Thunder miss Adams, Ferguson but still persevere off star power in Orlando
By Addam Francisco, Senior Writer
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been on a roll and they entered the Orlando Magic's Amway Center with intentions of rolling past a team that isn't competing for a playoff spot en route to a big Friday night matchup against the Miami Heat.
That was before Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson were ruled out just before the game started due to nagging injuries. Those two being out made this game far more interesting than it probably should've been but they still found a way to pick up their sixth-straight victory, defeating the Magic 126-117 on the backs of their stars...and Dennis Schröder.
The Thunder pride themselves on their defensive play and rebounding and those were two things that lacked significantly on Tuesday night. It's safe to assume that both of those struggles stemmed from the absence of Adams and Ferguson, so this isn't a surprise.
Orlando out-rebounded Oklahoma City 53-43, mostly on the offensive end where they bested the Thunder 18-6. This directly speaks to the absence of Adams and presumably wouldn't have happened with him playing in the game. Aaron Gordon and rookie, Mo Bamba combined for nine of the 18 offensive rebounds.
Nerlens Noel was the starting center for the Thunder and although he's OKC's biggest shot-blocking threat, he doesn't have as much of an eye for rebounding the ball, averaging just 4.5 per game. He's known for his defense.
Speaking of defense, the Thunder were pretty inconsistent in that department. They weren't bad, just inconsistent. Through the final 7 minutes of the first quarter to the second half of the third quarter, approximately half of the game, the Thunder looked great on both ends of the floor and George was scoring the ball at a high clip, with 31 points in the first half. However, the Magic got hot and outscored OKC 21-3 to end the third quarter, putting the Magic up three, after OKC led by 15 points earlier in the quarter.
That speaks to two things, one of which has been a problem all season; OKC gets too relaxed when they get a big lead and instead of flooring the gas pedal on teams, they let their foot off the gas allowing the opposing team a chance to get back in the game. Secondly, Ferguson didn't play which believe it or not, hurts the Thunder. Ferguson has become an essential part of this defensive scheme.
The Thunder won this game on the backs of their point guards, Westbrook and Schröder. Russ was continuously in control of this game (something that flew under the radar) and Schröder decided to erupt for 18 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. If it weren't for those two, this game would've gone down to the wire or the Thunder would have just lost the game.
As soon as the news broke about Adams and Ferguson not playing, this game became a little more intriguing, but thanks to OKC's star-power, George, Westbrook, and Schröder, the Thunder prevailed for their sixth-straight win.
George was the leading scorer for the Thunder, scoring 37 points on 58 percent shooting while Westbrook cruised to his 17th triple-double of the season and fourth straight with 23 points, 14 assists, and 14 rebounds. Schröder's fourth-quarter eruption resulted in 21 points on 72.7 percent shooting and don't take a nap on Jerami Grant, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
The Thunder will face the (23-23) Miami Heat on Friday night where they'll search for their seventh-straight but they'll surely need both Adams and Ferguson back to achieve that.