Lackadaisical Performance Spells Doom for the Thunder

As disinterested as the Thunder looked in Phoenix on Sunday, they should have come into tonight’s game in front of a home crowd with a sense of urgency, but that did not appear to be the case. Oklahoma City got off to a bit of a slow start, and the first quarter was a rough one as the Thunder turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes and seven times total in the quarter.

Despite the sloppy play, however, Russell Westbrook was able to keep the Thunder in the game with his 10 points on 2/3 from the field and 6/6 from the free throw line. Steven Adams added in six points, and Raymond Felton tossed in five off the bench, and after one quarter, Oklahoma City led Portland 26-24.

The second quarter was not particularly pretty, either, and for Paul George, it started off downright awful. In the first two minutes of the period, George missed three shots making him 0/5 so far at the time, and following the third miss, he loudly let the refs know that he thought he was fouled. He quickly picked up a technical foul, followed by a personal foul, and then he kicked things into gear.

For the remainder of the quarter, Paul George went on a tear as he poured in 16 points on 6/8 shooting, including 3/5 from three. Despite the Thunder’s efforts, the Trail Blazers were able to take and hold on to the lead to enter halftime on top 54-50.

Just like the second quarter belonged to Paul George, the third period was Carmelo Anthony’s. Melo started off the quarter by knocking down two threes in the first two minutes, and after hitting the second one, Oklahoma City led Portland 60-58. The lead didn’t last for long, though, as CJ McCollum would put up 15 points on 7/9 from the floor in the third to help the Trail Blazers roar back and outscore the Thunder 30-16 the rest of the way to finish the period with an 88-76 advantage.

Starting the fourth quarter down by double digits is slowly becoming a trend for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and those games are rarely going in their favor. With no Thunder starter on the floor for the first minute of the period, the Trail Blazers extended their lead to 16. Oklahoma City slowly started to make substitutions over the next couple of minutes, but with 8:05 left in the game, Portland took its largest lead of the night up 100-79. The Trail Blazers would cruise the rest of the way, and while the Thunder would make a push to get within 13, it was too little too late, and Oklahoma City would fall at home to Portland 106-117.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Take Some Pride: Much like last game, the Thunder simply got outhustled tonight. Despite the fact that Damian Lillard, Portland’s best player, was out with injury, the Trail Blazers embarrassed the Thunder by taking care of the little things and playing good, hard-nosed basketball. Portland forced Oklahoma City into 14 turnovers, which led to 15 points on the other end. On top of that, the Thunder were grossly outscored 46-34 in the paint and outrebounded 42-38. Simply put, the Thunder needs to take some pride in their play, especially when in front of the home crowd.
  • No Time Like the Present: Oklahoma City is squandering a golden opportunity to move up in the Western Conference standings. San Antonio and Houston are both dealing with injuries to superstars, and while Minnesota is playing well, a head-to-head matchup tomorrow night could be key to the Thunder moving up in the standings. Oklahoma City cannot afford to continue to drop extremely winnable games due to a lack of effort. Tomorrow’s game with the Timberwolves is a good opportunity for the Thunder to get back on track, but if they don’t show up to play, it could be a long night.
  • Halfway Done: Without a doubt, the first half of this season is not how most people envisioned it going. Thunder fans, specifically, are frustrated, and despite the calls for firing Billy Donovan, trading Paul George, or doing who knows what, the Thunder simply need to take care of the little things. December was a bright spot because guys finally started trusting each other, everyone played with high energy, and the team was able to make plays and finish games. Over the last couple of games, however, it seems like guys are falling back into bad habits of lazy effort and low energy. There is still another half of the season to be played, which means there is plenty of time to make proper adjustments and improvements, but the clock is ticking.

Back on the Road

Oklahoma City heads back out on the road to take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota tomorrow for a Wednesday night nationally televised matchup. The Timberwolves are ahead of the Thunder in the Northwest Division and Western Conference standings, and Minnesota has won two of the three matchups between the two teams so far this season. The game will tip at 7 PM and will be televised on ESPN and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.

Be sure to check out our latest episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

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