The Oklahoma City Thunder got off to a terribly slow start against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon as they shot their worst game of the season from three. Despite their best efforts to put together a comeback, cutting the deficit to just one late in the fourth, the Thunder lost to the Blazers 104-99.
Stop with the Slow Starts
The Thunder made a bad habit of getting behind early—particularly in games after the All-Star Game—only to turn it on and make a game of it later.
Tonight, OKC trailed by 17 with 2:45 left in the first quarter and by 19 with 9:14 left in the first half, but as Portland cooled down from three, the Thunder was able to cut the deficit to 6 by the end of the second quarter.
The second half went much better for OKC, but it did not go well enough, as the Thunder could never quite retake the lead. Simply put, if OKC doesn’t trail by a ridiculous deficit early in the game, then they don’t have to worry about catching up and can just focus on playing their game.
The Thunder defense played extremely hard for the majority of the second half, but by then, it was too little too late. If OKC can simply come out and play with high energy from the get-go, they will be in a much better position to take care of business.
The Thunder got off to a pretty terrible start, and even after coming back to make a game of it, they never did manage to get shots to fall. Finishing 5-33 (15.2%) is arguably the worst performance from three in playoff history, and it marks the worst performance for the Thunder of the entire season both in makes and percentage.
On top of the slow start and bad shooting, OKC did not get a lot of help from the supporting cast. Outside of the Thunder’s Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams, OKC only had one other player finish in double digits, and that was Dennis Schröder with 11 points. Nerlens Noel added in 8, but Markieff Morris only had 2, and Raymond Felton had 0.
Of particular disappointment on the scoring side of things was Jerami Grant, who finished with just 8 points, and Terrance Ferguson, who hit one three.
Paul George shot pretty terribly, likely due to his sore shoulder, and Russell Westbrook played a pretty solid game, but the Thunder desperately needs role players to step up and put up numbers in order to be successful in the postseason.
To cap off the poor offensive night for Oklahoma City, the Blazers managed to shoot 11-25 (44.0%) from three after starting a ridiculous 7-10 (70.0%). I don’t anticipate that the Thunder will shoot as poorly as they did tonight again in the series, but OKC has to do a better job at defending the perimeter on the other side of the ball moving forward.
Thunder Player of the Game
Russell Westbrook earns player of the game honors after a tough night for a lot of players in a Thunder jersey. Westbrook earned yet another triple-double as he finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. In a game where not many guys really showed up to play their best, Westbrook did a pretty solid job all around.
The Oklahoma City Thunder has one more game in Portland against the Blazers before heading back to OKC for two games at home. Game 2 is on Tuesday night, and it’s a late one. Tip-off is set for 9:30 PM CT and will be televised on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.
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