Waking up this morning, Thunder fans expected a clash of titans so to speak for tonight’s evening matchup between with the Spurs. However, San Antonio elected to sit a number of its players due to both injury and rest, so the enthusiasm going into the game was not exactly what it could have been. Nevertheless, Oklahoma City came in to tonight’s game looking to pick up another win and get a little bit closer to reaching .500 on the season.
Steven Adams picked up right where left off on Friday night, as he managed to put up eight points on 4/5 (80%) shooting in the first quarter.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony struggled to get anything going early, mostly due to foul trouble, but the bench was able to add some momentum behind Jerami Grant and Josh Huestis putting on a slam dunk contest of sorts.
Russell Westbrook led the way early for the Thunder with seven points and six assists. After twelve minutes of play, Oklahoma City held a 25-18 lead over San Antonio behind an impressive 57% shooting from the field.
The second quarter looked very much like the first for the Thunder. Adams continued his high level of play, finishing the half with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Westbrook found himself on a triple-double watch with 15 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. The Spurs shot the ball significantly better in the second period (47% compared to 32% in the first), but after a Jerami Grant buzzer-beater, the Thunder would lead 54-43.
The third quarter looked all too familiar for Oklahoma City fans as the Thunder struggled to find any consistency on either end of the floor. Carmelo Anthony was able to hit a couple of shots in an attempt to get something going, but as a team, the Thunder shot just 42.9% from the floor.
The biggest problem for Oklahoma City in the third quarter was the inability for guys to make free throws. As a team, the Thunder shot just 5/10 (50%), and it seemingly took away any momentum the team had at the same time. At the end of the period, the Spurs were closing in, and the Thunder held a small lead of 76-73.
After another disappointing third quarter effort, Oklahoma City desperately needed to find some type of rhythm to finish this game out and come away with the win. Despite shooting an abysmal 6/23 (26.1%) as a team, Russell Westbrook picked up his seventh triple-double of the season as he finished with 22 points on 9/22 (40.9%) from the field, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. Westbrook’s final assist came on a big-time shot from Paul George, who struggled all night, shooting an awful 2/17 (11.8%) for the game.
Despite some ugly basketball against an injury-depleted San Antonio squad, Oklahoma City came away with the 90-87 win to make the Thunder 10-12 on the season.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Second-Half Struggles Persist: Oklahoma City’s inability to execute in the second half is mind-boggling. When looking at the Thunder’s point differential through each individual quarter, Oklahoma City is +4.6 in the first quarter (2nd in the NBA), +1.4 in the second quarter (7th), -2.1 in the third quarter (23rd), and -0.8 in the fourth quarter (20th). Simply put, the offense is strong in the first half and awful in the second, and typically it is because of poor shot selection and a breakdown of the offense. Tonight, that wasn’t really case. The ball movement was solid, and guys were getting opens looks, but when it came down to it, the shots simply weren’t falling. Undoubtedly, shots will start to go in for the Thunder, and these types of games won’t be nearly as close as tonight’s was.
- Free Throw Shooting Woes Continue: The Thunder shot a season-worst 47.6% on 10/21 shooting from the free throw line tonight. After making 76.5% of his free throw attempts in the previous ten games, Russell Westbrook was the biggest offender tonight, making just 2/6 (33.3%) from the charity stripe. The biggest cause for concern with Oklahoma City’s inability to knock down free throws, however, was the fact that Paul George, who got to the line 11 times on Friday night against Minnesota, only shot four free throws tonight. The Thunder was able to dominate in the paint tonight, outscoring the Spurs 52-36, but not being able to hit free throws made it that much harder to pull away.
- On the Bright Side: While it’s easy to look at an ugly win and focus on what went wrong, there was a bright side to tonight’s game. Oklahoma City has folded in close games many times this season, but for the second time in three nights, the Thunder was able to come away with a clutch win. Before those two wins, the Thunder was 1-9 in the clutch, despite consistently being right there with opposing teams. An inability to finish and come away with a victory is what has separated the Thunder from the best of the best, but perhaps things are changing. If Oklahoma City can continue this turning over of a new leaf, so to speak, the Thunder should be able to string together some solid wins.
Back At Home on Tuesday
Oklahoma City plays its final game of a three-game homestand on Tuesday night as the Thunder plays host to the Utah Jazz. The Thunder lost to the Jazz in Utah 87-96 on October 21st. The game will tip off at 7 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 give us a like on Facebook.