2020 is finally coming to an end, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are probably ready to move on from it after an embarrassing 113-80 New Year’s Eve loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Thunder kept the game close for the majority of the first three quarters, but the Pelicans proved to be too much in the final period as OKC scored just 7 points in the quarter.
This is How We Tank
I get it: losing is no fun. Unfortunately, that’s where the Thunder is at this point in time. Trying to crawl into the playoffs only to get destroyed in the first round is going to serve no purpose in the long run, so that’s out of the question.
The key to a proper tank—one that benefits the current players while simultaneously keeping the long-term status of the organization in mind—is to compete with every ounce of energy and allow everyone, especially the young guys, the opportunity to grow and develop.
Games like tonight are hard because, even if you wouldn’t mind adding to the loss column, you ultimately want to be in the game right up until the final minutes. That wasn’t really the case, as the Pelicans led by 11 at halftime and 12 to start the fourth the quarter. OKC did close the gap to 5 midway through the third quarter, but it was never a single-digit deficit in the final period.
Again, this may not be the basketball that fans want to see RIGHT NOW, but unfortunately, it’s the name of the game, and I genuinely believe it won’t be long before OKC is right back in the thick of the race to be the best in the league.
Time to Respect Dort’s Shot
Despite being just four games into the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that Luguentz Dort has developed quite the three-point shot. I don’t know if he’s going to maintain what he’s done already, but at the very least, opponents are going to have to start respecting his shot sooner than later.
Last season, Dort shot a measly 29.7% from downtown on 2.8 attempts per game. So far this season, he’s knocking down 47.8% of his 5.8 attempts per game. Mike Muscala is the only other player on the team that is shooting a better percentage at a high volume.
Luguentz Dort has established himself as one of the NBA’s best wing defenders, and if his three-point shooting becomes a mainstay of his repertoire, then his already bargain of a contract is going to look like one of the biggest steals in NBA history.
Whether you liked Steven Adams or not whenever he was here, one thing is certain just four games into this new season: he is greatly missed by the Thunder.
The Big Kiwi was a fan favorite for the last 7 years, and for good reason. He earned a reputation as the toughest player in the entire league, and he was an eccentric personality off the court. For the Thunder, he was a traditional big man who protected the rim and dared smaller players to try to enter the paint.
Now that Adams is gone, the Thunder is struggling to protect the paint. Tonight that was especially obvious, perhaps because Adams was playing in the other team’s jersey.
Oklahoma City allowed New Orleans to score 54 points in the paint, which is on par with what the Thunder has allowed so far this season. Steven Adams had a pretty standard game of 14 points and 10 rebounds, common numbers from his time in OKC, and without his big body down in a blue jersey, the Thunder is going to struggle to defend at a high level moving forward.
Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game
Tonight’s unsung hero title goes to Al Horford. The veteran big man isn’t expected to do much more than be a leader for this young Thunder team, but he’s proven himself to be pretty solid in his 3 games played so far.
Tonight, Horford scored a team-high 17 points on 7-of-9 (77.7%) from the floor, including 3-of-5 (60.0%) from three, plus 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 0 turnovers in just 24 minutes.
I can always appreciate a seasoned played who is used to winning but all of a sudden is a put in a less than ideal situation. Let’s face it: Al Horford could easily be a contributor on a legit contender, but his contract is likely keeping that from happening. In the meantime, I applaud him for his efforts while he is here.