The Thunder lost a back and forth battle tonight in a rivalry game against the Warriors. The Thunder led for a good part of the game, but let it slip away in the end. Oklahoma City played great for three out of the four quarters. It was the second quarter that ultimately cost this team the game. A playoff spot is on the line, and the Thunder couldn’t secure a win when they needed it the most.
Oklahoma City’s “Big 3” started out the game playing extremely well. The team was allowing the game to flow naturally and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. The entire starting five seemed to be on one page except for Corey Brewer. Brewer seemed a bit nervous, probably due to this being his first matchup against the Warriors as a member of the Thunder. Oklahoma City worked the ball inside to exploit JaVale McGee guarding Steven Adams. However, McGee was finding wide open shots on the other end of the floor as well. When the bench for OKC entered the game, Paul George was left as the lone starter to lead the way. George led the Thunder to a three point lead heading into the second quarter.
After a decent start to the game, the second quarter was definitely one to forget for this team. The effort was there on defense, but the offense of Golden State was too much for the Thunder to match. On the offensive end, Oklahoma City was stagnant and settled for bad shots. The Thunder started the game 8-14 from the floor, and then a poor 1-11. The Warriors took the lead during this time, but the Thunder were fortunate that the game didn’t get out of hand.
The Thunder continued to struggle on the offensive end to start the second half. As for the Warriors, their ball movement and offensive sets continued to roll over the Thunder. Golden State led by double digits half way through the quarter, and the game was definitely in jeopardy for Oklahoma City at this point. Russell Westbrook had an answer as he plowed through the defense in transition on back to back possessions. The push from Westbrook forced Golden State to call a timeout. Coming out of the break, Russ continued to turn up the heat by driving to the rim and knocking down shots from beyond the arc. Russ single-handedly led the Thunder back into this game with 17 points on 7-10 shooting in the quarter.
The Warriors maintained a small lead throughout almost the entire fourth quarter. The Thunder made runs at certain points to take a small lead, but the Warriors were always right there with an answer. Despite the offense of the Thunder finally starting to click, the Warriors were always one step ahead. The game came down to the wire, but in the end it was Golden State who made the plays to win the game.
3 Quick Thoughts
Where Did Paul George and Carmelo Anthony Go?: Since returning from the All-Star Break, Paul George has not been himself, and Carmelo Anthony has been inconsistent for much of the season, but tonight’s performance by the duo against the reigning NBA champions was downright abysmal. The two combined to shoot 9/35 (25.7%) from the field, including 3/18 (16.7%) from three. Not only did they shoot poorly, but Paul George had some crucial turnovers which were completely unforced, and Carmelo Anthony got destroyed on the defensive end of the floor possession after possession. If ever players needed to “turn it on for the playoffs,” it would be these two guys. Oklahoma City simply will not get anywhere in the playoffs, assuming they make it, if George and Anthony continue to squander golden opportunities and miss wide open shots.
- No Time for Absent Bench: Oklahoma City’s bench has been as ineffective as ever lately. Jerami Grant has been fairly consistent lately, but tonight, he only had five points, two rebounds, and two blocks. Alex Abrines led the second unit in scoring with eight points, but the entire bench combined for a mere 14 points. Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson were both held scoreless, and Josh Huestis had a single point. The worst part about the lack of points from the backups is the fact that many of their shots were good looks. Simply put, if these guys can’t knock down open looks, they’re not bringing much to the table.
- Too Many Threes: The Thunder is not a good three-point shooting team at all, ranked 24th in the NBA, and for whatever reason, they are shooting them at a high volume. In the last four games, Oklahoma City is averaging 36 three-point attempts per game, which is six more than their already high season average. Tonight, the Thunder shot 9/38 (23.7%). The bigger issue really isn’t even the number of three-point attempts, but it is the fact that they are wide-open looks, and they are not making them. Missing shots is bad, but missing high-percentage, wide-open shots is the worst.
Headed to Houston
The Oklahoma City Thunder hits the road to take on the Houston Rockets on Saturday evening. The Rockets have the league’s best record at 63-15, but Oklahoma City is tied with Houston at 1-1 on the season series. Houston has secured the top spot in the playoffs, but the Thunder has not even clinched a playoff spot yet. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT and will be televised on ABC. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to check out this week’s episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.