Final from @ChesapeakeArena
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 21, 2017
For the fourth time this season, the Thunder and the Warriors met, and for the fourth time this season, the Warriors had no issues whatsoever with the Thunder as Golden State came into Oklahoma City to complete their season sweep. The Thunder started the game off strong by forcing the Warriors into five 1st quarter turnovers to keep it close, but after 12 minutes of play, Oklahoma City still trailed 22-25. The Thunder looked like they were going to keep it close as they tied the game almost as soon as the second quarter started, but the Warriors did what they are known to do and went on a crazy run to blow the game wide open. With the game tied at 25 apiece with just over 11 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, the Warriors proceeded to outscore the Thunder 34-14 in the period and head into halftime with a 59-39 lead.
Oklahoma City came out in the second half with a surprising energy, and the starting five were able to go on a 13-5 run which cut the deficit to 12. Golden State called a timeout, however, and put together a 14-3 run of their own. The Warriors continued to pour on the pressure, and the Thunder finished the third quarter trailing 92-66. At this point, the game was essentially decided, and the starters were pretty much done for the night. The Thunder bench closed some of the gap in garbage time, but Oklahoma City ended up losing their fourth game of the season and sixth game in a row to Golden State 111-95.
Warriors’ Hot Shooting Proves Too Much
Without a doubt, Golden State has become known for it’s ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc with incredible accuracy, and no matter how hard opponents try, they struggle to defend them. Oklahoma City struggled mightily tonight, allowing the Warriors to shoot a ridiculous 15/33 (45.5%) from three, thanks almost entirely to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson who shot a combined 14/27 (51.8%).
The Thunder has defended the perimeter in a mediocre manner over the course of the season allowing opponents to make 35.8% of their threes, which is 14th in the NBA, but their inability to stop the Warriors has been a consistent issue. Golden State has managed to shoot at least 41.9% from three in every meeting with the Thunder this season making at least 10 threes each time. If Oklahoma City gets the unfortunate matchup of playing Golden State in the first round of the playoffs, they will have no chance if they cannot figure out how to stop the shooters from knocking down shots from deep.
Failure to Mind the Little Things Means Bad News
At face value, it is easy to make assessments like “The Warriors are just better than the Thunder” or “Oklahoma City is just too young and inexperienced to handle the star power that Golden State has.” While these types of statements may be true, there is always more to the game than what meets the eye.
Tonight, Oklahoma City did not just struggle to defend and fail to knock down shots: they forgot to take care of business as usual in other less noticeable areas of the game. The Thunder managed to get to the free throw line 31 times, 10 times more than the Warriors, but they only made 17 of them (54.8%), their 4th-worst percentage from the free throw line for the season.
The Thunder also managed to get outhustled in other areas of the game that they tend to dominate. The Warriors outrebounded the Thunder 46-40, and Golden State outscored the Thunder 16-7 in transition. Failing to find success in areas that Oklahoma City typically relies on to fuel them to wins was a recipe for a loss tonight.
While the Thunder are without a doubt dealing with chemistry issues and the 2nd-youngest roster in the league, they have to at the very least buckle down and play fundamental basketball, or else they will continue to struggle and likely lose against quality teams.
The Thunder will stay home to take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, which could be a solid game for Oklahoma City to get their focus on what lies ahead rather than what happened tonight. The 76ers have the 5th-worst record in the league at 26-44, and they are tied for the 3rd-worst road record in the NBA at 9-25. Tip-off is set for 7 PM, and the game will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.