The Thunder got off to one of their best starts of the season in the first quarter against the Rockets tonight. After a hot start shooting led by Russell Westbrook the Thunder quickly built a double digit lead. Oklahoma City put up 38 points in the quarter, but poor defense allowed the Rockets to close the Thunder lead to just 5. The lack of defense continued throughout the second quarter, and the team also lost their momentum on the offensive side of the ball. Houston held an 11 point lead at halftime, after the Thunder only scored 18 points in the second quarter.

The struggles on both sides of the ball continued for Oklahoma City in the third quarter, as the Rockets opened up an 18 point lead. Russell Westbrook ended up playing the entire quarter, but the help around him was not enough to chip away at the Houston lead. The Thunder finally put together a decent stretch of defense, which allowed them back into the game. Westbrook seemingly refused to quit, and gave Oklahoma City a chance to win with the help of Enes Kanter in the fourth quarter. In the end, it was not enough as the Thunder lost their third game in a row 118-116.

Poor Defense Is Costly

The Thunder really struggled defensively, which is something you can’t do against a team that shoots the way Houston does. The Rockets have arguably the best shooting guards in the NBA, and it is hard to slow them down once they get going. Oklahoma City struggled with rotation, which gave Houston open looks from beyond the arc and inside the paint. In a game where it seemed like the Thunder should dominate on the inside, it was actually the opposite.

Defense is a very funny thing, because it is the reason the Thunder lost tonight, but also the reason the Thunder were able to get back into this game. While Oklahoma City did struggle defensively throughout three quarters, they played pretty well in the fourth. However, by this time it was too little, too late, as they couldn’t seem to get that one final stop to win the game.

Westbrook Has Career Night

During the giant mess that this game was, Russell Westbrook indeed put on a show for everyone, including the Houston fans. He finished with 49 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists to add fuel to his MVP campaign. The most impressive stat from this game is the deep ball shooting from Russ, as he recorded a career high 8 shots made from beyond the arc. He finished the night shooting over 50% from 3, which is the main cause to the late comeback by Oklahoma City. The loss does not take away from this impressive shooting night, as 3 point shooting is still the one area Russ could definitely improve on.

Up Next

The Thunder will be back home on Saturday for one of the very few home games in the next couple of weeks. The Denver Nuggets will come to the Peake for a divisional matchup that will start at 7:00 PM CST. The Nuggets are currently in fourth place in the division. The game will be televised on FSOK, and will be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.

Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.