The Thunder were without Victor Oladipo for the second game in a row, and it was very obvious that he was missing tonight. Oklahoma City struggled to get anything going in this 109-89 loss to the Utah Jazz. This was a game where it felt like Oklahoma City could flip things around at any moment, but they could never slow down the offense of the Jazz.
The loss tonight was a combination of poor defense and poor offense. After a slow start on defense in the first quarter, it seemed like the Thunder could never recover. The lack of perimeter defense allowed the shooters for the Jazz to get into a rhythm. While Utah seemingly couldn’t miss from outside, the Thunder shot 6/19 from beyond the arc which was a deciding factor in this game.
Lack of Effort Defensively
If you watched any part of this game tonight it is no surprise that the Thunder struggled on the defensive side of the ball. You could definitely blame poor rotation, or a bad matchup, but I think a big issue was lack of effort. There were several times when the Thunder gave the Jazz open looks simply because no one made an effort to get out there and defend the shot.
Considering the Thunder is down a key player in Victor Oladipo, it is extremely important to play well on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, it’s possible that the team was tired playing the second night of a back to back road series. Even if that is the case, there must be better effort closing out on shooters in future games. I expect Billy D to have the defense ready to go Saturday against the Suns.
Dipo, Please Come Back Soon
The importance of Victor Oladipo to this team has really shown over the last two games in just about every aspect. It is obvious there is a lack of spacing and ball movement on offense without Dipo on the court. His ability to stretch the floor provides better looks for our bigs inside. The Thunder have also struggled to shoot the deep ball without his presence on the floor shooting just 14/45 from three. He is expected to return on Saturday, though it has not been said whether or not he will be on minute restrictions.
The Impact of Russell Westbrook
There is no doubt about the impact that Russell Westbrook has on this team. He struggled tonight from the floor shooting 7/25, but still managed to produce 27 points. However, it wasn’t enough as he failed to get another triple-double and it was more obvious than ever how much this team relies on him to do that on a nightly basis. The Thunder are an impressive 9-3 when Russ records a triple-double, but an embarrassing 6-8 when he does not.
The course of an NBA season is full of streaks for both the players and the teams in the league. This team goes as Russell Westbrook goes, and right now he is struggling. Just know that this guy is capable of going on another seven game triple-double streak at any moment. The frontrunner for the MVP will have this team firing on all cylinders in no time.
The Thunder will be back at home after a few days of rest to play the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. The game will start at 4:00 PM CST and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.