Archive - October 2017

Thunder Game Day No. 7: at Milwaukee Bucks

Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3, 1-2 away) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2, 2-2 home)

Tuesday, Oct. 31 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: BMO Harris Bradley Center (18,717)

TV: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 676-5, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, U-Verse 751/1751 HD)
TV: NBATV
Online Streamhere.
RadioWWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 1½-point favorite. The over/under is 212.
Notes: Thunder: here | Bucks: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder played their most complete game on Saturday night and look to carry that momentum into tonight’s bout with the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is the front runner for MVP at this point. He’s led the Bucks to an impressive 4-2 start.
  • Oklahoma City is only 1-2 on the road this season with losses to Minnesota and Utah.
  • The Thunder have won four of their last five against Milwaukee.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).
  • You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for game updates.

Thunder thump Bulls

  • Recap
  • The Thunder jumped out to an early lead in the first before holding Chicago to just 8 points in the second quarter, nearly matching their opponent record low of 6, and the Bulls never pulled ahead.
  • Oklahoma City tallied 16 steals and generated 18 points off of 20 Chicago turnovers while winning the battle in the paint 36-16 and outscoring the Bulls in fast break points 16-9.
  • Russell Westbrook recorded his third triple-double of the season and first against the Bulls with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists, making him the only player in NBA history to log a triple-double against all 29 other teams in the league. He is also just the third player to register three triple-doubles within the first six games of the season (Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Magic Johnson).
  • Carmelo Anthony finished with a game-leading 21 points to become the first player in Thunder history to score at least 20 points in each of his first six games with Oklahoma City.

NEW FACES

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder added a bunch of new faces this year.
  • Paul George was acquired on June 30 for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
  • Carmelo Anthony joins the Thunder after Oklahoma City sent Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second round pick to the Knicks for Anthony.
  • Oklahoma City also signed Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson via free agency.
  • Terrance Ferguson was drafted in the first round out of Australia.
  • Oklahoma City also added PJ Dozier, undrafted rookie out of South Carolina to a two-way deal.

Anthony moving up the ranks

  • Carmelo Anthony currently ranks 25th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (24,299 points) and fourth among active players behind Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James and Vince Carter.
  • Anthony is also one of six players in league history alongside Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to record 24,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 three-point field goals.

PG13

  • Paul George is the only player since he was drafted in 2010 with at least 2,800 rebounds, 700 steals and a three-point percentage of 37 percent or better.
  • He is one of just five players with at least 8,000 points in 400 starts or less alongside Damian Lillard, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irvingand Kemba Walker.

Westbrook

  • To cap off his MVP season, Russell Westbrook registered his NBA-record-setting 42nd triple-double of the season last April 9th in Denver (Oscar Roberson tallied 41 triple-doubles during the 1961-62 season). Trailing 103-105 with 2.9 seconds left, Westbrook connected on a game-winning 36-foot 3-point field goal to also become the only player in NBA history to post three 50-point triple-doubles in a single season.
  • He is the only player in NBA history to register seven consecutive triple-doubles on two separate occasions during a single season.
  • Westbrook also posted five straight 30-point triple-doubles this season to become the only player in NBA history to ever accomplish the feat.
  • To put further perspective on Westbrook’s triple-doubles, there are 11 NBA teams that have amassed fewer triple-doubles in their entire team history as compared to the 42 logged by Westbrook

Injury Report

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are relatively healthy at this point.

Still good odds

  • According to Sportsbook, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the sixth best odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • They have the fourth best odds to win the Western Conference behind, the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and the Warriors.

SCOUTING THE Bucks

  • The Milwaukee Bucks are currently 4-2 on the season, third in the Eastern Conference.
  • Last season, Milwaukee finished 42-40, sixth in the East.
  • Last season, the two teams split in the their regular season meetings.
  • All-time against Milwaukee, the Oklahoma City Thunder 69-68 against the Bucks.
  • Since relocation, Oklahoma City is 10-7 vs. the Bucks.
  • The Thunder are 5-4 on the road vs. the Bucks.
  • Greg Monroe (calf) is out.
  • Jabari Parker (knee).
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Milwaukee came on April 4, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 110-79 (31-point margin of victory).
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (17 points) vs. MIL occurred during a 98-115 loss on April 11, 2009.

