The Oklahoma City Thunder have had a roller-coaster of a season thus far, but the tracks seem to be leveling as the Thunder begin to show consistency in their play. After starting the season with a 14-15 record, Oklahoma City beat the Philadelphia 76ers 122-112 Sunday night, giving them an overall record of of 30-20 and extending their win streak to eight, the longest current winning streak in the NBA.
Video provided by NBA Motion Station
Sunday night’s game was a back-to-back for the Thunder, having played the Detroit Pistons the previous day, defeating them 121-108. The Thunder suffered one of the worst player losses against the Pistons with Andre Roberson rupturing his patellar tendon in the third quarter, ending his season.
Video provided by ESPN
Roberson has been the enforcer in terms of defensive presence for the Thunder this season. According to SBNation.com, without Roberson on the floor, the Thunder give up 11.9 points per 100 possessions more than when he’s on the court. Their 96.4 defensive rating with him to 108.3 without is the difference between the best defense in the NBA to the 14th best.
Despite the loss of Roberson, the Thunder came out Sunday night ready to defend their home court with Terrance Ferguson, the 19 year-old rookie out of Australia, taking the place of Roberson. While he has had great games this season, Ferguson made little contribution to the Thunder’s win against the 76ers, having 5 rebounds and 0 points in his 23-minutes of play.
The first-half was an offensive struggle for Oklahoma City, shooting 4-16 beyond the arc and 41.2% overall. Russell Westbrook and Paul George kept the Thunder in the game for the first-half, scoring a combined 31-points, including a 3-point buzzer beater from George to end the half.
— NBA (@NBA) January 29, 2018
The Thunder faced trouble starting the third quarter, allowing the 76ers to go on a 10-2 run. With three minutes left in the quarter, the Thunder gained the lead and never let up from there. Russell Westbrook finished his night just one rebound short of another triple-double, with 37 points and 14 assists. Paul George contributed 31 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Steven Adam’s recorded another double-double, scoring 20 points with 13 rebounds.
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) January 29, 2018
The Thunder vs. 76ers is slowly turning into a rivalry, partly due to Joel Embid’s mouth and partly due to Russell Westbrook’s competitive nature. This is the second time OKC and Philadelphia have played each other this season, with both times being heavily physical and emotional. In the video below, Westbrook seems to be eyeing Joel Embid and Philadelphia’s bench as the clock expires, making Oklahoma City undefeated this season against their most recent rival.
Video provided by ESPN
The Thunder traveled to Washington Tuesday night to face former Coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards. With the absence of John Wall in the line-up for Washington due to a knee injury, Oklahoma City had the advantage in the talent department. Unfortunately, talent doesn’t always get the job done, as the Thunder lose to the Wizards 102-96, snapping an eight-game win streak.
The Thunder and Wizards have, coincidentally, played each other twice within a five-day span. Oklahoma City took the W in the first game, beating Washington 121-112. Russell Westbrook played lights-out that game, scoring a season high 46-points. However, Tuesday’s game displayed a different Westbrook, as he scored 13 points on 5-of-18 attempts.
Oklahoma City’s defense down the stretch was another obvious deficiency in it’s loss to Washington. While Andre Roberson may be a 31.6% free-throw shooter, his defensive presence is irreplaceable in those last minute situations. Thunder was in reach of the win late into the fourth quarter until Josh Huestis committed back-to-back fouls, allowing Washington to go to the free-throw line and spread the lead out of reach.
Billy Donovan spoke briefly with reporters after the loss to Washington:
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) January 31, 2018
Despite the loss, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony put on a show. George scored 28 points on 8-of-14 shooting along with 6 rebounds. Anthony scored 19 points with 6 rebounds and 6 assist’s. George even gave the crowd a dance, as he embarrassed Washington’s Kelly Oubre while drawing a foul.
Paul George out here playing AAU ball against Kelly Oubre pic.twitter.com/99MjXMskcN
— •Athlete Life•™ (@ATHLlFE) January 31, 2018
Oklahoma City took yet another L Thursday night, losing 127-124 to the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City. If one were to see nothing but the score, they’d probably think the game was pretty even. Sadly, the score is not exactly a reflection of what occurred on the floor. Oklahoma City put up a great fight in the fourth quarter, but seemed to forget they were playing basketball for the first 3 quarters, as the Nuggets put up 72 in the first half along with 32 more in the third quarter.
Oklahoma City never held the lead, tied once, and were down by 20 points at one point. The lack of perimeter defense was obvious, resulting in fifteen 3-pointers from the Nuggets, including Jamal Murray’s ankle-breaker step-back on Steven Adams. Adams finished the night below average scoring 10 points with 8 rebounds. Adams also had difficulties with the big man, Nikola Jovic. Jovic gained a triple-double on the night with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) February 2, 2018
Although the cross-over by Murray was amusing, Gary Harris stole the night with a game-winning buzzer beater.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 2, 2018
Prior to Harris’s three, Paul George scored his fifth 3-pointer of the night, giving him a season high 43 points on 19-26 shooting. George had 5 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with season high night.
PAUL GEORGE!!!!! pic.twitter.com/Cw6G2GvotM
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 2, 2018
While George showed to have all the juice Thursday night, Russell Westbrook was experiencing issues on the court. Although he had 20 points, 21 assists, and a mere 3 turnovers, Westbrook shot 38.9% from the floor on 7-of-18 shooting. Westbrook also seemed to be having defensive difficulties, as he continuously left his man wide-open beyond the arc.
