vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS (W 110-93):
31 MINS | 15 PTS (7/13 FG, 1/2 FT) | 10 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK
vs NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (W 118-110):
29 MINS | 13 PTS (6/10 FG, 1/5 FT) | 10 REB | 3 PF
vs UTAH JAZZ (W 109-106):
27 MINS | 2 PTS (1/6 FG, 0/2 FT) | 6 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PF
at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, 4.30pm Friday (NZT)
at PHOENIX SUNS, 3.00pm Saturday (NZT)
at DALLAS MAVERICKS, 2.30pm Monday (NZT)
vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, 2.00pm Wednesday (NZT)
vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS (W 110-93)
First game out of the break and the Thunder got a good look at the Lakers, a team currently deep in the tank trying to keep their draft pick. So, no, this wasn’t likely to be all that competitive. But the game had big relevance for a couple other reasons as Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott played their first games for OKC since being traded from Chicago. The buggers didn’t even get a chance to practice with their team first, though they sure made a good impression…
Not only that but Enes Kanter made his return from that broken forearm. Having said that, he shot 2/12 for 4 points so that’s probably the last you’ll hear of him in this game recap. Salve your Kanter withdrawals with some more Steve Chat:
Alex Abrines got the start with Victor Oladipo out injured with back spasms and the Spanish rookie – making his first bow in the starting five – looked sharp. He’s been playing really well lately (little known fact: his pick was part of the Harden trade, meaning Adams is not alone there) and he scored a career high 19 points, the legend. Andre Roberson also scored 19 points and that was also a career high.
Three minutes into the game, Adams slammed down a dunk from a Westbrook feed to put the Thunder up 7-5. Believe it or not, that was the final lead change of the contest, although it wouldn’t be until the third quarter when OKC completely pulled away into untouchable territory. It was Adams who gave way to Gibson for the first time, Billy Donovan’s rotation making room for a few minutes of Adams and Kanter playing together before Gibson slotted in as a traditional power forward. Adams then swapped for Kanter later in the following quarter and this was a trend we saw in other games this week as well.
Kiwi Steve went and scored 11 points in the first half. Not required so much for his offence in the back couple quarters, he got Oklahoma City on the board in the third quarter but would only add one more bucket all night. By the time the team returned to him in the fourth all that was needed was a strong defensive showing to stem any late flurry from the Lakers and that’s what he provided, grabbing in enough rebounds to complete his own double-double and blocking a D’Angelo Russell floater for fun.
It was good value. Four of the five OKC starters scored at least 15 points with Gibson adding 12 off the bench as well – Adams was +24 from the field and that was only the fourth best on the team. Westbrook didn’t have his shot going at all on a 4/18 FG night but he was a playmaker extraordinaire with 18 rebounds and 17 assists. Count it as TD #28 for the season. Check out the stat stuffing from Adams as well with 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
As for the poor Lakers, who shot 39.6% from the field, obviously they’ve been (intentionally) weakened by trading away Lou Williams, but Russell did add 29 points while Jerome Randle had 13p & 11r.
Thunder Digest: “Oklahoma City out rebounded the Lakers 59-51 and were the more physical team in the paint. Westbrook and Adams combined for 28 rebounds alone. The Thunder had a businesslike performance on the glass.”
Daily Thunder: “Steven Adams had a solid night with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Good job mate.”
vs NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (W 118-110)
Ahh, what a game coming so soon after the All Star Break and the Trade Deadline! It was the restocked Thunder hosting the suddenly relevant Pelicans with their Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis frontcourt on show for everyone to see. Well Steven Adams has had some very fun matchups with both of those dudes, so this was bound to be a good watch – even if the Pels hadn’t exactly hit the ground running into the future (Cousins and Davis, sure, but aside from Jrue Holiday there’s nothing else there at all).
True to expectations, this happened a mere 34 seconds into the contest:
That’s the 18th tech of the season for DeMarcus and it meant a one game suspension would follow. Silly bloke, although he’s had his struggles restraining himself against Adams before, of course (it was a double tech so Adams got one too). Don’t ever say Stevie doesn’t play the refs either…
The Ringer: “The easiest way to guard Cousins is to send him to the bench, so opposing big men are constantly taking cheap shots at him and trying to get under his skin. After seven years of a running feud with the league’s officials that would make Rasheed Wallace proud, Cousins never gets the benefit of the doubt in those situations. He’s the boy who cried wolf. His temper is something he will have to get under control if he’s ever going to succeed in the pressure cooker of a playoff series. Imagine what would have happened if Cousins had been in Adams’s shoes during last year’s Western Conference finals.”