Next Up

  • On Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder are hosting the Boston Celtics on Nov. 3.
  • Then, the travel to Portland to play the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, Nov. 5.

Three Keys to the Game

Defend the mid-range

The Milwaukee Bucks are shooting 48 percent from the 8-16 foot range. Oklahoma City needs to defend a little better here. If the Thunder let the Bucks going through getting hot in the mid-range, it could be a long night. They’ll have to defend a little closer and force contested jumpers. Oklahoma City is seventh in defending the mid-range. Let’s see who wins.

Fast breaks

Milwaukee Bucks are only allowing 5.7 fast break points per game. That’s a nice opposite of the Thunder, who are averaging over 18 per game. The Thunder are going to need to get going and score in transition. It’ll work well for Russell Westbrook, too.

Get to the foul line

At only 20.3 attempts per game, the Thunder rank 24th in free throw attempts. It doesn’t help Russell Westbrook has struggled from the line in the first two games. Westbrook is 24-of-39 (61.5 percent) this season. He was 2-of-3 in the win over Chicago. Westbrook is a career 82.2 percent free throw shooter. The Thunder (and Russ) have to get to the line more.

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Power Rankings Week 3 (Oct. 31-Nov. 7)

The NBA is fun. Boston may be without Gordon Hayward but they’ve won five in a row. The Magic and Grizzlies are … good? So, we forgot a day but we’re back. Oklahoma City has slipped in our rankings once again. We’ll see if they can string together some wins to move up.

Without anymore hesitation, here we go:

Weeks: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27

Biggest rise: Orlando — 19 spots

Biggest drop: Cleveland — 13 spots

1. Orlando Magic (5-2) (LW: 19)

I had to. The Magic have earned this as they’ve won four of their last five. Orlando’s offense is second in the NBA in scoring and their three-point defense is holding opponents under 30 percent from beyond the arc. That’s a recipe for success. It doesn’t hurt when Aaron Gordon drops 47 in a win over Brooklyn.

2. Toronto Raptors (4-2) (LW: 4)

Toronto has the largest net point differential in the NBA (+10.8). That’s large in part to what Dwayne Casey has these Raptors doing on defense. Opponents are only shooting 30.5 percent from beyond three-point range against Toronto.

3. Washington Wizards (4-2) (LW: 3)

Bradley Beal got ejected but and the Wizards took the L against the Warriors. This Wizards team though, has a real shot at winning the whole thing.

 

4. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2) (LW: 6)

Giannis Antetokounmpo is an absolute monster. Antetokounmpo is leading Milwaukee in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Oh, he probably is a pretty good chef. So, he leads in that department, too.

5. Boston Celtics (5-2) (LW: 15)

Remember when Gordon Hayward went down and we thought the season was over for Boston? I do, but this team is still really talented. They’re the hottest team in the NBA as they’ve won five in a row.

6. Golden State Warriors (5-3) (LW: 10)

Warriors continue to climb as they’re showing mortal signs. However, a trouncing of the Clippers last night may show the champs are back.

7. Houston Rockets (5-3) (LW: 1)

Back-to-back losses for most might send smoke signals of larger issues but the Rockets are fine. One was without Eric Gordon and the other was by a really decent Memphis team.

8. L.A. Clippers (4-2) (LW: 5)

Despite the trouncing to the Warriors, this Clips team is pretty solid. However, back-to-back losses sends this team tumbling in the rankings. Dallas comes to town on Wednesday to help those losing blues.

9. San Antonio Spurs (4-3) (LW: 2)

San Antonio hasn’t won a game in almost a week. Life is tough on the riverwalk. Most likely will catch their fourth straight loss as they play the Warriors but Charlotte and Phoenix come up, too.

10. Detroit Pistons (5-2) (LW: 14)

When you sweep the Clippers and the Warriors, the league takes notice. They get to beat up on the Lakers and the Kings this week. Expect the Pistons to rise again.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3) (LW: 8)

This team is a little harder to predict than I expected. Much like Oklahoma City, they’re gelling. However, losing Jimmy Butler to sickness for two games doesn’t help. Minnesota has Dallas and Charlotte to ease their pains this week.

