The Oklahoma City Thunder (15-15) led early in the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies (12-19) on Thursday night, but after falling behind in the second period, they simply could not complete the comeback that has become so common lately. In the end, it was the Grizzlies who pulled out the 110-97 victory.
Terrible Transition Defense
Entering tonight’s game, OKC had one of the better transition defenses in the NBA. Giving up just 11.2 fast break points per game, the 2nd-lowest in the league, the Thunder has done a solid job this season not allowing teams to get out and run on them. That wasn’t the case tonight.
The Grizzlies ran the Thunder ragged in transition tonight, and it had a major impact. Coming into the game, Memphis was averaging 16.0 fast break points per outing (4th in the NBA). Tonight, they went to work against OKC by racking up 23 fast break points, 18 of which came in the first half.
Despite the fact that Memphis is proficient in transition, the Thunder should have been able to get more stops, but they lacked the urgency and energy in the first half to really get that done. Maybe it was just an off night, but no matter what the reason, OKC cannot expect to compete in this league if they can’t get back and defend the fast break.
The Thunder came into tonight’s game shooting 35.3% from three—18th in the NBA—and while that is an improvement over recent years, it’s still not particularly great.
OKC had a solid first half from deep, knocking down 7-of-18 (38.8%) from three, but as is often the case, just because you shoot well in one half does not necessarily mean it carries over to the next one.
The Thunder has a bad habit of knocking down a couple of threes, and all of a sudden they think they’re the Golden State Warriors of recent years. After the first half performance behind the perimeter, OKC managed to make just 3-of-17 (17.6%) in the second half. For a team that averages just a little over 29 attempts from three per game, throwing up 35 shots isn’t necessarily a great idea.
Again, the problem with the Thunder’s three-point shooting isn’t the number of attempts or even the percentage that they’re normally shooting—both of these numbers are fine and they fit well within OKC’s offense.
The issue is the timing of some of the threes that are taken. It’s human nature to want to keep letting it fire from deep after knocking down a few, but the Thunder has to be more disciplined and know that just because they made some doesn’t mean they’re going to continue making them.
The Strength of Steven Adams
Steven Adams has had an interesting season. After a handful of rough games to start, he was forced to sit with a lingering injury. When he returned, it took a few games for him to get back into the flow of things. Since then, however, he’s been playing on another level.
One of the standout aspects of the Big Kiwi’s game is just how incredibly strong he is. For a couple of seasons now, Thunder fans have BEGGED him to dunk the ball more, and for some reason, he really hadn’t all that much, until recently.
After dealing with a hand injury on and off for quite some time, it makes sense that he would be hesitant to dunk the ball and risk re-injuring it. Now he looks as healthy as every, and he’s dunking the ball ferociously at a frequency that makes you appreciate having the big fella on your team.
Back On the Road
After 5 straight at home, the Thunder is headed out on the road to Charlotte where they will take on the Hornets (13-20) in a Friday night matchup. OKC has 6 of their next 7 on the road, and with a 4-9 record away from home, the Thunder needs to pick up a win in this one.
Tip-off for that game is at 7 PM, and it be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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