The Oklahoma City Thunder managed to abate their free fall against the James Harden-led Houston Rockets, winning a close contest 105-103 on Wednesday night.
Russell Westbrook scored 30 points on the night, but no two were more impressive than the lefty slam over Swiss rim protector Clint Capela that sealed the game:
It’ll go down as one of the best dunks–if not one of the best plays–of the season. Although the idea was risky (as the shot clock was already turned off), Russ lives on the the thin border between instinct and intellect. When asked about it after the game, Westbrook replied, “That’s the risk you take. Or, that’s the risk I take.” I couldn’t script a more Russ line.
Westbrook finished the game shooting 9-20, adding seven rebounds and nine assists.
The Rockets are one of the most formidable offensive teams in the league, but the Thunder won it with defense down the stretch. If not for an Eric Gordon three-pointer with less than a second remaining, the Thunder would have held the Rockets scoreless in the last six minutes of the game. At half time, Oklahoma City’s 65-63-lead seemed to indicate a finish somewhere in the 120’s or 130’s, but the Thunder’s defense clamped down in the second half and slowed the pace to a crawl–a pace that definitely favors Oklahoma City.
Westbrook’s took the lion’s share of the attention due to his monster jam, but Victor Oladipo was the best player on the night. It was the game of his tenure so far: Oladipo finished the night with 29 points (on 12-18 shooting), ten rebounds, and five assists.
James Harden, who has thrived as the point guard in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, struggled mightily on the night thanks to Andre Roberson’s defense. Harden shot just 4-16 en route to 13 points. Harden also tallied 13 assists but turned the ball over six times.
It was a vital victory for the Thunder who had lost four straight (all at home) to stay another game above .500, and, more importantly, one game ahead of a Western Conference rival. Judging by how similarly the two teams are composed, they may be jockeying for playoff position come April. Letting this one go would have been disastrous.
The Thunder improve to 7-5, while the Rockets fall to 6-5. Next up for Oklahoma City: the Brooklyn Nets visit Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday. Tipoff is at 7 P.M.