Those three straight losses now seem like a distant memory as the Thunder put together their second straight convincing win, this time over the Washington Wizards. With much of the attention surrounding Kevin Durant’s return home to Washington DC, it was the Thunder’s overall dominance of the Wizards which was the true story-line. For the second straight game, the Thunder took over the game early and maintained that lead throughout the game.
Despite the encouraging win, Kevin Durant did not play the second half as he cam down awkwardly off of a fast-break layup and injured his left hamstring. Thunder fans can breath a sigh of relief that it was not his troublesome foot and his absence in the second half is likely to be precautionary. Although, Durant will have an MRI done on the hamstring. Even with Durant absent in the second half, the Thunder continued to extend their lead over the hapless Wizards.
With Bradley Beal and Nene Hilario sitting out for the Wizards, this was a game that the Thunder would have considered themselves favorites. After a tight first few minutes with both teams trading buckets, the Thunder continued their hot start throughout the quarter on the back of back-to-back pull-up three pointers from Kevin Durant. The first quarter was an offensive clinic by the Thunder as the ‘big 3’ of Westbrook, Ibaka and Durant all performed to power the Thunder to a 37-23 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
After a slow start to the second quarter reminiscent of Sunday night’s game against Phoenix, the Wizards managed to trim the Thunder’s lead back to seven. This didn’t last however, with the return of Westbrook and Durant allowing the lead to extend back into double figures. Serge Ibaka was the main beneficiary of both Westbrook and Durant’s play-making as he sunk jumper after jumper en route to 15 first half points, including two three-pointers. The Thunder’s offensive assault continued in the second quarter as they dismantled the Wizard’s defense, leading 68-50 at half time. The Thunder made their first eight three-pointers and were out-rebounding the Wizards 30-19 at the half.
There was a scare for Thunder fans as Kevin Durant did not reappear following half time and reports were given that he was not expected to return to the game. However, with the Thunder holding an 18 point lead, it is unclear how much to read into that decision. Despite this, the Thunder picked up where they left off, starting the second half with three straight three-pointers from Singler, Westbrook and Ibaka. Dion Waiters and Ibaka dominated the third quarter where the Thunder continued to extend their lead in a game which at this stage was already a blow out.
The Wizards rested John Wall and Marcin Gortat for the final 12 minutes which was already garbage time with the Thunder leading 99-71. Dion Waiters, for the second straight game, displayed his ability to be an offensive spark-plug, running the second unit’s offence brilliantly while playing with great defensive intensity. Waiters finished with a game-high 25 points off of a super efficient 7-of-10 shooting with 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
After struggling early in the season, the trust the Coach Donovan has shown in Waiters looks to have paid off as he is providing valuable contributions on both ends of the floor. The fourth quarter also saw Cameron Payne score his first NBA points while the game petered out to a 125-101 Thunder win.
With no Thunder playing more than 30 minutes and the second unit getting plenty of court time to iron out the problems they were facing against the Suns, this win seemed like the perfect result for the Thunder. The team shot 51.2% from the field and a scorching 65.2% (15-of-22) from beyond the arc. Russell Westbrook registered his first triple double of the season with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Durant managed to lodge a double-double in the first half with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Serge Ibaka was also impressive as he looked agressive, actively looking for his shot as he finished with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists.
The Thunder now sit at 5-3 head home to take on the struggling 76’ers on Saturday.