Dry offense and bench struggles, Thunder lose again: Five thoughts
By Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer.
Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost their second consecutive game, this time in Denver against the Nuggets, 98-109 the final score.
Besides a horrible first quarter defensively, the Thunder played a good game for the other three quarters on that end of the floor. The Nuggets scored thirty-nine points in the first twelve minutes but only seventy during the rest of the game (that’s 23.3 points per quarter, which is pretty good). However, Oklahoma City struggled offensively. Again, if the first quarter has been bad defensively, it hasn’t been on offense, because the Thunder scored thirty-two points. From there on the Thunder scored only sixty-six points (that’s 22.0 points per quarter, which is pretty bad). It’s hard to win a game when your field goal percentage at the end of the game reads 41%, and it’s even harder when the free-throw line percentage reads 58% (17-29). The Thunder generated mostly good looks on offense, through the whole game, they just weren’t able to score. Also, the bench production didn’t help, with a total of fourteen points (Schröder had eleven, Patterson three).
Until the Thunder will get an elite offensive player back in Russell Westbrook, they will probably struggle most of the games. Last night was no different. Westbrook finished the game with thirteen points, fourteen rebounds, eight assists, four steals, one block and “only” four turnovers. However, he shot the ball 5-15 from the floor and 1-3 from the three points line. Against the Nuggets, the former MVP had problems to finish at the rim (1-7 in the restricted area). It’s also true that Westbrook didn’t get any call on all his drives to the basket. He took only two free-throws which came on a jump shot in the second quarter.
Paul George had a two-halves type of game. While his defense has been solid for the whole game, in the first half, he wasn’t able to be effective on offense. He didn’t shot the ball well, and he wasn’t too much involved. In the second half, he looked like a completely different player. With only seven minutes and a half left in the third quarter, George had scored only seven points. From there on he took over and added twenty-five points in the rest of the game: 10-15 from the floor, on 2-3 from behind the arc, and 4-4 from the free throw line. George finished the game with thirty-two points, but it wasn’t enough for the Thunder to win the game.
Steven Adams played another impressive game, and one more time, he has been the second best player (or first tied with Paul George) on the team. He finished the game with twenty-six points, fourteen rebounds (eleven on offense), two assists, one steal, two blocks, and only one turnover. That’s an All-Star performance. On the down-side, he was only 2-6 from the free throw line and had big problems in stopping Jokic. However, what I liked the most was his aggressiveness, and patience on offense. He can score on anybody, the Thunder just need to keep feeding him the ball in the post.
Sam Presti, more than Billy Donovan, has to figure out a way to improve the Thunder’s bench. At the moment there is nobody, with the obvious exception of Dennis Schröder, who can come in and help this team. Last night, the whole bench combined for fourteen points, with Dennis scoring eleven of these. That’s obviously not enough for Oklahoma City to be a top team. The second best player coming from the bench is Nerlens Noel, who’s contribution is mostly on defense. That’s it. Patterson and Abrines are going through more than a simple slump at this point, Diallo is a rookie, and it’s hard to expect a constant contribution from him, while TLC and Nader don’t see the floor at all.
Last night, the Thunder allowed the Nuggets to score thirty-nine points in the first quarter while they gave up only forty-three in the second and third quarter combined. Due to the offensive struggle that Oklahoma City is often facing ( free-throw line, shots not falling, no bench contribution), the Thunder need to be elite on defense for the whole game in order win games and to be a contender in the Western Conference.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play again tonight, at home, against the Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off 8 pm CT.
Feature Image: (Bart Young: NBAE via Gerry Images)