12. Utah Jazz (4-3) (LW: 9)

When you lose to the Suns, you should drop even more. However, dominating wins over Dallas and Los Angeles correct some of that.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (4-3) (LW: 12)

The Blazers are only 1-2 in the last week. Their lone win was a beating of the Phoenix Suns. It doesn’t get any easier as they have Utah and Oklahoma City on their schedule this week.

14. Memphis Grizzlies (5-2) (LW: 17)

This one may get me assaulted a bit. Memphis is good but I’m sure a lot of it was beginner’s luck. Losses to Dallas and Charlotte have warning signs for this team.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) (LW: 11)

I’d love to rank the Thunder much higher but they are 0-3 vs. team above .500. However, they’re only allowing 96.5 points per game. So, there are good things to see.

16. Indiana Pacers (3-3) (LW: 26)

The Victor Oladipo show came to Indy and has partied ever since. He’s having a phenomenal season and he was just named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 28.7 points per game on 60.4 percent shooting in Week 2.

17. Denver Nuggets (3-4) (LW: 13)

Denver has a tough schedule coming up with Miami, Toronto and Golden State, yikes.

18. Charlotte Hornets (4-3) (LW: 20)

Dwight Howard has been re-energized in Charlotte. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 15.0 rebounds per game. In return, Charlotte is 3-1 in their last four.

19. New Orleans Pelicans (3-4) (LW: 21)

Anthony Davis had 39 points and 10 rebounds but the Pelicans have no defense. The Mavericks and the Hawks are on the schedule, should be a couple of wins for the Pelicans this week.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4) (LW: 7)

The Cavs lost three straight this week. That’s why the big drop. They’re going to climb the ranking but for now, they deserve to be down here.

21. Brooklyn Nets (2-4) (LW: 18)

The Nets are coming back down to earth as they’ve lost two games this week but they can still score a lot of points. Look at D’Angelo Russell, he’s averaging almost 20 points a game as the Nets are third in total scoring at 114.7 points per game.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (3-4) (LW: 24)

After starting 0-3, Philadelphia is starting to find their legs. Weirdly enough, the 76ers are 0-2 at home but 3-2 away from their home venue. With Atlanta and Indiana, this is a good chance to get near .500 again for Philly.

23. Miami Heat (2-4) (LW: 16)

The Heatles are no more. This Miami team has played a brutal schedule lately with San Antonio, Boston and Minnesota. It doesn’t get any easier as the Clippers and the Warriors are this week.

24. New York Knicks (3-3) (LW: 29)

The Knicks beat the pants off the Cleveland Cavaliers and I am impressed. They’re figuring some things out. They have the second biggest win streak in the NBA. Weird.

25. Phoenix Suns (2-4) (LW: 30)

Firing your coach works? I guess. Gone is Earl Watson and Eric Bledsoe is at the hair salon but the Suns went 2-1 this week. So fire your coach.

26. Dallas Mavericks (1-7) (LW: 27)

Dallas may have the worst record in basketball but five of their seven losses are by six points or less. They’re right there.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) (LW: 23)

The Lakers with Ball on the court are bad. They’re 11.3 points per 100 possessions with him off the court and they’re -13.0 with him on the court. That’s very telling.

28. Sacramento Kings (1-5) (LW: 22)

I thought the Kings were going to be on the up-and-up but I was wrong. Three losses this week, including a 28-point loss to Washington gives the Kings a headache.

29. Chicago Bulls (1-4) (LW: 28)

A 32-point loss for the Bulls on Saturday night might not be the worst point of the season for the Bulls. They’re without way too many people and it’s going to be tough to win games.

30. Atlanta Hawks (1-6) (LW: 25)

Atlanta without Dennis Schroder out, the Hawks are floundering. They’ve lost six in a row and have allowed 100 points in every game but one.

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Bulls Meltdown! 10.28.17

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Chicago Bulls 101-69 on Saturday, Oct. 28 at the United Center. Russell Westbrook had his 81st triple-double of his career and his third of this season. Oklahoma City is off until Tuesday when they play the Bucks.

