The New Orleans Pelicans, lead by star Anthony Davis, have had a pretty interesting season thus far in the NBA–but so have the Oklahoma City Thunder and company.
On Wednesday night,these two squads matched up in the Big Easy.
The Pelicans had just come off recently ending the Atlanta Hawks’ record 19-game winning streak and so you would think that the momentum and power would be in their favor–but Russell Westbrook went out of his way to show them that they had another thing coming.
Westbrook lit up Smoothie King Center for 45 points, six rebounds, and six assists as he played dark horse for the Thunder and led OKC to a 102-91 victory.
Here are three things we learned from the Thunder and their dominating performance:
1. THUNDER STRUCK
If there’s been any team that has had to deal with tremendous injuries to some of their best players it would be Oklahoma City. At the start of the season, Russell Westbrook was going to have to try and lead the team to a half-decent point in the season before Kevin Durant could make a return from an off-season injury.
Unfortunately, Westbrook suffered a small fracture in his hand early on in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. This put the Thunder in a dangerous predicament as they needed to seriously climb the standings in a short amount of time to even have any chance of making the post-season in an absolutely stacked Western Conference.
Up to this point, what Russell Westbrook has helped establish in OKC is a legacy of never saying never. When Durant went out, the critics laughed. When Westbrook went out next, the critics laughed even harder. But now that the Thunder have somehow resurrected to a 25-24 record and sit just outside of the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, the Thunder are seriously poised to get the last laugh.
2. OKC’S MORROW COMPASS
Having a strong bench is essential to having a championship caliber team–so I think you can guess where I’m going with this and what it is that the Thunder have in their possession.
Coming off of the bench Wednesday, Anthony Morrow (SG) dropped 14 points (including two three-pointers) seven rebounds, and one assist. Morrow took full advantage of the 34 minutes he was gifted with against the Pelicans and has seemed to prove that he will be in need of more minutes as the season progresses.
The Thunder need to make sure they don’t lose sight of consistency. With the injuries to Durant and Westbrook, the rest of the squad might be letting things get to their head, and if that happens, then there’s nothing left to expect but an epic collapse.
If it came to that, the stars may collide and furthermore may decide to part ways.
And I guarantee you the last thing Thunder fans want is split ends after this season.
3. THE EYE OF THE STORM
The Thunder find themselves currently tenth overall in the Western Conference. Holding their position pretty firmly, they can really only go up from here. They rest just one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for ninth place and only two-and-a-half behind the Phoenix Suns for the final spot.
There’s not a whole lot of realistic chance that the Thunder will catch the Portland Trail Blazers for the Northwest Division crown, at least not the way the season’s been going so far, but anything is possible so I’ll hold my breath on that end.
The only reason OKC might even have a shot at the Northwest title is the fact that Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge is going to have to give in to getting surgery on his thumb at some point and when that happens the Trail Blazers will not be at full strength.
The Blazers currently rest at fourth in the Western Conference standings, so the Aldridge injury affects much more than just one or two teams. Other key injuries include Rajon Rondo of the Dallas Mavericks (facial fractures) and Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets (knee issues)–both the Mavs and the Rockets hold lower positions than Portland.
What this boils down to is a golden opportunity for the Thunder to come back stronger and louder than ever. Kevin Durant is currently nursing a second injury so it will be up to Russell Westbrook & Co. to make the most of what they’ve been given.
Time to hear the Thunder roar.