Typically, the buzzer is the signal to end the game. However, fans sometimes either don’t hear it from excitement, or simply don’t care. This seemed be the case Thursday night, as a Denver Nuggets fan decided to walk on the court and yell in Russell Westbrook’s face after Gary Harris nailed the 3-pointer to win the game. Of course, Westbrook shoved the fan in self-defense, as he was unsure of why the fan was on the court in the first place.
A fan got in Russell Westbrook’s face on the court after the Thunder loss. pic.twitter.com/AwsPKPUYNu
— ESPN (@espn) February 2, 2018
As with any occurrence between a fan and player, the NBA has said they will review the footage of the altercation to determine a punishment, if any. There has been no reports on what consequences will come for the fan. Westbrook spoke with reporters after the game about the altercation:
Russell Westbrook says fan coming on the court “totally unacceptable”: “You play the game, the fans obviously enjoy the game, but you can’t come out on the floor.” pic.twitter.com/PDlvvboWnw
— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) February 2, 2018
The Oklahoma City Thunder have fallen back into their old ways, losing 114-100 Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. This is Oklahoma City’s 3rd straight loss and 8th home loss of the season. After giving up fifteen 3-pointers to the Denver Nuggets the previous night, Oklahoma City showed little adjustment in perimeter defense, as New Orleans made thirteen 3-pointers while shooting 51.1% from the floor.
Video Provided by NBA Motion Station
Oklahoma City came out ready to play in the first-half against New Orleans, gaining a 16-point lead at one point. The Thunder out rebounded New Orleans 27-22 in the half, and Russell Westbrook was nearing a triple-double with 9 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds before the final buzzer of the second quarter. Westbrook eventually reached the triple-double, ending his night with 16 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma City showed no signs of motivation or energy in the second-half, making 14-of-46 shots from the field and giving up 9 of the thirteen 3-pointers New Orleans had on the night. The necessity of Andre Roberson in the starting line-up can not be stressed enough, as Oklahoma City looks completely confused on the defensive end without him.
As Oklahoma City played with little to no effort, Anthony Davis had a career night with 43 points and 10 rebounds. Although Steven Adams struggled to keep Davis out of the paint, he made up for it on the offensive side, leading the Thunder on the night with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Adams spoke with reporters following the game Friday night:
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) February 3, 2018
While Steven Adams played a great game, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony struggled offensively. George, who had a season high of 43 points the previous night, was 25% from the field on 4-of-16 shots with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Anthony was 35.3% from the field on 6-of-17 shots with 9 rebounds.
Paul George expressed his thoughts on the issues the Thunder were having on the court after the game:
Paul George on mentally and physically battling fatigue tonight: “But we’ve got to be better than that. That’s no excuse.” pic.twitter.com/CvquyU8xBy
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 3, 2018
The cliche, “defense wins championships”, is starting to become a living reality for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the lose their 4th straight game, losing 108-104 to the young Los Angeles Lakers. While the offense seemed to be more balanced then their game Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City continued to struggle on the defensive end, giving up thirteen 3-pointers to the Lakers.
Russell Westbrook was the leader on the court Sunday afternoon, finishing the game with 36 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds. Unfortunately, Westbrook was the leader in turnovers as well, giving up the ball seven times to the Lakers. Despite Oklahoma City currently experiencing a 4 game losing-streak, Westbrook doesn’t seemed too concerned:
Asked Russell Westbrook about the #Thunder’s recent roller coaster run (losing Andre Roberson, crazy schedule, winning 8 straight, losing 4 in a row) & he gave one of the better responses I’ve heard him give. pic.twitter.com/d13NqgjLIy
— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) February 5, 2018
Paul George seemed to find his groove offensively, scoring 26 points to go along with his 7 rebounds and 3 assists. George, like Westbrook, had troubles holding onto the ball as he ended the game with 4 turnovers. Although the main goal is the win, George had the assist of the night from NBA on Twitter:
— NBA (@NBA) February 5, 2018
Carmelo Anthony had a quiet night shooting, contributing 10 points to the Thunders overall score. Anthony was effective on the boards though, gaining 13 rebounds on the game with 12 of those being defensive. While defensive boards are important, shot selections is just as important. Anthony seemed unaware of that fact, as he attempted to shoot a long 2-pointer over Brandon Ingram to bring the Thunder within 6 late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, lanky Ingram simply stuck out his arm and blocked the shot, which resulted in a turnover and dunk from Julius Randle.
Steven Adams had a tough game overall, scoring 12 points with 5 rebounds. Adams also struggled to control the paint, as as Brook Lopez finished with 20 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.
The Thunder experience an overall sloppy game with a total of 17 turnovers and 3 technical fouls. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were both called for techs after yelling at the ref on what they felt was a missed call. Steven Adams received a technical foul as well for an illegal screen.
Anthony spoke with reporters after the game about the technical fouls:
Carmelo Anthony on the Thunder’s high number of technical fouls: “Sometimes we expect calls that don’t go our way.” pic.twitter.com/cC281KsTQG
— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) February 4, 2018
The offensive display from the Thunder shouldn’t be the concern, as every player has their good and bad nights in the NBA. However, Oklahoma City must find a way to to fill the hole in it’s defense before the playoffs, as 4 straight losses is not a good sign after losing your most valuable defensive player. With the NBA deadline coming up on February 8th, Thunder fans can only hope Sam Presti has another magic trick up the sleeve and finds the missing piece.
Oklahoma City heads to Oakland, CA Tuesday night to face Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder dominated the Warriors in their first match-up in Oklahoma City. However, the Thunder show no promises in being able to defend the perimeter, as they head to play the most lethal team in the league beyond the arc. The game will be aired on TNT with tip-off at 9:30 P.M..