The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Los Angeles Clippers just two days ago, and the start of the second matchup looked eerily similar to the first one. The offense could not buy a bucket from downtown, going 0-for-9 from three, and the defense couldn’t come up with any real stops as LA jumped out to an early 17-point lead.
OKC was able to cut the deficit to single digits in the second quarter before trailing by 11 at the half, and eventually trimming it to just 5 points in the third quarter. It didn’t last for long, however, as Kawhi Leonard was constantly at work, and his buzzer-beater to end the third period put the Clippers up 85-73.
LA was able to push their lead back up to 17 with just 4:32 left in the game, but the Thunder wasn’t done. OKC was able to cut the deficit to just 6 with 1:56 left in the game, but that was as close as they would get, and the Clippers would escape with the 108-100 win.
No Shot = No Shot
The Thunder has never really been a great 3-point shooting franchise, and this year has been no different. Coming into tonight’s game, OKC was ranked 29th in the league, knocking down just 33.0% of attempts from downtown. Somehow, they were even worse against the Clippers on Sunday evening.
By the end of the night, the Thunder had moved into dead last in the league in 3-point percent. A 7-for-35 (20.0%) outing, their worst of the season so far, puts OKC’s 3-point shooting at a dismal 32.3%.
Mike Muscala had perhaps his worst game in a Thunder uniform, knocking down just 1-of-9 (11.1%) from three, and Luguentz Dort shot 0-for-6 (0.0%) from downtown, his first game this season without a made three. If it wasn’t for George Hill hitting 3 consecutive threes late in the fourth, it would have been an even uglier night.
This is a growing year, and Oklahoma City has a number of different areas they need to improve before getting to any place of competitiveness, but three-point shooting should absolutely be a focus moving forward.
Interior Defense Shows Minor Improvement
Despite never leading in this one, the Thunder made some solid improvements in a few key areas, particularly at protecting the paint.
On Friday against the Clippers, OKC gave up 56 points in the paint, including 16 second-chance points. Tonight, however, the Thunder allowed LA just 42 points in the paint and 19 second-chance points.
There is still work to be done, but I’ll take small improvements from game-to-game, and we’ll live with the results.
Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game
Al Horford missed his fifth consecutive game, and Isaiah Roby has done a pretty fantastic job filling in for him. Tonight was no different as he brought a lot of energy early when the Thunder didn’t seem to have much.
Roby played just 26 minutes against the Clippers, but he finished with his first career double-double, recording 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with 3 assists and a steal.
Roby continues to be an unexpected bright spot for this young Thunder squad, and at the rate that he appears to be maturing as a player, he very well may be a key piece to Oklahoma City’s rebuild.
The Thunder is just 3 games into a 5-game road trip, and now they head north to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (8-6). Like the Thunder, the Blazers will also be playing in the second game of a back-to-back, so it could be a sloppy game for either team if not both.
Damian Lillard is the clear leader for the Blazers, and he’s having to do a little extra at this point in the season with some key teammates forced to miss time with injuries. Jusuf Nurkic suffered a fracture to his right wrist, and CJ McCollum has a hairline fracture in his left foot. Missing those guys gives the Thunder a lot better chance at picking up a win on the road.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 PM CT, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.