  • We could win. OKC will be on the second of back-to-back road games.
  • Easy loss. Westbrook will roll over us like a tidal wave.
  • Must lose game.
  • I actually think this will be a close one
  • Jerian Grant is about to get destroyed by Russell Westbrook
  • Justin Holiday plays like a shotmaker but he barely makes any shots.
  • Neither team wearing white reminds me of the solid color uniforms teams wear for Thursday night football.
  • why is felton so fat all the time
  • Fred is just too stupid of a coach
  • guys cant even dribble
  • looking like i might stop watching at the 3rd quarter
  • Fred is a clown
  • We might not make it to 70 points tonight.
  • UGLY half of basketball for Chicago….
  • But hey we might be playoff bound!!
  • Out of all the pgs on the team somebody gotta turn out good right???? Lol ANYBODY
  • I know people want to blame this player or that player but the Bulls just scored 8 points in the 2nd quarter. That’s a group effort folks.
  • Pepto Bulls
  • Paul Zipser absolutely sucks. Why does he start again?
  • This team is crazy selfish… Poorly coached
  • This game is gonna do some serious harm to this teams confidence
  • I know we suck but gotta give OKC credit for their defense.
  • We stinks
  • Dunn is getting in the paint getting hit just no call.
  • Lol. C’mon man no
  • We are so bad lmfao
  • lol, I thought the game was over.
  • This okc team is nice.
  • Just when it looked like there’s no hope for the future, Kris Dunn gets a steal and layin to bring Bulls within 25.
  • Felicio is being paid $8 mil per over the next 4 years to play basketball.
  • I passed out before the game started. Did I miss anything?
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Real Plus/Minus as the Chicago Bulls burn

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Chicago Bulls 101-69 on Saturday, Oct. 28 at the United Center. Russell Westbrook had his 81st triple-double of his career and his third of this season. Oklahoma City is off until Tuesday when they play the Bucks.

Plus

Smothering Defense

The Oklahoma City Thunder kept the Chicago Bulls to a new record low 31 points in the first half. OKC was phenomenal on defense switching, double-teaming and applying vast amounts of pressure that led to nine steals for the half. The Bulls shot 27 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three. The Thunder only allowed eight points in the second quarter.

Scoring in the paint

The Thunder outscored the Chicago Bulls 36 point to 16 in their clash in Chi-Town recording their lowest allowed points in the paint in OKC history. The Thunder were terrific against the Bulls on both sides of the ball. On the defensive side, the team did an excellent job of forcing the young bulls players into late shot clock play forcing them to get up lousy shots or just causing shot clock violations. On the offensive side, Westbrook was at his best getting the ball to Steven Adams inside the paint or driving inside himself.

George on fire

Paul George continued his current shooting form against the Chicago Bulls shooting 8-of-15 at 53.3 percent 4-of-5 from three at 80 percent. George has been the Thunders barometer on offense so far. It seems if George isn’t making shots the rest of the team seems to miss as well. George struggled against his former team fouling out of the game only playing 19:06 minutes against the Timberwolves he bounced back shooting 50 percent from both from the field and behind the three-point line.

Westbrook completes his triple-double quest

Russell Westbrook has completed his tour of triple-doubles recording his 82nd triple-double but his first against the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook has now recorded a triple-double against every single team bar one. The Oklahoma City Thunder since you can’t get a triple-double against yourself now can you. Thanks to Westbrook signing his extension it is unlikely he ever will.

Carmelo Anthony 200point streak

Anthony is the first player to have six straight 20 point games to start a Thunder players career. Anthony has been good on offense scoring 22, 26, 23, 28, 23 & 21. Not a bad way to start you Oklahoma City Thunder career and precisely what Russell Westbrook needed.

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Five Thoughts 10-28-17 (Thunder 101, Bulls 69)

1. Well, my daughter will be happy. Last year the Thunder hosted the Bulls on her birthday. It was a Wednesday night so we were wary to let her attend on a school night. Oh, and it was an 8:30 tip so we were like no chance. But she persisted and we caved. So she got to stay out until almost midnight on her 8th birthday. She has generally been a good luck charm at games, but things didn’t go well against the Bulls that night. It was one of the Thunder’s worst outings of the season and probably their worst home effort. Chicago got out big early and the Thunder never threatened. Blowout city. She had a really nice evening, but she was super bummed that they lost. She is not yet at the cynical age where she would get upset with HER team for their poor performance so she took it all out on the Bulls and blamed them for “ruining her birthday.” She has brought up this anti-Bulls sentiment many times since. Many times. She really hates the Bulls now. I wasn’t with her tonight so I look forward to telling her the final score tomorrow. She will be thrilled.