So that was the early excitement out of the way, after that it was down to the business of getting buckets. Pretty soon after the double tech, Adams finished a layup driving at the hoop and drew a foul from Cousins, though he missed the free throw. He’d miss from nine feet next chance he got but whipped up a couple rebounds and dunked in after Sabonis missed from three for a 6-5 lead, very much in the spotlight for the first couple minutes.
Meanwhile another foul meant Cousins sat down with 10:24 left in the first. Adams stuck around much longer before Taj Gibson gave him a breather and by the time he’d grabbed his towel Kiwi Steve already had 8 points and 5 rebounds. Yet they were losing and the reason for that was Anthony Davis. The Brow scored an insane 24 points in the first quarter, making up for Cousins’ absence with some serious scoring, although threes from Abrines (becoming an increasingly common thing – he started again with Oladipo out) and Roberson (!!!) as well as some Enes Kanter scoring closed things to 33-32 at the end of 1Q.
Boogie came back and scored 14 points in the second quarter. The very first possession after Adams re-entered Cousins chucked one in from five feet. Again though what was a 48-40 Pelicans lead got chipped away at over the back end of the quarter and some timely Abrines buckets in particular helped that. Adams fouled Cousins for two FTs and then again for an and-one that got cashed in so not the best finish for him. Still as HT sounded a turnover each allowed the score to stay level at 59-59.
Also, this was strange…
No team would get a lead bigger than four points in the third, a quarter that started with technical fouls on Alvin Gentry (NOP coach) and Solomon Hill from the end of the first half. The fourth quarter? Yeah that was a different story. Having shot 7/19 in the first three, Russell Westbrook caught fire with 7/10 shooting in the last frame on the way to 21 points all on his own. That’s a career high for him (even if Anthony Davis topped that in the firstie) and it was an utterly match-winning effort.
It wouldn’t be until about five minutes left that Adams made his 4Q appearance. Thing is, with Cousins limited by fouls he wasn’t as necessary and the Pelicans’ lack of depth is such that Billy Donovan could ride with other scorers… like Enes Kanter for one. The Other Stache Bro only went and scored 20 points with 9 boards off the bench, doing it in a mere 24 minutes too.
Which is three minutes more than DeMarcus Cousins played for his 31p & 10r – including 15/15 free throw shooting. Steven Adams could take a few tips, bookmark that thought. Because when Stevie checked in, the Thunder led 105-97. Cousins got it back within a point and then this happened…
Maybe the biggest impact Stevie had was with that screen on Davis there and the dunk from Russ… you beauty!
NewsOK: “Adams also called the dunk “crazy,” though he was not a primary source. “I didn't even get to see it. Sucks. My back was to it. I heard the bang and was like, aw, missed it.””
Oh and that was Cousins’ final foul, ending his game prematurely. OKC closed it out after that although it could have been even more comfortable had Adams made his free throws. He missed two with 100 seconds left, drawing his fury towards those feisty rims.
If you’re not too good at lip-reading, don’t worry it’s a little NSFW anyway. Here’s Sport Illustrated translate:
“What he said was: "I f---ing hate you so much." Adams proceeded to over-compensate and left the next attempt short, proving once and for all that, like my my other always says, getting angry doesn't solve anything.”
He’s still at 65% for the season from the line but that’s a big drop back towards the mean from where he was early on. In his first 23 games he shot 77.0% … in his last 19 he’s shot 51.6% and only 48% in his last five.
Anthony Cousins scored 38 points while Westbrook overtook him down the stretch for 41 to cap his fourth 40+ point triple-double this season, what with 11 assists and 11 rebounds as well. Adams had 13p & 10r with 9 of those rebounds on the offensive end and Abrines scored 13 as a starter, not bad. After Cousins (31) and Davis (38), the next best scorer for New Orleans was 10 from E’twaun Moore and that’s why they dropped to 0-3 since the big trade.
ESPN: “You don't even realize it, bro, to be honest," Steven Adams said of his teammate Westbrook. "You're just more worried making sure you're in the right spots and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, good job from him.”
