Just two days after what will likely be the most emotional game of the Thunder’s season, Oklahoma City struggled from start to finish in Washington D.C. against the hometown Wizards. Washington made its first 9 shots to jump out to a 22-6 lead early, and while Oklahoma City fought back, the Thunder never got closer than 3. Oklahoma City went into the locker room at halftime trailing 54-67, and while they were not playing all that well, a comeback was definitely in the realm of possibility. The Wizards came out in the 3rd quarter and continued to light things up as the Thunder missed an NBA season-high 25 shots in a row. Washington outscored Oklahoma City 34-19 in the third and finished the quarter with a 101-73 lead. The Thunder bench finished out the game, and while they put forth a valiant effort, the closest they got was within 20 points as Oklahoma City fell to Washington 98-120.
Emotional Hangover Cause for Concern
While Oklahoma City appeared to put Saturday in the past and move forward with the rest of the season, the Thunder stepped out onto the court tonight looking drained despite having a day to rest yesterday. The defense was sluggish as the Wizards stayed hot all night long, and the Thunder struggled to make shots from anywhere and everything.
Oklahoma City had a season-worst game in a number of different ways. The Thunder shot 35.4% from the field, the team’s 3rd-worst outing of year, and an awful 20.6% from three, the team’s 5th-worst result of the year. Not only did Oklahoma City shoot one of its worst games of the season, it also defended without any success. The Wizards shot 57.5% from the field, the third best of any Thunder opponent so far this season, while shooting 61.9% from three, which was by far the worst perimeter defensive effort from Oklahoma City all year.
Tonight’s offensive performance aside, the Thunder has started to figure out things offensively, but the defense is starting to cause worry. Oklahoma City’s ability to defend has really been their strong point so far this season to help balance out a mediocre offense which goes awful as soon as Russell Westbrook heads to the bench. The Thunder needs to use the All-Star Break to get things figured out on both ends of the floor and take advantage of the upcoming favorable schedule and tally some wins.
Bench the Only Bright Spot
One positive takeaway from tonight’s performance would be the Thunder’s bench performance. Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, and Andre Roberson did not even see the floor in the 4th quarter, and the Thunder bench played extended minutes in the blowout. Joffrey Lauvergne led the way for the second unit with 17 points on 6/7 shooting from the floor along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 29 minutes. Cameron Payne also had a solid game with 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 23 minutes. Jerami Grant did not shoot well but he scored 8 points on 3/12 (25%) from the field while grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists in 25 minutes.
Blowout losses are never a good thing, but hopefully the Thunder reserves were able to take the extended playing time and start to put together some positives that they may be able to carry over into future games. With the continued absence of Enes Kanter due to injury, Oklahoma City has struggled to find consistency in bench scoring, and until Kanter is able to return, backups are going to need to step up and fill in the big hole that Kanter’s injury leaves.
One More Before the Break
The Thunders hosts the New York Knicks at the Peake on Wedneday for their final game before the All-Star Break, and the brief holiday could not come at a better time. Oklahoma City has struggled through the last month and a half winning just 10 of 22 games. Fortunately for the Thunder, the Knicks are 22-33 (9-18 on the road), and they have won only 7 of 25 games dating back to Christmas Day. Oklahoma City beat the Knicks 112-103 in New York on November 28th. Tip-off is set for 8:30 PM, and the game will be televised on ESPN and FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram