A Day To Remember: Rejuvenated Thunder Take Down Mavs
OKLAHOMA CITY - You can look at Thursday night's 104-89 win over the Mavericks in one of two ways if you're Oklahoma City.
The first is that it took until Feb. 19 before the Thunder found itself in the Western Conference playoff picture. The other way is that it took the Thunder just a single game after the All-Star Break to tie Phoenix for the eighth seed in the West and find itself in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Either way, the win capped a spectacular day for the Thunder, a day that saw OKC get considerably better—on paper at least—with trades that sent Kendrick Perkins to Utah and Reggie Jackson to Detroit in exchange for a quartet of players, highlighted by Utah's Enes Kanter.
Although, the trades left OKC without a backup point guard or a true center Thursday night, thanks as well to the injury to Steven Adams before the break. Neither issue mattered to the Thunder, as Oklahoma City dominated the glass, 62-39, and Russell Westbrook was sensational once again.
Westbrook finished with a double-double of 34 points and 10 assists, his fourth such game of the season. His production made up for an off night from Kevin Durant, who finished the game 4-of-14 for 12 points. Durant was just 1-of-11 after the first quarter and finished the game limping considerably once again. The Thunder maintained it was just soreness when this happened against Memphis, and that with Durant's surgery in October, it was to be expected. Still, it was not exactly comforting to see Durant hobbling so much.
As for OKC's dominance on the boards, Serge Ibaka led the charge by notching his first career 20-20 game, scoring 21 points and hauling down a career-high 22 rebounds. Ibaka has drawn a lot of criticism this year for stepping so far away from the basket and becoming more of a 3-point threat. Ibaka's rebounding numbers and free throws are down considerably this year but Thursday, he didn't take a single 3-point shot, and his consistent presence in the paint paid huge dividends for OKC, as evidenced by his career game.
Dealing Reggie Jackson seemed to lift a big weight off the Thunders' shoulders. The energy from the team out of the locker room was excellent, and the Thunder played a terrific first half en route to a 52-36 lead at halftime. The player who benefited the most—at least on Thursday—seemed to be Anthony Morrow, who scored 16 points off the bench. 14 of those came in the second quarter, and Morrow took 11 shots in the first half. He'd only taken 10 or more shots in 12 games all season.
Morrow is a shooter, first and foremost, and in a second unit with Jackson and Dion Waiters, both players who need the ball in their hands, Morrow was often left out in the cold. With pass-first point guard D.J. Augustin coming in to run the second unit going forward, Morrow looks to benefit considerably from the trades.
Both teams looked like they had just come off the All-Star Break. Dallas shot just 36.3 percent from the field while OKC wasn't much better at 41.8 percent. The Thunder had 22 turnovers and the Mavericks coughed it up 17 times, although Dallas had just five turnovers after halftime, which made the game much more competitive in the fourth quarter.
The additions will go through physicals on Friday, but their status for Saturday's game in Charlotte against the Hornets has not been determined. Regardless of whether or not those new pieces will play for the Thunder on Saturday, Thursday is a day that will be remembered as the day that changed the Thunder's season.