Two days after knocking off the reigning NBA champs at home, the Oklahoma City Thunder broke out their sharp-looking “Statement” uniforms as they hosted the Detroit Pistons. Oklahoma City needed to be weary coming into tonight’s game, as it is easy to letup immediately following a big win, and that’s exactly what happened.
Oklahoma City started off strong with Steven Adams scoring on the opening possession, and it didn’t take long for the Thunder to get in a groove. Russell Westbrook had an outstanding first quarter scoring 14 points, dishing out three assists, and grabbing two rebounds. Andre Roberson had a bit of a scoring burst by his standards with seven points, and as a team, Oklahoma City shot 11/19 (57.9%). After 12 minutes, the Thunder led 29-25.
Oklahoma City would extend their lead pretty quickly in the second quarter, pushing it to 11 just a little over three minutes in, and despite Detroit’s best efforts, the Thunder bench would play surprisingly well. The key to the Thunder’s success in the first half was outrebounding the Pistons 26-13 and finding easy buckets in the paint, and at halftime, Oklahoma City led 59-49.
The Thunder started off the third quarter playing like they had in the first half by dominating the paint and playing solid defense. Then, at around the seven-minute mark, the Pistons started to climb back into the game, mostly due to their solid three-point shooting. By the end of the period, the Thunder’s double-digit lead had been trimmed to four, and Oklahoma City led 77-73.
As soon as the fourth quarter started, Pistons guard Langston Galloway hit a three to cut the Thunder lead to one. Jerami Grant would score for Oklahoma City to push the lead up to three, but Galloway would hit another three to tie it up for the first time since the score was 2-2. On the next possession, Pistons guard Ish Smith would hit a layup to put Detoit up for the first time all game, and yet again, the Thunder saw a large second quarter lead dwindle away into nothing. Oklahoma City would battle back and forth, and Russell Westbrook would even tally his sixth triple-double of the season (27 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds), but the Thunder would fall at home 98-99.
3 Quick Thoughts
- No Excuses: The Thunder are now 18 games into the season, almost a quarter of the way through, and they sit at two games below .500 at 8-10. Of those 10 losses, seven of them have come despite holding a double-digit lead. With the level of talent on this team, specifically in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, there is absolutely no excuse for this type of consistent meltdown. The problem with clutch time tonight was simply bad shot selection. In the postgame presser, Billy Donovan said that he felt like they got a lot of good looks, but that shots simply weren’t falling. That’s just not true. A lot of the offense looked rushed and forced, and as a result, shots were not going in. The Thunder did have several wide open looks from three, but they shot 8/32 (25%) from deep on the night, which is just awful. At this point, Oklahoma City just needs to nab a victory in a close game so that they can get a clutch win under their belt.
- 3-Point Defense Was Bad: Oklahoma City’s strong point all season long has been their defense. Paul George and Russell Westbrook are the league’s top two in steals, and they combined for eight thefts tonight, but one inexcusable aspect of the game was Detroit’s ability to hit from deep. Many times shooters were left wide open with all the time in the world to shoot, and at the end of the night, the Pistons finished 14/37 (37.8%). While the percentage isn’t that bad defensively, the sheer volume alone is what kept Detroit in the game, and eventually, it won it for them, too. When it comes down to it, once again, this is an effort problem. If the Thunder fully commits on the defensive end, these types of problems won’t keep them from a win.
- Who Else Can Step Up?: So much of Oklahoma City’s offense is run through the Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Tonight, the three combined for 64 points on 26/70 (37.1%) shooting, including an abysmal 5/24 (20.8%) from three. The worst of the three was Westbrook, who was 10/29 (34.5%) from the floor and 1/10 (10%) from three. Aside from the three, Steven Adams scored 12 points on a measly 6/10 (60%) shooting, and Andre Roberson scored a season high 10 points on 4/5 (80%) from the floor, including 2/3 (66.7%) from three. The next highest scorer was Jerami Grant with 8 points, who was also 4/5 (80%) from the floor, while Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton rounded out the scoring with three and two points respectively. While this appears like nobody else is pulling weight, the reality is that nobody else is getting shots up. Aside from the Big 3, the rest of the team shot a combined 16/28 (57.1%). Whether other guys need to step up and start taking shots on their own, or Westbrook needs to start creating shots for other guys, something needs to change in the offense.
Second Half of Back-to-Back on the Road
The Oklahoma City Thunder hit the road immediately to prepare for a matchup with the Mavericks in Dallas Saturday night. The Thunder defeated the Mavericks in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago 112-99. The game will tip off at 7:30 PM and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.