The Oklahoma City Thunder came into today’s Saturday afternoon matchup riding the NBA’s longest active winning streak at six, while the opposing Detroit Pistons were the unfortunate owners of the league’s longest active losing streak, also at six. Both teams added to their streaks as the Thunder defeated the Pistons 121-108 in Detroit.
The Thunder got off to a slow start by turning the ball over three times in the first three possessions of the game, but as the defense held strong, the offense quickly turned the corner, and shots began to fall with ease. Russell Westbrook had a strong period scoring eight points and dishing out five assists, while Paul George poured in a team-high 16 points.
Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams added in six points apiece to round out the first quarter scoring for Oklahoma City, and after twelve minutes, the Thunder was on top of the Pistons 36-24.
Oklahoma City continued it’s high-octane scoring in the second period, and despite a mid-quarter lull where Detroit pulled to within four, the Thunder never relinquished the lead. Paul George continued with the hot hand as he finished the half with 19 points off 6/8 from the floor, including 4/5 from three, and Russell Westbrook tallied 14 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony had a solid second quarter, as well, as he finished with 14 points and three rebounds for the half. Steven Adams had nine points total at halftime, and Raymond Felton put in six points off the bench. At the half, the Thunder held a 69-57 advantage over the Pistons.
With a 12-point halftime lead, the Thunder looked to be in control, but they were not anywhere near satisfied. Over the course of the first four-and-a-half minutes of the second half, Oklahoma City went on a 15-0 run to take an 84-57 lead, the largest of the night. The Thunder would maintain the lead over the course of the next three minutes of gameplay, but with 4:33 left in the third quarter, disaster struck when Andre Roberson took a nasty spill.
Initial reports show that Roberson has a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee, the same knee which caused him to miss eight games due to patellar tendonitis, but the final word on the severity of the injury, as well as a recovery timeline, has yet to be determined. Unfortunately, the expectation is that he is done for the season.
After Roberson was taken off the court via a stretcher, the Thunder resumed play, but they were obviously distracted by the injury to Dre. Detroit would outscore Oklahoma City 15-7 the rest of the period, and after three quarters, the Thunder led 98-81.
Detroit continued to make a push to start the fourth quarter, and with just a little over six minutes left in the game, the Pistons had cut a 27-point deficit to nine points. Despite Detroit’s best efforts, though, the Thunder was able to hold on for the victory to move to 29-20 on the season as Russell Westbrook picked up his 15th triple-double of the season with 31 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Starters Are Cookin’: A big reason for the Thunder’s success lately has been the effectiveness and efficiency of the starters on both sides of the floor, but especially their ability to shoot the ball consistently well. Tonight, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams combined for 91 points on 33/65 (50.7%) from the floor, including 9/17 (52.9%) from three. With the loss of Andre Roberson, the defense is bound to suffer, so the offense is going to have to continue scoring at a high level in order for the Thunder to continue being dominant.
- Down, But Not Out: Losing Andre Roberson for the season is an absolutely devastating blow for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is simply not nearly as good without him, and it would appear as if any hopes for making a run at the NBA Finals are gone. This team is not designed to play without Dre, but now they have to figure out a way in order to do just that. The NBA trade deadline is just weeks away, so there is no telling what Sam Presti might try to do, but one thing that does have to happen is young guys are going to have to step up. Terrance Ferguson had been the starter filling in for Roberson during his recent absence due to injury, so we can expect that to be the case moving forward. Ferguson has shown signs of brilliance, but he hasn’t been consistent enough to be regularly impactful, so between him, Alex Abrines, and Josh Huestis, someone is going to have to up their gameplay.
- Looking Ahead: The Thunder has some quality opportunities coming up to test how they will respond to the loss of Roberson. Oklahoma City’s next four games come against teams who have a winning record and are currently in a playoff spot, but after that, the Thunder will play eight of their next 11 games against teams that are currently at least 10 games below .500. Oklahoma City needs to bring their best basketball against these good teams and take care of business against the bad ones, and who knows where the Thunder will be at the beginning of March.
Sunday Showdown in OKC
The Thunder heads home to Oklahoma City where they will host the Philadelphia 76ers for a Sunday evening matchup. The 76ers are 24-21, and the Thunder won the first matchup of the season 119-117 in a triple-overtime thriller in Philadelphia. The game will tip at 5 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.