Royce Young/Daily Thunder: “The Thunder’s defense on Davis steadily improved. I thought Taj Gibson’s was especially important, because it took Davis out of a ridiculous early rhythm. Then it was Adams, some Jerami Grant, more Gibson and finally Adams. Davis is such a monster, and there’s no great way to guard him, but just trying to make him take jumpers over physical defenders is probably the best way to do it. And OKC had a bunch of guys to throw at him.”
vs UTAH JAZZ (W 109-106)
And thus we have the win over Utah. A big win that cuts a gap on a team a few games ahead of them in the standings… but not a game that Steven Adams gets to remember fondly. In fact this might have been his worst game all season. Hey, everyone has a bad day at the office now and then and Adams has been remarkably consistent most of this campaign. But up against Rudy Gobert he definitely struggled.
Shooting 1/6 from the field, missing both free throws and only getting six rebounds after averaging 9.5 a game since returning from his concussion in mid-January. There was a 3-board game against Golden State in there but he scored 13 points that day, not 2. There was a 2-point scoring game in November against the Clippers but he had 11 rebounds that day.
He did chime in with a couple other ways to influence the game though. There was a block on Rodney Hood very early, as well as two 1Q assists (to Roberson and Westbrook, both for threes). He didn’t have a single FGA until a dunk with 1:30 left in the second quarter though, ending the half getting blocked by Gobert.
Also, this is quite hard to defend:
By the way, three of Steve’s rebounds came in the space of 38 third quarter seconds and one of those was an offensive grab after one of his several missed shots. Still, while he was out there battling, the rest of the team were popping threes all over the show with a magnificent 15 of 22 record for the contest (making their first 12 in a row, something that hasn’t happened for almost 20 years). Westbrook was 6/9, Abrines made all three of his and Dougie McBuckets made his first real impact on his new teams with four threes and 16 points overall from the bench. Now that the Thunder suddenly have some real scoring off the pines, they’re a scary prospect for plenty of other sides – up until now it’d been a disaster as soon as Russ sat down, they’re mostly unstoppable while he’s out there so maintaining those runs is now a possibility.
Thunder Digest: “In a night where Roberson and Adams played their tail off defensively, they only chipped in a combined five points. That is where Oklahoma City’s bench came in huge. They combined for 48 bench points on 60 percent shooting from the floor. In particular, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott were the ones with the biggest contribution, combining for 31 of those 48 points.”
Playing tails off is probably an exaggeration but we expect those two to hold their own defensively with most dudes so it doesn’t quite excuse the rest of it but yeah. A bad Steven Adams game is probably better than a good, say… Tarik Black game. Just like a bad Russell Westbrook game is better than 90% of the rest of the league’s best efforts.
Westbrook was a madman, as he so often is. 43 points and another triple-double, they needed every bit of it as well. With 5:56 to play in the third, Gibson replaced Adams in between Westbrook free throws that would expand the lead to 72-62. Enes Kanter went and completed a three-point play quickly after. When Adams pulled off the trackies again with 7:20 on the clock, they were still up 11. That’s the script, aye?
Except the Jazz went wild towards the close. It was Ryan Gosling improvising in La La Land or whatever. Steve was able to block Gobert for one of the French Rejection’s rare misses on a 6/9 night, 13 points and 10 rebounds with 3 blocks of his own. But Grant Hill scored a few and Rodney Hood drilled form deep. Adams stole one from Gobert but missed from seven feet on the subsequent possession. He got his own rebound and drew the foul but Russ missed a shot. Then the Thunder recovered it and Adams drew another foul from Gobert to get into the bonus… only for him to miss both free throws (you know how he hates those rims).
That was at 96-92. Joe Johnson then made a three and Kanter came in to replace Adams.
Within a minute the Jazz had their first lead in ages and Adams came back in. Gobert’s layup with 1:17 left put Utah up 104-100 and things looked bleak. And then Westbrook scored 8 points in 54 seconds and the Thunder escaped with a victory. Brilliant game to watch, to be fair.
NewsOK: “After sharpshooter Alex Abrines fouled jump shooters on back-to-back possessions deep in the fourth quarter, Donovan opted for a defensive-minded lineup of Gibson, Steven Adams, Jerami Grant and Andre Roberson with Westbrook in the final minutes.
“They were switching and trying to put us in some binds, so I just made a decision at that point to kinda go all defense coming down the stretch, and tried to put our best guys out there,” Donovan said. “Maybe it goes against convention when you're down by four — you think you need offense. But I thought we needed to get a couple of stops.””
ODDS & ENDS
Hoops Habit: “Per NBA Stats, the Kanter-Adams lineup has a plus-11.0 rating in 321 minutes this season, with a rebounding rate of 58.1 percent, good enough to lead the league by nearly 5 percent when compared with the other 29 teams in the NBA.”