Oklahoma City played its 3rd game in 4 days, tonight’s the 2nd night of a back-to-back, and it very well may have impacted the energy level of the Thunder as they fell 90-93 in Indiana against the Pacers. the Thunder started off with one of their better first halves of basketball of the season holding the Pacers to 30.4% from the field and taking a 52-41 lead into the locker room at half.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Pacers came out hot in the second half, and Oklahoma City gave up yet another solid halftime lead to enter the final quarter trailing 70-73. Indiana pushed its lead to 10 with just over 5 minutes left in the game, but Russell Westbrook did his thing to bring the Thunder within 1 with 2:05 to play. Paul George hit a shot with 1:20 to go to push the Pacers up 93-90, and despite multiple attempts by the Thunder to tie the game, they failed to hit, dropping their 3rd road game in a row and 4th of their last 6.
Westbrook’s Heroics Not Enough
For the third consecutive game, Russell Westbrook checked into the game in the 4th quarter with the Thunder playing close, and while he was able to dominate in the last two and lead Oklahoma City to victory, his efforts were not enough tonight. Westbrook checked into tonight’s game with 8:55 left and the Thunder down 72-79. Russ managed to score 11 points, and he even pulled the Thunder within 1 at one point, but despite his best efforts to get teammates open, nobody could hit a shot to give the Thunder the lead.
With 7.6 seconds left in the game and Oklahoma City down 90-93, Westbrook took an inbounds pass and took a three, which he missed, but Jerami Grant got the rebound. Grant found Westbrook, who managed to another good look at a three, but it did not go down, and the final buzzer sounded with the Thunder on low-side.
Westbrook finished the night with 27 points shooting 10/27 (37%) from the floor, including 4/10 (40%) from three and 3/4 (75%) from the free throw line, along with 9 assists and a season-high 18 rebounds.
Dre Continues Strong Play
One of the brightest spots in the unfortunate loss tonight was the continued impressive play from Andre Roberson. For the second consecutive night and only the third time in his career, Roberson tallied a double-double with 11 points shooting 5/8 (62.5%) from the field and 1/2 (50%) from the free throw line to go with 11 rebounds.
Dre also had 2 steals and 2 blocks in a pretty solid defensive effort against Indiana’s leading scorer Paul George. George picked up his play in the second half, but in the end, he only shot 7/20 (35%) from the field and 2/9 (22.2%) from three as he scored 21 points.
Roberson has proven consistently throughout the season that he is one of the league’s top wing defenders, but if he can become a regular scoring threat by continuing to find ways to cut to the basket and score, he will find himself being an extremely valuable commodity for the Thunder.
3rd Quarter Struggles Continue
Time and time again this season Oklahoma City has built up a lead heading into halftime only to watch it dwindle away in the 3rd quarter, and tonight was no different. Oklahoma City led by 15 at one point in the second quarter and was up by 11 at the half as the Thunder had one of their best first halves of the season shooting 46.7% from the field while holding the Pacers to 30.4%.
The Thunder came out in the 3rd quarter looking sloppy and fatigued as they turned the ball over 7 times and shot 28% from the floor while allowing Indiana to shoot 50%. The only real explanation for the continued collapse in the third is coming out at the half with no energy from the starters, and then the bench comes in to finish out the quarter, and they cannot knock down shots or stop opponents from scoring.
Oklahoma City ranks 24th in the NBA with a 3rd quarter +/- of -1.2. No other .500+ team ranks in the bottom-10. Whatever the Thunder’s 3rd quarter issues are, they need to get it figured out quickly, because there is simply no way that Oklahoma City can expect Russell Westbrook to bail the team out every single night.
The Thunder heads back to Oklahoma City for a couple of home games starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. The Cavs beat the Thunder 107-91 in Cleveland just 8 days ago in the Thunder’s first game with Enes Kanter out due to injury. Cleveland has won 5 of their last 6 after losing 3 in a row, and the Cavs play the Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday, so they will be playing the 2nd night of a back-to-back while the Thunder will have 2 full days of rest under their belt. Tip-off is set for 7 PM, and the game will be televised on TNT. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.