OKC's first win of the season: Five thoughts
By: Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer
After the worst start in Franchise history with four consecutive losses, last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder earned their first win after defeating the Phoneix Suns 117-110. The game was a must-win for the Thunder, not only because the Suns were playing without their best player (Booker), but also to finally move in the win column after a rough start.
Oklahoma City controlled the game for three quarters and a half, a high-energy performance on both ends of the floor. The struggles from behind the arc (7-24, 29.2%) and from the free-throw line (24-35, 68.6%) remain alarming, but what has been encouraging against the Suns, it’s the solid defense, the fast pace, and the willingness to score in the paint (sixty points) rather than from the mid-range area (twelve points on nine shots).
Nerlens Noel is a luxury
With Steven Adams sidelined with calves tightness, Noel entered the starting lineup against the Suns, and he delivered an outstanding performance. The big man out of Kentucky was fantastic on both ends of the floor finishing with the first twenty points - fifteen rebounds game in his career. Noel’s production wasn’t only points and rebounds. He added two assists, four steals, and one block in only twenty-six total minutes of playing time. Having a player like Noel on the roster is indeed a luxury, especially when he is your back up center.
Hello Patrick Patterson
Last night has been probably Patterson’s best game in a Thunder jersey, and this is the kind of production the team is expecting from him. Well, maybe he won’t score seventeen points each game, but he hit open shots, spread the floor, and defended well. Oklahoma City doesn’t ask anything more from the veteran. It seems like starting from the bench might be a good thing after all for Patterson. Notable: last night he dunked for the first time during a game since his arrival in Oklahoma City.
The most interesting stat from last night? Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schröder combined for a total of one three-point attempt. Dennis took it, in the second half. Both point guards didn’t have to force any shot from behind the arc because they were able to attack the pain every time. Obviously, Suns’ defense is not the best in the league, but avoid to settle for bad shots from the long distance it’s already a big win for the Thunder. Only two of Westbrook’s total thirteen shots came out of the painted area, that’s also a very solid number.
Defense leads to Offense
For many stretches of the game, the Thunder played probably the best defense since Roberson’s injury. All the players were pressuring the opposite team on the perimeter, the switches were perfectly timed as well as the help from the weak sides. The Thunder finished the game with a total of sixteen steals. This high-energy defense led to a fast offense and a total of twenty-five fast break points. That’s really a solid number considering that the Thunder were averaging a bit more than twelve points on fast breaks in the first four games (per Nba.com/stats).
Not all gold
Last night there have been more positives than negatives without a doubt, but three-point shooting and free-throw shooting are still areas of concern. Also, an alarming sign is the inability to score at the end of the game. The Thunder led by twenty-four points (111-87) with six minutes and a half left in the game. Oklahoma City scored only six points for the remaining of the game, while the Suns twenty-three. Important to mention that on the floor there wasn't the “garbage” lineup, at least not until the last couple of minutes. We saw the Thunder struggling against the Clippers and the Celtics in the last quarter, yesterday wasn't different. This is something that needs to be addressed and fixed.