Another strong comeback, third win in a row: Five thoughts
By: A. Suave Francisco, Senior Writer
Oklahoma City was trailing by nineteen points with a bit more of seven minutes left in the third quarter. The defense who kept the Thunder close to the Hornets despite a horrible offense in the first half, all of the sudden, was gone, and the collapse was almost complete. Then Alex Abrines happened: the Spanish small forward caught fire in the third quarter, and thanks to an outstanding team’s defense, he helped the Thunder to come back.
The first half has been a grind. The Thunder played an outstanding defense but couldn’t buy a bucket on offense. Oklahoma City missed a lot of good open shots but never gave up on defense. After falling behind nineteen points in the third quarter, the Thunder came back but didn’t take the lead until the 5.31 mark in the fourth quarter. From that moment on, Oklahoma City didn’t look back, executed well on offense, earned some stops on the defensive end, and thanks to Russell Westbrook and Alex Abrines, the Thunder were able to win their third consecutive game.
Alex Abrines all around
Alex Abrines played probably his best game since he joined the Thunder. Not only he finished with a career-high twenty-five points, but once again he defended at an high level. When the Thunder collapsed to start the 3rd quarter, Abrines was the spark that helped the team come back. The Spanish forward shot 5-10 from behind the arc, a total of 9-15 from the floor, and 2-2 from the FT line. I am not sure we needed more proof that Abrines really needs to play more minutes, maybe also to start in the lineup.
Russell Westbrook clutch
Entering the fourth quarter Westbrook shot 6-17 from the floor and 0-3 from behind the arc. He forced and missed a few bad shots in the third period but when he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, Russell was a different player. He kept his composure, looked for the right shot, and found the open player multiple times. Westbrook will score thirteen points in the last quarter, 6-7 from the floor (no three-pointers) and 1-1 from the line. Also, very impressive, the “shammgod” which basically sailed the game.
This move by Billy Donovan probably changed the course of the game. The Thunder’s coach went full small ball with Steven Adams as the only real big man. Paul George played at the power forward position, Abrines at small forward, Schröder and Westbrook the two guards. It was the perfect adjustment, effective on both ends of the floor. It will be interesting to see, based on specific matchups if Donovan will use this lineup again.
Defense is the key
Oklahoma City’s defense has been once again the key to the win. Despite the Thunder didn’t capitalize during the first half and part of the third quarter due to a horrific offense, they played an outstanding defense for almost the whole game. Most teams end up giving up on defense if the offense isn’t working, the Thunder didn’t, and after the Clippers game, Oklahoma City was able to complete another impressive comeback thanks to their defense.
Shots will fall
The offense is an issue. I am not referring to the shots selection or how the Thunder generate the shots. The shots are good, many are wide-open or relatively open, especially from behind the arc. They just don’t go in. Against the Hornets, Paul George went 0-10 from behind the arc, Patrick Patterson 0-3, and Russell Westbrook 0-3. However, I am confident this will change because Oklahoma City has the players on the roster who can shot and score. Probably it requires still a little bit of time.
The Thunder will play tonight against the Washington Wizards, tip off 7 pm CT.