2. And if getting thrilled when the Bulls lose is a thing for her, then she is going to be thrilled a lot this year. When 100% healthy the Bulls are arguably the worst team in the NBA (I’m looking at you Suns and Mavs). When not 100% healthy like tonight, the Bulls are ABSOLUTELY the worst team in the league and one of the worst teams I’ve ever seen. For the love of Bill Wennington, that is one dreadful team. They have NOTHING. Mirotic is OK, but he’s out. And he’s out because his teammate (Bobby Portis) broke his face with a punch in practice. So now their best player is out injured and Portia is suspended. And they suck balls. Sweet start to the season for Bulls fans. I was mildly insulted we let score over 50 tonight. So the level of competiton should be factored in when assessing this game.

3. It’s not OKC’s fault that Chicago isn’t a real NBA team. All the Thunder can do is take the floor and get out of there with a stress-free victory. They did just that. Chicago hung around for a quarter and a half and then the Thunder put them away. I didn’t think the Thunder put forth an amazing effort, but they did what they needed to do to establish and hold the big lead. Second half offense was really lazy and they weren’t working for shots at all. But they did keep up the pressure on D, so I was fine with it. Best thing to see was PG13 getting involved early and producing an efficient offensive night. He looked more comfortable tonight and perhaps this will be the start of something good.

4. Fourth quarter was a basketball tragedy. Outside of Felton, the bench crew that closed the game for the Thunder looked atrocious on the offensive end. And the Bulls saved their worst for last. That was a brutal 12 minutes of a hoops train wreck. Again, no reason to fret it; guys deeper on the bench often struggle when they don’t have someone to play off of. My biggest early concern is Abrines. He doesn’t look very good and his defense hasn’t improved. I think the door for him will remain open for quite awhile, but he doesn’t want to be on the outside when it shuts.

5. Last night was tough, tonight was easy. Tuesday will probably be in between. Milwaukee is solid, but not special. The Greek Freak is exactly that; he is an early MVP candidate as well. He can do it all. But so far this year the team around him has been disappointing. This will likely be the first game I watch this season with at least a slight sense of urgency. Their three wins so far are all against below average to bad teams. Milwaukee is significantly better than that. Seems like a good time to get your first semi “good” would be Tuesday.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog

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Another triple-double, another win

Sometimes you just need a big win. You need one where you can run up the score and enjoy yourself. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, that happened on Saturday night. The Thunder spanked the Chicago Bulls … at the United Center on Saturday, Oct. 28.

The Thunder improved to 3-3 on the season. Oklahoma City is averaging 23.3 points per game in victories this season.

Russell Westbrook finished with 12 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds. He now has a triple-double against every NBA team Westbrook has played against. The only one remaining is the Thunder, because you know you can’t triple-double on your own team. Leave it to Westbrook to try.

Oklahoma City jumped on the Bulls early and often. A slew of three-pointers gave Oklahoma City an early 15-3 lead. While Chicago closed to within 26-23, the Thunder really laid it on in the second quarter. Oklahoma City held Chicago to only eight points in the frame, outscoring the Bulls 31-8.

Oklahoma City led 50-31 at the break.

The Thunder didn’t stop there. They pushed their lead 30 point a couple of times.

It was so bad at one point, Jerami Grant raced down the floor for a dunk and every Bull’s player stopped running and let Grant dunk away. They had fully checked out.

Dakari Johnson scored and Abrines drained treys in the fourth quarter, keeping the Bulls at as far of an arm’s length as you can.

The Thunder nailed 13 three-pointers, led by Carmelo Anthony’s five makes. it’s the second most in Thunder history, tying a multitude of players. Anthony finished with a game high 21 points and pulled down five rebounds.

Anthony is the first Thunder player to score 20 or more in his first six games with the team.

Oklahoma City’s bench, led by Raymond Felton, scored 31 points on 31 makes. While not super efficient it definitely finished the job.

The Thunder are off on Sunday and Monday. They’ll welcome Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to a showdown in Milwaukee on Halloween night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Keys to the Game

Get Russ a triple-double: A+

While a real key isn’t getting Westbrook his elusive triple-double, it’s not exactly a coincidence the Thunder are 3-0 when Westbrook triple-doubles. Westbrook did it easily and in 25 minutes. It gave him the ability to rest in the fourth quarter.

