Few would have forecasted the strong start, but the Thunder are now 6-1 following a 97-85 victory over the Miami Heat. 6-1, by the way, is the best start in Thunder history.
Typically, strong starts have not been the Thunder’s forte. Tonight, a quick start was vital to OKC’s victory. As a result, the Heat were caught backpedaling and continued to do so for the rest of the game.
A 20-0 run (including eight straight points by Russell Westbrook) in the third quarter propelled the Thunder to their sixth victory in seven games. For the second straight game, the Thunder came out of halftime ready to handle business and dominated the third quarter. OKC outscored Miami 28-14 in the third.
Westbrook was underwhelming on the night (14 points on 5-16 shooting, five rebounds, 11 assists), but it didn’t matter: the scoring load was as balanced as it has been all season (four Thunder players reached double-digit scoring) and the defense was simply incredible. The fact that the Thunder can win so convincingly on an off-night from Westbrook is highly encouraging moving forward. Help is certainly needed–especially come playoff time–but Westbrook’s cohorts have proven that they’re ready to contribute.
Domantas Sabonis continues to improve game after game, posting a career high in points with 15. Domas also tallied ten rebounds and one assist on the night, notching his first career double-double. After struggling through the early part of the season, Sabonis has started to find his sea legs in the league. He’s taken criticism for his shaky play so far, but tonight’s performance has shown what Billy Donovan loves so much about his game.
Sabonis also shot 4-7 from three-point range. Here are a few of his long-range bombs:
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 8, 2016
The Sabonis-Kanter dynamic has worked out terrifically for the Thunder so far. Sabonis is a more consistent defensive presence (who also won’t take touches away from Russell Westbrook), while Kanter provides terrific energy and scoring from the bench. Kanter scored 24 points on 10-12 shooting, adding 10 rebounds. Kanter has scored 42 points in the two games following OKC’s tilt with the Warriors.
In his return to Oklahoma City, Dion Waiters received a loud and long standing ovation. He turned in a vintage Waiters performance, shooting just 1-9 and scoring two points.
The Thunder move to 6-1 on the season, while the Heat fall to 2-4. Next up for the Thunder: Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tipoff is at 7 P.M.