After the Thunder’s third loss in a row, and probably the worst one of the season, Russell Westbrook stated in the postgame on Tuesday night “We will be better, so I’m not worried.” That certainly looked like the case as Oklahoma City started tonight’s game playing much like they did in the first quarter in Sacramento on Tuesday. The defense was all over the place, suffocating Denver at every opportunity, while the offense moved the ball well, looking patiently for quality shots. After the first period, the Thunder led 28-22.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma City came out in the second quarter looking flat, primarily due to the lack of scoring from the bench. Paul George was in the game with the second unit, but he looked as sloppy as the backups did at times. The Nuggets ran off five quick points in the first minute of the period before the Thunder could score, but then Denver tied it up at 30 apiece less than two minutes in. Thankfully, the energy was still there, so Oklahoma City was able to regain some control. The game stayed close as the Thunder held a close lead of 53-51 headed into halftime.
Coming out of halftime, both teams were looking to find some type of rhythm in attempt to create some distance, but the Thunder and the Nuggets stayed within four points of one another all the way through. After another twelve minutes of basketball, the score was all tied up at 75 apiece, and yet another game for the Thunder looked as if it would be decided in the final minutes of play.
The Thunder started off the final period of the game with some intensity, looking as if perhaps they were finally going to open the score up a little bit and pick up a win on the road. After Oklahoma City scored four quick points, however, the Nuggets went on a 14-3 run as the Thunder trailed 82-89 with 6:34 left in the game.
Carmelo Anthony had an incredible night, scoring 28 points while shooting 10-20 from the floor, including 6-10 from three, but Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay played lights out scoring 21 points on 8-10 shooting (4-4 from 3) in the final three quarters, and in the end, he would be the x-factor for the Nuggets. Despite the offense struggling to score in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Westbrook hit a shot from beyond the perimeter to cut the deficit to three with 2:41 to go. Unfortunately, that was as close as the Thunder would get as they would drop their fourth game in a row 94-102.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Something’s Gotta Give: Four losses in a row. No improvement. Chemistry is nowhere to be found. Rhythm is inconsistent. SOMETHING has got to change. We knew it was going to take some time for this team get things figured out, but if there’s not some type of progress very soon, blame is going to start getting handed out, and that could create even more chaos. One way or another, there is no way this team even looks like a contender, let alone playoff eligible.
- Who Is Going to Step Up? Throughout the struggles of this current four-game losing streak, there has been one resounding issue, and that is the lack of leadership from any one player. Win or lose a season ago, Russell Westbrook was the guy to whom everyone looked. Bringing in two alpha dogs in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony messes with the leadership dynamic for the Thunder, but when it comes down to it, someone has to step up. Westbrook can still that guy, but that probably means barking at some teammates to create some change and do something different. As soon as Russ figures out what exactly his role is on this squad, then, and only then, will the rest of the team fall in line and find their roles as well.
- Stay Focused: The NBA season is a long one, and while 4-7 is nowhere near where Thunder fans wanted this team to be at this point, there is a lot of time left and a lot of basketball to be played. This team is not as good as they should be and not even close to as good as they CAN be, but now is not the time to panic. Oklahoma City has lost close game after close game, which is encouraging in a sense that they are always in the fight. Unfortunately, close games mean nothing if a win is rarely the outcome. Now is the time for the Thunder to dig their heels in the sand and fight for a win because at this point, they seem to be few and far between.
Back-to-Back But Finally Home
After a three-game road trip (all losses), the Thunder is finally back at home Friday night to host the Los Angeles Clippers, who are missing several key players due to injury. Oklahoma City has lost four games in a row and desperately needs a win, while the Clippers have lost five of their last six. Tip-off is at 8 PM CT and will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM the Sports Animal.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.