Dominate the paint: A+

The Thunder out-rebounded and truly dominated the paint tonight. The Thunder had five more rebounds and outscored the Bulls in the paint by 20 points. That’s an A+ performance tonight by the Thunder bigs.

Stomp on them: A+

Last night against the T-Wolves, Oklahoma City blew some leads. However, the Thunder put their foot on the gas and never looked back. While it may be “just” the Bulls, they still took care of business tonight. That’s really all you ask for out of a team for four quarters.

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Five Thoughts 10-27-17 (Wolves 119, Thunder 116)

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped another tight one to the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-116 on Friday night. While the Thunder dropped to 2-3 on the season, they’re also 0-2 vs. Minnesota this season. They’ll meet two more times before the season is up.

1. It was as if the game from Sunday never ended. Like Wiggins banked in the three and they just moved cities and kept playing for four more quarters. Absolutely sucks to be on the losing end of both of those games, but those were two highly early season NBA games. Game #2 didn’t have quite the same polish at the end (in Game 1 both teams executed flawlessly down the stretch). The Thunder did not close the game well offensively. One thing worth noting though would be that needing to hit a shot with under 10 seconds to go in both games and RW doesn’t take either of them. As a matter of fact, he defers to Melo. Tonight, I actually thought it may have been a mistake. On Sunday, he was able to set up Melo for a VERY clean catch and shoot. Tonight, needing a three for the tie, the Minnesota D guarded the line a bit tighter. RW may have been better off taking one of his off the dribble three’s two or three steps behind the line– he hit those at a pretty high rate last year. Instead, he passed off to Melo who had to sort of grind his way to a semi-off balance shot. Not a terrible look, but not great. All in all, I appreciate what Russ has done on both occasions and I have a feeling that sort of trust will ultimately pay off for all parties.

2. Don’t worry, I don’t ACTUALLY do this (not often at least), but I feel like I’d have to go back and watch the tape to find out what issues they had defensively. 119 point is far too many. But just watching the game, I didn’t feel like the D was all that bad. As a matter of fact, I thought we locked Wiggins down and were pretty physical overall. The issues seem to be twofold: Offensive rebounds/loose balls kept going back to the Wolves and we put them on the line far too often (especially in the middle part of the game). Thunder may very well lead the league in steals this year. That’s a good thing. They are long, insanely athletic, and Russ (often to his detriment) isn’t afraid to take chances. So far this year, the defense seems uber aggressive, certainly not lazy. Perhaps it’s a little sloppy though and they are leaving opportunities available in the paint. Beyond this over-reaching there was also some bad luck in play. This was epitomized by a good defensive possession being rendered useless when Russ got the ball, headed back the other way, slipped, lost the ball, and it wound up as an easy lay-in for the Wolves.

3. I believe this was only the second time in team history four players scored 20+ points in a game. That is an incredible change from last year. This is a good start— what they need now is to start developing roles for the guys off the bench. RW, Melo, and Adams all looked completely settled to me. PG13 looks more unsure, but he played pretty well tonight and he is still finding ways to score. He will be fine. The others are flashing here and there, but right now the Thunder really can’t rely on any of them outside of Felton (who has been exactly what the doctor ordered as the backup PG). It’s almost like an open tryout right now. Donovan is mixing and matching and giving multiple guys a chance to earn it. Right now I’d say Grant is in the lead for solidifying consistent minutes. The others (and I’m including Andre because I believe his crunch time minutes could be in jeopardy) have the door open for them.

4. Shaky start for Patterson to say the least. He’s a vet and you’d like to think he will be a guy we can count on for solid and predictable production. But so far he has been a mess. Granted, he missed most of camp and all of the pre-season games due to injury, but yeesh he hasn’t done a darn thing yet. Tonight was the first time it really hurt them. I know a lot of people were excited about the possibility of the Thunder going really small at times with Patterson at center. Well, they tried that for awhile tonight and Towns ate them up during that stretch. On the other end of the floor, Patterson has been a mannequin– a mannequin that likes to launch three’s. I understand that is sort of his game, but I need a little more activity than that from a bench guy. And I think Huestis should heed that as well. I like his size and athleticism, but he doesn’t need to be shooting 4 three’s in limited minutes. Use that athleticism and make something happen inside.

