The Oklahoma City Thunder (36-22) got off to a hot start against the Chicago Bulls (20-39) on Tuesday, and after leading by 24 points midway through the second quarter, it looked like the Thunder was going to run away with it.
Unfortunately for fans who can’t handle high-stress situation, this team loves to play things down to the wire, and despite trailing by 2 to start the fourth quarter, OKC was able to hold on and defeat the Bulls 124-122.
Steve-o the Hero
Thunder big man Steven Adams may be the most underrated, under-appreciated Thunder player since Nick Collison. Much like Collison, Adams has a way of affecting the game, regardless of whether or not it shows up in the box score. Unlike Collison, however, Adams is also capable of lighting the game up statistically, and that’s exactly what he did in the final minutes of tonight’s game.
In a little over 28 minutes, Adams finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 (75.0%) shooting, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. What is especially impressive is the timeliness of a number of plays that he made.
In the final 5 minutes of the game, Adams tallied 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. His efforts kept OKC afloat, and in the end, he played a major role in fueling the Thunder to the win.
Keep Up the Clean Up
A win is a win, but this one was very nearly a loss. In fact, if it weren’t for some extremely clutch plays from not just Steven Adams but a number of other players for OKC, it probably would have been. Still, the Thunder has areas they need to clean up.
- 3rd Quarter Letdown: The turnaround for the Bulls came primarily due to a stale third quarter for the Thunder. After scoring a season-high 72 first-half points, OKC managed just 19 points in the third, and Chicago’s 38 points gave them a 2-point lead headed into the final frame.
After shooting a red-hot 11-for-17 (64.7%) from three in the first half, OKC threw up 1-for-9 (11.1%) from deep in the third quarter, while Chicago was able to knock down shot after shot behind Zach Lavine and Coby White combining for 27 points in the period.
- You’ve Got to Make Your Free Throws: Another area that killed the Thunder was free throw shooting. While no individual quarter was particularly egregious, OKC finished 26-of-35 (74.3%) for the night, which is well below their season average.
Part of the problem with missing free throws tonight was the timing. In the final 47 seconds of the game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed 2 of his 6 attempts, and Chris Paul missed 1 of his 4 attempts. Again, it’s not terrible to miss a free throw here and there, but when your team is counting on you to put away a game, you have to knock those down.
For a team that averages over 80% from the charity stripe, shooting well under that isn’t going to cut it, especially in tight games.
Oklahoma City can be glad that they squeaked out the win, but there’s still work to be done moving forward.
Next up for the Thunder is a home matchup with the Sacramento Kings (23-33). These two teams have met twice already this season, both times in Sacramento, and after the Kings defeated the Thunder by a single point thanks to a buzzer beater on December 11th, the Thunder returned the favor with a 20-point beatdown on the Kings on January 29th.
This will be the one and only matchup this season between the Thunder and the Kings in Oklahoma City, so the Thunder needs to make it count.
Tip-off for that game is at 7 PM, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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