The Thunder put the leagues longest winning streak at eight games on the line tonight in Washington D.C. The result, didn’t end in their favor. There was a combination of things that prevented the Thunder from winning this game. Whether it was lack of effort on defense, or poor shot selections on offense, this Thunder team just wasn’t clicking tonight.
Right from the start you could tell that the Thunder were lacking defensive intensity. It seemed almost as if they were disinterested in playing defense. On the offensive end, Steven Adams was rolling early. It kind of had that feel that Adams would take over this game offensively like he has so many times this season. However, that wasn’t the case. Paul George was the only guy keeping this team in the game. As the quarter went on, the Thunder continued to struggle to defend the Wizards. Washington started off 4/4 from beyond the arc, and finished the first quarter 5/7. The Wizards finished the first quarter shooting better from the 3 (71%) than the thunder shot from the free throw line (67%).
Billy Donovan decided to start the second quarter with an all bench lineup, which actually didn’t hurt the Thunder. The bench cut into the deficit a little, and as soon as Russell Westbrook checked in Oklahoma City took the lead. Russell Westbrook was playing great defense which led to offense on the other end. The Thunder went on an 18-7 run off of 9 straight misses by the Wizards. However, it wasn’t long before the Thunder’s defense became lazy once again and Washington closed the gap before halftime.
The third quarter was quite possibly the ugliest period of the game. Although the Thunder finished the quarter with a one point lead, they actually trailed for quite some time. Oklahoma City couldn’t seem to buy a foul, which irritated a few players on the Thunder roster. Both Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook were handed technical fouls. Despite leading by one at the end, it felt like the Thunder should’ve been down by 20 points.
The all bench lineup was out on the floor once again to start the final quarter. This time, it didn’t workout in the Thunder’s favor. The second unit was taking poor shots on offense, and couldn’t keep up on the defensive end of the floor. The Thunder basically killed themselves on offense by not running proper sets and finding good looks. Even though Paul George had 20 points in the first half, he took only 3 shots the second half. None of those shots came in the fourth quarter. In my opinion, there has to be more sets drawn up for Paul George in clutch time. Due to the lack of offense in the final minutes, the Thunder lost 102-96 in a back and forth battle.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Defense Wins Games!
They say defense wins championships, and that’s true. As much fire power as this team has, there’s still going to be nights where shots aren’t falling. This was pretty much the case tonight, with the exception of Paul George. Sure, there will be nights when this team is going to shoot other teams out of the gym. However, when shots aren’t falling, there has to be an extra focus on defense.
With the absence of Andre Roberson, defensive focus is going to be more of a struggle than ever. Other guys are going to have to step up, because Paul George can’t do it on his own. The Thunder gave up way too many shots from beyond the arc due to not closing out on the perimeter. When they did close out, they left the baseline wide open. If this team came out with any sense of focus on defense, the outcome of this game would likely be different.
- This Team Must Learn To Adjust To Officials.
Let me be clear, the officials were terrible tonight. However, you can’t put the blame on the refs. The officials didn’t cause 21 turnovers. They didn’t cause guys to miss wide open shots. Sure, the way a game is officiated can dictate the pace. That being said, you’ve got to learn to adjust to the way officials are calling the game. They weren’t good, but they were making consistent calls. If they are going to call a game one way, adjust and play to what they are calling. Having all-stars lying on the ground complaining about a call while the other team is in transistion certainly isn’t going to help.
- OKC Needs a Little More from Terrance Ferguson.
Terrance Ferguson has been starting in place of Andre Roberson. There’s no telling if he will start in his place for the remainder of the season. If he is, the Thunder will need a little bit more production from him. Tonight, he recorded only 4 rebounds and 1 assist. He took only one shot from the field and it was a three point shot.
The Thunder doesn’t need Ferguson to score in double digits every night. He just needs to be more of a facilitator. Early on in the game he gave Adams a solid pass inside for an easy look. That’s exactly what OKC needs from him. He has to do more than just shoot. If he can dribble and create space for other guys to score, then he’s doing more than enough.
Mile High on Thursday
The Thunder will be heading to Denver to play the Nuggets on Thursday. The game will start at 9:30 PM CST and it will be televised on TNT and FSOK. If you’re driving, you’ll be able to listen on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Playing in Denver is always tough due to the altitude. In addition to that, the Nuggets are having a decent season. They have an impressive record at home, and an overall record above .500. It will be huge for the Thunder to go to Denver and get a divisional win.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @thethunderguys on Twitter and Instagram.