5. Not as gut-wrenching as Sunday, but certainly disappointing to lose twice to the Wolves in a five day span in games that more or less mirrored each other. It should also be noted that Minnesota got absolutely blasted by the Pacers and Pistons in their two games between ours. After the Utah loss, I said they have a 30 day grace period before I start drawing any real conclusions or heap any real praise or levy any real critiques. So I’ll stick to that and say this game is most likely just part of a bigger process for the Thunder. We will see Minnesota two more times down the road and we will see what adjustments they make. In the meantime, they have absolutely zero excuse not to win in Chicago tomorrow night. The Bulls are terrible and will be very much in the running for the worst record in the league this year (that may very well be their goal). The 30 day grace period will be lifted if they lose to the Bulls. If they focus from the outset it is the type of game they could have in the bag by halftime and possibly earn the starters some extra rest.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog

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Real Plus/Minus: Where OKC can improve

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped another tight one to the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-116 on Friday night. While the Thunder dropped to 2-3 on the season, they’re also 0-2 vs. Minnesota this season. They’ll meet two more times before the season is up.

Plus

Paul George

Paul George had a rough night against his old side fouling out and playing 19 minuets. George bounced back well against the Timberwolves playing 38 minutes scoring 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field at 50 percent also shooting 50 percent from three shooting 3-of-6 George also added five rebounds and four assists.

The second unit

The Oklahoma City Thunder bench has done a great job of impacting games this year led by Raymond Felton the Thunder’s bench gave the team 19 points three assists nine rebounds and five blocks. Last season when Westbrook would come out of the game and the Thunder’s bench wasn’t able to give much help. This off-season Sam Presti addressed this issue adding Patrick Patterson & Raymond Felton to go along with Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines and Josh Huestis the Thunder have substantial help off the bench to go along with its stars.

Minus

Westbrook not protecting his best friend

Last season Russell Westbrook told the media that he only had one friend on the court and that was the basketball. Tonight Westbrook played reckless with his best friend turning the ball over eight times Westbrook needs to take care of his friend more, Westbrook is taking pressure off the opposition with his recklessness with the ball.

Second chance points

Second chance points killed the Thunder against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves scored 24 second-chance points to the Thunder’s 15. The Thunder need to get better on the boards and stop giving the opposition second chances if they want to contend with the likes of the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets.

Andre Roberson

Andre Roberson has zero confidence right now. Roberson played 10 minutes against the Timberwolves and 20:40 minuets against the Indiana Pacers. Roberson is struggling on offense. Now we all know Roberson strength isn’t on the offensive side of the ball, the little he can do on offense he isn’t doing right now. With the addition of Paul George and the continued growth of Huestis on the defensive end, Roberson is struggling to stand out in this Thunder line up and Coach Billy Donovan is going away from Roberson right now. If this form/confidence slump continues, don’t be shocked if the Thunder tries to get something for Roberson on the trade market.

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Thunder Digits: Thunder drop close one

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped another tight one to the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-116 on Friday night. While the Thunder dropped to 2-3 on the season, they’re also 0-2 vs. Minnesota this season. They’ll meet two more times before the season is up.

31

There were 31 lead changes in the game to go along with 15 ties. The game was very back-and-forth in nature, with the Timberwolves ending up on top 119-116.

18

The Timberwolves had 24 second chance points on the night with 18 of those coming in the second half. It seemed towards the end of the game anytime Oklahoma City really needed a stop, Minnesota would find a way to get an offensive rebound and capitalize on it.

119

OKC gave up 119 points Thursday night. This is entirely too much. On a night where it shot 50 percent from the field, OKC still came up on the short end because of its defensive performance. Minnesota shot 48.8 percent from the field, including 36.4 percent from three-point range.

27-35

Minnesota went to the free-throw line 10 more times than the Thunder Thursday night and took advantage of it, shooting 27-of-35 which comes out to be 77.1 percent.

44-35

The Thunder were outrebounded by the Timberwolves 44-35 Thursday night. More importantly, Minnesota outrebounded OKC 17-11 in offensive rebounds. Rebounding is something to watch going forward for this Thunder team. It could be a potential weakness.

