The Oklahoma City Thunder lost a tough one tonight on the road to the New York Knicks. Not only was this the final game of their road trip, but it was also the second night of a back to back. It’s hard to put the blame on being tired, but you could definitely tell this Thunder team was worn out in the second half.
The start of the first quarter was probably the best portion of the game tonight for Oklahoma City. The “Big 3” knocked down some shots early on. Melo was shooting the ball with tons of confidence and he was making his shots count. The Thunder’s defense was all over the place as they forced 5 turnovers within the first five minutes of the game. However, they didn’t close out the quarter very well and only held a three point lead heading into the second quarter.
The second unit for OKC was in to start the quarter and to say they struggled would be an understatement. The team was giving up way to many turnovers, and couldn’t seem to put points on the board. Once the starters checked back in, Russ and Melo were able to knock down some shots to get the team back in the lead. The team looked to these two guys because Paul George was struggling to find an offensive rhythm. Even though he couldn’t seem to score, his defense helped the Thunder to stay in the game. The Thunder trailed 50-44 at halftime.
The Thunder played their best offense during the third quarter, however they also played some of their worst defense during that time. Paul George was able to get going on the offensive end this quarter and he really carried the team for parts of the third. Russell Westbrook was quiet for the most part, but he did have a monster dunk.
The pace of the game was very back and forth during the third. Patrick Patterson knocked down back to back 3’s, but unfortunately both were answered with 3’s for the Knicks. Every time the Thunder would score, the Knicks would have an answer. The Knicks typically shoot below 36% from beyond the arc, but tonight they were 14/23 for 61%. This stat alone is part of what killed the Thunder.
You could start to see the fatigue of a long road trip and a back to back wearing on the Thunder in the third quarter, but it was really evident in the fourth. The Thunder weren’t closing out on shooters and they were getting beat to the ball. The tired legs caused shots to fall short. Melo was no longer getting anything to fall. After scoring 12 points in the first half, he didn’t record a basket for the entire second half. The Knicks simply outlasted the Thunder for a 111-96 victory.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Melo Needs to Let the Game Come to Him.
Obviously tonight was an emotional game for Carmelo Anthony as he returned to MSG for the first time since joining the Thunder this off season. The team looked to get him going early, and they succeeded. Melo was shooting very efficiently, even though he wasn’t always taking the best shots. However, after scoring 12 points in the first half, he didn’t record a single basket for the remainder of the game.
Not just tonight in his return home, but throughout this entire season Melo has forced too many shots. He is best when he can catch and shoot or take a few dribbles before taking a shot. Far too often we see him trying to back his defender down only to take a poor shot when he can’t get around the defender. Both the team and Melo would benefit more if he would just take what the game is giving him.
- Free Throws are Still an Issue
The Thunder once again struggled from the free throw line tonight. Even though the team only took 20 shots for the night, they missed 8 of them which puts them at 60% for the night. Had they made those shots count, this game might’ve had a more competitive ending. Whatever the issue is for this team, they must figure it out in order to win these tough road games.
- This Team is on the Verge of Figuring it Out.
Don’t let this final loss of the road trip discourage you from what this team has accomplished lately. Sure, they fall a game below .500 again tonight, but they still had won three previous road games. Including winning 6 out of their last 9 games. While they still have some rough moments on the court, this team is finally starting to hit their potential. It won’t be too long before this team is on top of the Western Conference.
Home Sweet Home
The Thunder will be back in action again on Monday night as they take on the Denver Nuggets. It will be great for this team to have a day of rest and then play in front of their home crowd. The Nuggets are in the Northwestern division with the Thunder, so a win Monday night would be huge. The game will start at 7:00 PM CST and it will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.