Thunder fall short in Oakland: Five thoughts

By Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer.

After forty-eight minutes of intense basketball, the Oklahoma City Thunder drop their first game of the regular season against the Golden State Warriors, 108-100 the final score.

Without Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson due to injuries, it was clear from the beginning that winning in Oakland would have been a difficult challenge. However, the Thunder battled until the last minute of the game versus the reigning NBA champions before falling short.

In the first half, Oklahoma City didn’t play the best basketball, at least offensively. A lot of standing players without much ball movement, many turnovers, and bad shooting.  The defense was somehow acceptable, at least the effort was there, enough to hang with Golden State. The Warriors took only a ten points lead into halftime, even though it felt like a bigger hole.

The third quarter? A completely different story. Usually, the team from the Bay excels in making big runs after the long break, but last night it was all about the Thunder, and especially Paul George. The Thunder All-Star somehow found his shooting after an horrific first half and put the Thunder back into the game. At the end of the third, Oklahoma City was down only by four points, while the lead changed a few times in the quarter. As expected, the last twelve minutes have been a battle. The Thunder went toe to toe with Golden State, found themselves down three points with a little less than two minutes to play in the game, and Steven Adams at the free-throw line with the chance to cut the Warriors’ lead to one point. The Kiwi went one for two at the line, and on the next possession, Curry scored three points. Oklahoma City wasn’t able to finish strong and scored only one more basket before the clock reached zero. It wasn’t enough.

Five Thoughts:

1.) Paul George two face game

It feels like Paul George had two completely different types of games last night. In the first half, maybe because of a mix of tension and excitement, he shot the ball badly, forced too much on offense, shot without rhythm, and lost the ball too many times. In the second half, he came in hot and smooth. George scored nine straight points for the Thunder to start the third quarter and helped the team to get back into the game. He will finish the third quarter with fifteen points on six for eight shooting. Overall he didn’t play a great game offensively despite the twenty-seven final points, while on defense I thought he was solid.

2.) Dennis Schröder impact

Dennis was really impressive last night. Not only he had a really nice offensive game (twenty-one points, nine rebounds, six assists) but he played intensive defense for most of the time. That comes as a bit of a surprise. A great surprise to be honest. Now, when Westbrook is back, Schröder will play mostly against second units, and if this is the real Dennis Schröder (on both ends of the floor), well then the Thunder will not have to worry about resting Westbrook.

3.) Defense

Besides the first quarter, Thunder’s defense didn’t disappoint. Oklahoma City forced twenty turnovers, and some tough shots during the course of the game. Obviously, the athleticism and the lengths of Thunder’s player helped a lot but what was most impressive? It was the effort. However, one thing that should be better, is the boxing out. Oklahoma City allowed sixteen offensive rebounds to the Warriors and that’s a lot of second-chance opportunities for the best team in the League.

4.) Free Throw issue

New season, old problems. The Thunder finished 29th in the league last year in free throw percentage (71.6%), and last night they were able to do even worse: 24-37 - 64.9%. It’s easy to see where the Thunder lost the game. Oklahoma City left thirteen points at the free throw line, that’s massive in a close game, actually, in any game. This is an aspect that needs to improve as soon as possible if the Thunder want to be a top team in the league.

5.) Rotations

Billy Donovan rotations’ went mostly as expected. Patterson and Ferguson in the starting line, Grant and Abrines to replace them, Felton for Schröder, and Noel for Adams. The surprise, if we can call it a surprise at this point, was Diallo minutes' for Paul Geroge. The Thunder have a deep rotation at the wing spot but was good to see Donovan put trust into the rookie on the first game against the Warriors. Hamidou Diallo played only nine minutes but he did well on both ends of the floor. If he can keep up with this type of play, then we might see him taking over Ferguson’s minutes in the rotation.

Up Next: The Thunder will play on Friday night, in Los Angeles, against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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