18

Jamaal Crawford has played for 18 different coaches in 18 seasons in the NBA. This number has nothing to do with the outcome of this game, but I felt it was too outrageous not to include.

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Thunder drop another one to Minnesota

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost another tight one in the last moments, 119-116, to the Minnesota Timberwolves dropping to 0-2 to the Wolves on the season. It was another high-scoring affair against this physical Minnesota team. The Thunder are now 2-3 on the season.

The Thunder have been very good defensively up until tonight, only giving up about 96 points per game. That was not the case tonight, as the Timberwolves lived off of second chance points and points in the paint, all the while putting up a whopping 119 points.

The whole story of the game was Minnesota wanting it more, especially late in the game. They seemed to get every loose ball, and killed Oklahoma City on the offensive glass. Too many times tonight the Thunder were giving up second chance points and were just plainly out hustled by the Wolves.

“I thought we played really really well in the first 18 minutes,” Billy Donovan said about the second half play by the Thunder, “I thought the last six minutes of the fourth quarter we really struggled on both ends of the floor.”

When asked about what the difference was, Donovan mentioned the rebounding.  “That was really the difference in the game,” Donovan said. Oklahoma City was out-rebounded by nine boards tonight. They also gave up 17 offensive rebounds.

Oklahoma City also put the Timberwolves on the charity stripe a lot tonight, 35 times to be exact. Minnesota shot 10 more free throws than the Thunder did. There might’ve been some questionable officiating, but the Thunder were also not defending without fouling tonight.

With all that said, Oklahoma City still had a chance to tie this game and send it into overtime. After a Jeff Teague missed free throw, Carmelo Anthony had a decent look at a potential game tying three-pointer but missed it.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Thunder looked overall as a unit, as good as they looked all season despite the tough loss. Four different Thunder players scored more than 20 points and as a team they shot 50 percent from the floor.

Both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George found their groove early on, both finishing with 23 points each. They finished both shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.

Adams also had a monster game, much like he did the last time these two teams met. Adams finished the night with 20 points and eight rebounds. He also shot an excellent 80 percent from the floor.

Westbrook was very methodical on offense, picking his spots when to attack and when to find the open man. He had another all-around night finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists.

Though with all the positives offensively, the Thunder just could not get the job done defensively. Karl Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler led the way for Minnesota.

Towns had a huge night, on both ends, putting up 33 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. He struggled defensively last time the Wolves played the Thunder but he was a monster tonight.

Butler finished his night with 25 points and closed the game very well to seal the win for the Timberwolves.

Billy Donovan also loved what he saw with the bigger lineups for the Thunder tonight. Often he went with Jerami Grant and Josh Huestis over Andre Roberson in the lineups. These taller lineups were successful but obviously struggled to get stops defensively. With the emergence of Huestis, these type of lineups could be seen a lot more down the road.

Roberson only played nine minutes tonight. That could be because of the bigger lineups ran by Donovan and also him being too much of a liability on the offensive end, though his defending was definitely missed.

Both games versus the Timberwolves have been very close, but still losses for Oklahoma City. It is still early, but these two losses to a divisional rival could have big implications when it comes to playoff-seeding time in April.

The Thunder will have to shake this loss off quickly though, since they travel to Chicago to face the Bulls tomorrow night. Chicago being just 1-3 on the season, it is a good chance for Oklahoma City to bounce back before facing off against a very good Milwaukee team.  Thunder tip is set for 7 p.m. CST on Saturday night.

Keys to the game

Win the rebounding battle: F

This was obviously the biggest problem Oklahoma City struggled all game with. Towns and company dominated the glass and kept possessions alive all game long. If the Thunder could’ve just secured a couple more rebounds, we might be talking about a different outcome.

Limit the turnovers:  C

Oklahoma City has been a turnover machine early in this season, and they could not afford to do that against a Minnesota team that is good in transition. The Thunder only turned it over 14 times, which isn’t too bad all things considered, but they still took the loss so they only get an average grade here.

Big night for big three: A

Even though with the loss, there is a slight moral victory here. Oklahoma City’s big three continue to improve their chemistry and they all three looked comfortable offensively tonight. They combined for 73 points on better than 50 percent shooting from the floor. Hopefully they can build on this Saturday night versus Chicago.

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