Final from Sac. Thunder @ Denver Friday night. pic.twitter.com/pL6Q3Wgvsu
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 24, 2016
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Oklahoma City Thunder trailed the Sacramento Kings for the final three quarters as they lost 101-116. The Thunder tried to mount a comeback, but no matter how effective they were on offense, the defense could not get stops, and Oklahoma City has now dropped 7 of the last 9 games. The Thunder are now 8-8, and while the next six games are all winnable, the schedule does not favor the Thunder much after that.
Russ Can Only Carry So Far
Once again, Russell Westbrook had an outstanding night as he put up 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists with only 3 turnovers, but it was simply not enough to get a win in Sacramento. Four other starters finished in double digits in scoring, but nobody really picked up the extra slack to assist Westbrook in making a legitimate impact on the game.
Through 16 games, Westbrook is averaging 31.8 points, 10.5 assists, and 9.6 rebounds per game. At this rate, it would not be surprising if Russ finished the season averaging a triple-double, and while that is definitely impressive, it is clearly not good enough to single-handedly win games.
After Russell signed an extension with the Thunder, it seemed like his loyalty for Oklahoma City was unwavering, but based on the output of the Thunder lately, the thought has to cross the minds of Thunder fans of how long he will want to put up with this type of result.
Perimeter Defense is Bad….Very Bad
For the fourth game in a row the Thunder allowed their opponent to make at least eleven threes, and tonight it definitely impacted the final outcome. Sacramento shot 12/28 from behind the arc, and what is most concerning is the fact that many of those were wide open looks.
Oklahoma City has struggled with perimeter defense in past years, but as of late it has been a major concern. With a starting backcourt of Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, and Andre Roberson, there is really no excuse for allowing wide open shots from three. The Thunder needs to solve some of its defense issues quickly, or it is going to be a long season.
Changes Need to be Made
While the Thunder are not exactly stacked at every position, especially when it comes to the bench, the lineups that Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan has been using lately have been questionable at best. Perhaps the lack of consistent talent on the floor is just a sign that something has to change in a major way in order for this team to be taken seriously.
Take a look at tonight’s minute distribution: Anthony Morrow played 19 minutes, while Joffrey Lauvergne played only 6 and Alex Abrines played only 2. It makes sense to leave Morrow on the floor when the offense is struggling, but the statistics show that A-Mo is not the player that he used to be. Morrow made his first three of the season tonight, but even that puts him at a mere 1/12 on the season, while his defense continues to be a consistent issue.
Whether Thunder GM Sam Presti needs to make a trade or Billy Donovan needs to figure out some more fluid lineups for the team, something has to change in order for the Thunder to consistently start winning games.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.