For the second time, in as many nights, Oklahoma City walked off the floor a loser. This time it was different though. The Thunder opened the season with a hard-fought loss to the defending world champion Golden State Warriors. It was a game that inspired hope and enthusiasm to a fanbase that has lofty expectations. Without their hero on the floor (Russell Westbrook) OKC had gone toe-to-toe with Goliath and made him flinch.
Three nights later hope faded when Oklahoma City dropped their second consecutive game of the season. This was the one that got away. This was the game that caused the fanbase to begin questioning the mental toughness of the team and the future of head coach Billy Donovan. This one hurt!
Blowing a nine-point lead in the second half, the Thunder were ultimately outscored 37-15 in the final quarter on their way to a 108-92 loss.
“We’ve got to execute better, we’ve got to run offense, and we’re not going to be able just to rely on guys just trying to create and manufacture shots,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “We have to do it together.”
The assumption was that things would get better for OKC when they came home. Russell Westbrook was back, and with the home crowd supporting them, this team would get back on track. Back-to-Back losses to Sacramento and Boston proved that to be a myth and suddenly the franchise was in uncharted territory at an 0-4 start.
A 117-110 win over Phoenix last Sunday finally dropped a ray of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy start to the season but tonight is the real opportunity. Tonight is where the Thunder can show the fans that they truly are back on track. Tonight provides the first opportunity to avenge a loss this season.
“We just gotta come in focused, come in ready to play and just follow the coaches’ game plan,” said forward Jerami Grant about the opportunity that lies before them.
Donovan addressed two issues that led to the fourth quarter collapse in the first match up between these two teams this season.
“My question is how is the ball getting down the lane?” Donovan asked. “Certainly you’re going to have breakdowns, and guys will need to come over and rotate and help. We need to do a better job in that fourth quarter of ball containment.”
LA’s 7-3/290 big man Boban Marjanovic scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter of that game, but his presence on the defensive end is what caused the Thunder to fall apart.
Boban likes to play keep-away with NBA players
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 20, 2018
“I thought we didn’t stick to our principles because of who was out there,” Paul George said about the final minutes. “And that’s what messed us up at the end of the day.”
“They do a good job with their size around the basket,” Donovan said about the Clippers. “They’re a team that can be explosive offensively. They’ve got a lot of versatility. They have a unique lineup when they play (Danilo) Gallinari and Tobias (Harris) there. But certainly when Boban (Marjanovic) and (Marcin) Gortat come in, those guys present great length and size and presence at the basket.”
This go around the Thunder will try a different approach. The intent is to push the ball and make guys like Marjanovic less of a factor.
“Anytime you play with some force and there’s ball movement and the guys are catching the ball on the run, you’re always giving the advantage to the offense,” Donovan said in regard to the up-tempos style of play.
With Westbrook back in the lineup, running the floor won’t be a problem. Especially when he shares the court with Paul George and Dennis Schröder. The counter to size is speed and speed is what OKC possesses in abundance. That one factor right there may be the Thunder’s best path to redemption.
Tip tonight is a 7:00 PM.