Los Angeles Clippers 110 – 108 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Clippers came out and played a better game offensively than they did just last week against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The difference seems to have been Blake Griffin’s performance. In the first game against the Clippers, the Thunder held him to just 14 points on 7-of-21 shooting. However, he managed 25 points on an efficient 10-of-20 shooting.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in scoring again this game dropping 29 points. He shot poorly however making just 9 of 25 shots. He did finish with 15 rebounds, and 9 assists though. He limited himself to just 4 turnovers as well. The end of the game was a sad one for Thunder fans. With just over 11 seconds left in the game, the Thunder had the ball on the baseline. Westbrook drove up the court and pulled up for a challenged three from deep. It was not a great shot. However, the rest of the team on the floor at the time gave him no movement to work with.
The bright spot out of this game is that the scoring was more spread out. Four players other than Westbrook scored in double digits. Domas Sabonis scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting – all of which came from behind the three point line.
Victor Oladipo finished with 18 points, albeit on 6-of-18 shooting from the floor. He did manage to hit half (4) of this three point attempts (8). This is the Oladipo Thunder fans were expecting when he was traded to OKC on draft night.
Andre Roberson poured in another 13 points making half of his shots from the floor, including 3 three-point attempts. Roberson also secured 9 rebounds.
Enes Kanter rounded out the double-digit scoring club with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
In an odd twist of fate, all Thunder starters ended with a negative plus/minus score, while all bench players (except Nick Collison) ended with a positive plus/minus score.
The Thunder also seemed to have found some rhythm from deep. The team went 16-28 from beyond the arc for a 57.1% conversion rate.
Orlando Magic 119 – 117 Oklahoma City Thunder
Serge Ibaka lit up his former team in his first return trip to Oklahoma City. Ibaka still holds a special place in Thunder hearts as he was the last of the original star Thunder players to leave town. He was traded on draft night to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the rights to Domas Sabonis. Ilyasova has since been traded to Philadelphia, while Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis remain fixtures in the Thunder starting five.
Ibaka scored a new career high of 31 points on an incredible 13-of-19 shooting. He even made both of his three-point attempts. He also had the game winning shot that stole the breath of his former hometown crowd. With just a few seconds remaining in the game the Magic ran a play designed to get Ibaka open and they ran it to perfection. Ibaka got the ball going away from the basket and hit a challenged jump shot over former paint-protecting buddy Steven Adams to put the Magic on top with just 0.4 seconds left in the game. The Thunder called a timeout and advanced the ball to half-court where Billy Donovan drew up a lob play for Russell Westbrook. The pass was a little high and the timing did not work out and the Thunder lost.
Westbrook did have a great game though. He scored 41 points on an efficient 14-of-21 shooting, though he missed his three attempts from long distance. He also created a lot of opportunities for his teammates finishing with 16 assists and even pulled down 12 rebounds. This was his third triple-double of the season.
Steven Adams scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season. Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson turned in solid performances as well. Oladipo finished with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Roberson had his second game in a row of scoring in double digits. He finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also blocked 4 shots.
Enes Kanter nearly had another double-double. In 24 minutes off the bench, he scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He also pulled down 8 boards.
Detroit Pistons 104 – 88 Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City’s struggle to score came up big in this game again. This was yet another game in which Russell Westbrook had to carry the offensive load. He scored 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting. He limited himself to just 2 three-point attempts, and made 11 of his 12 free throw attempts. He also pulled down 15 rebounds and 8 assists. He spent much of the game in transition driving to the basket. His teammates seem content to mostly stand still in half-court offensive sets however. The team has very little offensive flow at the moment. There is not much movement getting into or out of the half-court sets.
Jerami Grant and Enes Kanter were the only other Thunder players to score double-digits. Grant finished with 11 on 5-of-8 shooting. He grabbed 5 rebounds as well. Kanter scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting in just 16 minutes of game time.
Victor Oladipo, who looked to have found an offensive rhythm, reverted to an ugly offensive game. He scored just 9 points on an atrocious 4-of-17 shooting. He attempted 7 shots from long range and made just 1 of them.
The only team stat the Thunder won in this game was rebounding. The Thunder outrebounded the Pistons 51-47. But they shot far worse from the field and from distance than the Pistons, and lost the free throw percentage battle, despite making more free throws than Detroit even attempted.
Detroit was led by Tobias Harris and Aron Baynes. Harris scored 22 points while Baynes chipped in another 22 points. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope turned in a strong game for the Pistons as well putting up 17 points. The Pistons were without two of their starters this game as Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond both sat out.
For the first time since the injury plagued season of 2014-2015, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost four games in a row.
The worrisome thing about this slide (other than the schedule really starts to get difficult in about 3 weeks) is that the Thunder defense has vanished. Coming into the game against Detroit, the Pistons were averaging about 97 points per game, yet the Thunder gave up 104 despite Detroit missing two starters.
The Thunder also gave up 119 points to the Orlando Magic – a game in which former Thunder star Serge Ibaka scored a new career high. To put that in perspective, in 11 games this far in the season, the Magic have been limited to scoring games of 88 (a win against Washington), 80 (a loss at Chicago), 74 (a loss against Utah), and 69 (a loss at Indiana). In the same amount of minutes in a game, the Magic scored 50 more points against the Thunder than they did against the Indiana Pacers.
Giving up these types of games to underperforming teams is not a way for the Thunder to make the playoffs. Right now, Russell Westbrook is getting no help on the offensive end of the court. If the other Thunder players want to carry their weight they need to play defense. Key Thunder players have disappointed offensively, namely Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams.
Adams has upped his scoring by 1.9 points per game over last season. This is tremendous growth, however the Thunder faithful were expecting a bigger jump this season. Adams has suffered from a hand injury most of the season, which has led to him dropping passes that he caught last season. These drops cost him and the Thunder scoring chances in the paint. Adams has looked slower and not as natural on the defensive end of the court this season as well, but he has remained a solid rebounder.
Victor Oladipo is averaging just 15.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. That’s the lowest scoring average since his rookie season, and his worst rebounding and assist numbers in his career. His shooting has been the biggest disappointment. He is making just 40% of his shots from the floor, 37.5% from three-point range, and a miserable 68.8% from the charity stripe. The only redeeming quality about his shooting percentages is that this season would be a career high from distance.
The Thunder need some type of help in spreading the floor. Defenses are packing the paint and focusing on making things difficult just for Russell Westbrook. While few defenses have been able to prevent Westbrook from scoring and putting up ridiculous stat lines, the strategy has worked in limiting his teammates’ effectiveness. Westbrook, Enes Kanter, and Oladipo are the only Thunder players scoring in double-digits on the season, with Steven Adams nearly joining the club (9.9 ppg).
Across the rest of the league, every team has at least 3 double-digit scorers. The teams with 3 are Oklahoma City, Portland, Sacramento, Minnesota, New Orleans, Toronto, Milwaukee, and New York. Of those teams, just Oklahoma City, Portland, Toronto, and Milwaukee are currently in playoff positions. If Russell Westbrook is going to get no help from the rest of the team on the scoring end of the floor, his teammates must help prevent other teams from scoring.