in the second quarter.

However, Westbrook and Oladipo stayed hot and carried the Thunder to a 65-63 halftime advantage. The Oklahoma City backcourt had combined for 35 points on 13 of 19 shooting.

What made the Rockets offensive outburst so impressive was that Harden wasn’t looking for his shot. By the end of the third quarter, he had only 11 points. However, he was controlling the game with his passing like a veteran point guard and not just a guard who plays the point.

However, the Rockets could have used more of the scoring guard, but harden admitted his shot just wasn’t falling and had nothing to do with defense of Andre Roberson.

“I missed shots,” Harden said. “Normal game, just didn’t make shots. Especially down the stretch when we needed to.”

Harden, Rockets will test Thunder defense


By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — After starting the season with a 6-1 record, the Oklahoma City Thunder were being looked at as the surprise team in the NBA. A week later, the Thunder are in a tailspin, riding a four-game losing streak.
That is the situation that awaits the Thunder (6-5) when they play host to the Houston Rockets (6-4) on Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The latest loss came Monday night when Thunder traveled to Detroit on the second night of a back-to-back. Near the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, Oklahoma City allowed the Pistons to go on a 23-6 run. It was an uphill battle from that point on, and Detroit emerged with a 104-88 victory.
“Defensively we started with really good energy,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “In fairness to our guys, you can always expect on a back-to-back that you’re going to be a bit leg weary. Generally that’s going to affect your offense. Sometimes on back-to-backs you can’t put stock or onus on having a great offensive output, but you have to hang your hat on your defense.”
Oklahoma City’s defense is getting precipitately worse, but it hasn’t just been against teams such as the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Clippers.
The Thunder’s last two defeats came at the hands of the Orlando Magic and Detroit, clubs that rank in the bottom seven in the NBA in scoring. Each team managed to score over a 100 against the Thunder.
“We’re one of the top teams in the league when we play defensively,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook told The Oklahoman. “So I’m not really worried about who’s playing and who’s not.”
Having issues with defense, however, is not a good problem to have with the Rockets in town. Houston is 10th in the league in scoring at 107.8 points per game and fifth in 3-point shooting at 37 percent.
Houston has not had a problem putting up points this season. The Rockets are coming off a 115-88 plastering of the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
“I thought they came out with the right intensity, they came out the way they should have,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We talked about it and came out in the second half the way we should have. That way we got some good rest. I saw a lot of good things.”
The Rockets might get even stronger Wednesday with the possible return of guard Patrick Beverley, who has been out since the preseason after undergoing left knee surgery.
Beverley and the Thunder have a history that goes back to when he crashed into Westbrook’s knee during the 2013 postseason. Westbrook ended up with a torn meniscus that cost him the rest of the postseason. Thunder fans catapulted Beverley to the top of their most hated list, which he has held onto since then.
Against the 76ers, Rockets guard James Harden posted 33 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. He is now one of only three players in history to average at least 30 points and 10 assists through 10 games. Harden was also named Western Conference Player of the Week.
However, Harden seems to be more focused on making sure his team plays the right way.
“We’re getting better game by game, and defensively we’re getting better and offensively has been better, too,” Harden told ESPN.com. “We take it one game at a time. These next three games will be extremely tough; we’ll be all right as long as we continue to do the things we’ve been working on.”
Asked his assessment of the Thunder in the wake of Kevin Durant exit in free agency, Harden said, “It’s Russ. It’s Russ, and it’s a one-man show.”

Sooners prepared for early season road test


By Michael Kinney

The first weekend of the college football schedule kicks off with a avalanche of top-shelf games. Several contests feature both teams ranked in the top 20, to make this one of the most exciting opening weekends in recent history.

Many credit the College Football Playoffs as the impetus for creating such early season matchups.

However, for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, this is nothing new. He has often stated that the Sooners have schedule top competition since he arrived in Norman.

That is the case once again as the third-ranked Sooners will take on No. 15 Houston Saturday at the NGR Stadium, where the hashtag #Htowntakeover originated.

“It’s all I’ve been thinking about,” Jordan Evans said. “Been looking forward to it since last year. I was talking today and said we play Saturday. There is no more waiting. It’s actually here. I’m very excited just looking forward to it. I’m sure it’s going to be very loud and energetic. Houston fans and Oklahoma fans that travel will make it a good atmosphere. It makes it more fun for me to play in and hopefully another good memory I’ll have.”

But Stoops does admit, playing a Cougars squad that captured the nation’s attention and hearts last year does give his team a little pep in its step.

“You can tell there is probably more of a sense of urgency,” Stoops said. “I think our guys are always excited to start the season. Anxious to get out there for the first time.”

The game will kick off at 11 a.m., a prospect Stoops has had issues with in the past. But it doesn’t seem to bother the Sooners as they fight their way back to the CFP Final Four for the second consecutive year.

“I’m Very excited,” senior Ahmad Thomas said. “I am always excited to go out and play a game at Oklahoma.”

Houston is the first of three top-25 teams Oklahoma will face in its first four games. But they may also be the most dangerous because they have the least to lose and the most to prove.

Houston is still trying to make an impression on the Big 12 to prove they deserve a seat at the conferences table. A win over the prohibited favorite to win the Bog 12 title would go a long away.

The Cougars enter the game with one of the most dynamic players in the country. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. only started playing the position a month into last season. But since then he has elevated his stature among coaches who are now tasked with trying to stop the elusive signal caller.

Ward finished last season with 21 rushing touchdowns, 17 passing TDs and a combined 3,936 yards.

“You don’t have a lot of quarterbacks that you’re going to see that have his type of potential to move around in the pocket like that,” Steven Parker said of Ward. “To move in general. There’s going to be a lot of QB run game. A lot of extra time in the pocket, trying to get him bottled up. That’s something different we haven’t seen in a while.

However, Oklahoma is one of the few teams in the country that can counter the magic of Ward. Baker Mayfield returns for his second year under center for the Sooners and looks to be even more impressive with a full offseason as the starter under his belt.

“Baker Mayfield’s doing great,” Stoops said. “Been a great leader. He’s so much more comfortable. Rightfully so. He’s been in the leadership position.”

Stoops also sees that Mayfield and Ward are comparable to what they do on the field and bring to their respective teams.

“It tells you they are talented guys,” Stoops said of Ward and Mayfield. “They’re smart guys. You can see that. Both give you trouble scrambling around with their legs. Just talented players is the No. 1 thing you can say about them both.”

Whether it was against a dangerous team like the Cougars or a DII cupcake, the Sooners just wanted to get back on the field and play.

“Personally, I’m very excited to be out there,” Parker said. “The wait is over. Finally. We finally get to play some football. Football season is here. I’m excited. The change is going to be great. Finally we are getting out there and getting to butt heads with a different team. It’s going to be great. It’s a big opening weekend. College football is here. It’s a very exciting atmosphere. It’s in Houston, so we already know it’s going to be a hostile crowd. It’s going to be sold out. Blood is going to be pumping. Let’s get it going.”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