Thunder rolling ahead of matchup with Rockets

Field Level Media

February 25, 2024 at 12:39 am.

With each impressive performance, the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder move closer to rendering moot questions regarding their preparedness for an extended postseason run.

The Thunder notched their fourth consecutive victory on Friday, recording a season-high point total in a 147-106 win over the Washington Wizards. Oklahoma evened its record with the Minnesota Timberwolves atop the Western Conference standings.

The Thunder will face the Houston Rockets on the road on Sunday and will look to square the season series at a game apiece.

Oklahoma City has won seven of nine games since a 107-101 loss to the Timberwolves on Jan. 29. The Thunder led by as many as 46 points against the Wizards and didn’t relent even after securing a 23-point halftime lead, extending that advantage to 36 at 117-81 entering the fourth quarter.

“I think that’s one of our identities is trying to play for the full 48 (minutes),” Thunder reserve forward Jaylin Williams said. “Every guy brings the intensity every minute of the game. I think if we don’t, we’ve got the type of chemistry where we push each other to get to that.”

The blowout over Washington featured the usual Thunder hallmarks. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted 30 points (his NBA-leading 41st game this season with at least 30), seven rebounds and nine assists. Chet Holmgren added 25 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. The Thunder shot 59.8 percent overall, made 20 of 40 3-pointers and notched 30 assists on their 55 field goals.

Five others scored in double figures for the Thunder, whose exceptional two-way play has fueled their rise in the standings. Oklahoma City is third in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating, joining the Boston Celtics as the only teams in the top five in both categories.

“We have a team that really enjoys playing together,” Williams said. “When we’re out there having fun (and) we share the ball with each other, I feel like that’s when we play our best basketball.”

The Rockets showcased their balanced offensive attack in their 114-110 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns on Friday. Fred VanVleet scored a team-high 23 points and added five rebounds and five assists. Three teammates produced double-doubles: Jabari Smith Jr. (22 points, 16 rebounds), Alperen Sengun (17 points, 12 rebounds) and rookie Amen Thompson (15 points, 10 rebounds off the bench).

The Rockets had dropped 6 of 7 before rallying from a 16-point deficit against the Suns. Rookie Cam Whitmore also tallied 15 points off the bench and teamed with Thompson to breathe life back in the Rockets following a sluggish start.

Thompson, who moved back to a reserve role after VanVleet returned on Thursday following a five-game injury hiatus (adductor), continues to impress on both ends. He added a steal and two blocks and, despite his limited range as a shooter, has positively impacted the offense with his plus athleticism and superior driving ability.

“He’s growing on a nightly basis, and he gives us a ton of versatility,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said of Thompson. “His activity on both ends is great.”

ALL  |  NFL  |  College Football  |  MLB  |  NBA