The Thunder suffered their third straight loss tonight. Oklahoma City faced New Orleans at home on the second night of a back to back. Not only was this the second night of a back to back, but it was the Thunder’s sixth straight game in a different time zone. Oklahoma City was visibly exhausted, and struggled to get into a rhythm. The tired legs led to poor shooting and trouble getting back in transition on defense.

New Orleans opened up a the game with a 10-4 lead. It seemed like they might run away with it, but then the Thunder responded with an 11-2 run of their own. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George started off 0-5 from the floor. When you add that with the four early turnovers this team had, it’s amazing that they were even in this game to begin with. Without that big run by OKC, New Orleans might’ve taken control of the game early.

The second unit for OKC played well again in this game. They were on the floor to start the second quarter, and they actually expanded the Thunder’s lead. The bench extended the lead to double digits, which was quickly given away when the starters rotated back in. Shortly after giving up the lead, Steven Adams scored five straight points to give the Thunder the advantage again. Steven Adams was dominating Anthony Davis in the first half.

Unfortunately, the Thunder got a bit lazy on defense and allowed the Pelicans to go on a run right before half. The Pelicans shot over 50% in the second quarter and had 32 points. A big story of the first half was three point shooting. Oklahoma City was 3/13 from beyond the arc, while New Orleans was an efficient 4/8.

The Thunder held only a four point lead heading into the third quarter. That lead didn’t last long as New Orleans opened the quarter on fire, which forced Billy Donovan to call a quick timeout. The Pelicans took advantage of the lazy defense by OKC and went on an 11-0 run. The Thunder weren’t grabbing rebounds, they weren’t closing out on shooters, and they were taking poor shots.

The fourth quarter seemed hopeless, and it essentially was. The Thunder looked drained, both mentally and physically. While it seemed like Oklahoma City could get back into the game at anytime, they never got over the hill. They were always a second too late. This team stopped doing what was working, which was getting in the paint to score. The Thunder scored 38 points in the paint in the first half, and had only 10 in the second. After struggling on both sides of the ball due to fatigue, the Thunder lost 114-100.

3 Quick Thoughts 

  • The Energy Must Look Like The First Half for the Entire Game. 

The Thunder came out with tremendous energy in the first half. It was nice to see after a game yesterday when it seemed like this team had no energy at all. However, the energy nearly depleted in the second half. It’s not good enough to come out strong for one half, and then slack off in the second.

Sure, fatigue is definitely a reason why this team was lacking energy tonight. On the other hand, you still have to dig deep and bring forth some kind of effort. Standing around on offense and defense is never acceptable, and it certainly isn’t gonna win you any games in this league.

  • Steven Adams Remains the Anchor for This Offense. 

In a game where just about everyone on the Thunder’s roster was struggling to score, Steven Adams was the centerpiece of this offense. This has been the case for many games this year, and it needs to be the case for the remainder of the season. Tonight, Adams recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds on 8/13 shooting from the floor.

I’m not saying he should be leading the team in shots, but I do think the offense should run through him. He is consistent, he is reliable, and he opens up shots for other players. Dumping it inside to Adams over and over again will only provide better looks for the shooters on the arc. In my opinion, Adams needs to be given the ball on more possessions, even if he isn’t shooting. Simply giving him the ball creates options for this offense.

  • This Team Has to do the Little Things. 

When you’re tired, it’s hard to do the little things. Oklahoma City lost this game because they failed to do the little things. This team stopped closing out on shooters, they stopped blocking out, and they quit moving their feet on defense. Often times, it’s the little things that win games. Playing back to backs is tough. Playing six straight games in different time zones is also tough. However, to be a championship level team you have to be able to do the little things no matter what.

Super Bowl Sunday 

Before you get together for your Super Bowl party, make sure you tune in and watch the Thunder at 1:00 PM CST on Sunday. They will play the Lakers at home in the Peake. The game will be televised on ABC, and will be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.

The Thunder haven’t had any issues in the previous matchups against the Lakers this season. However, the Lakers have been trending upwards lately. It looks like we will have a great matchup on Sunday to watch before the Super Bowl.

Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.