The Thunder won’t make the playoffs.
It’s a thought nobody considered entering the 2017-18 season. Fortunately, it’s not true either, not yet at least. With a star-studded roster, winning at a high enough rate to stay a lock in the playoffs shouldn’t be a problem. However, Oklahoma City’s problem with reaching the top isn’t their talent; it’s their inconsistency.
The issue can be traced all the way back to the very beginning of the season. The Thunder claimed their first victory in a blowout win against the Knicks 105-84, and like that, everyone was sold on the OK3 being the 1-2 seed in the West. The following 19 games told a different story, one that had peaks of defeating the Golden State Warriors 108-91, and valleys of losing to the Dallas Mavericks 97-81.
Through October and November, the Thunder record stood at 8-12. The 2011 Miami Heat shared an identical record resulting from team chemistry. With that in mind, it seemed inevitable that the Thunder would turn the corner, with no need for concern.
It became very clear that there was no such thing as guaranteed wins. The third quarter became every Thunder fans worst nightmare as double-digit leads transformed into losses against bottom-feeding teams. With pairs of four-game losing streaks and three-game losing streaks contrasted by a six-game win streak and eight-game win streak, many point fingers at head coach Billy Donovan as the source of the inconsistency.
Since Andre Roberson’s injury Donovan has tinkered with rotations trying to find the best replacement. Yet at some point, a decision has to be made on Huestis, Ferguson or Abrines taking the reins. However, the blame of inconsistency is not all on Donovan.
Throughout the season so far, there have been waves of energy and commitment from the players. Oklahoma City’s double-edged sword is that the team plays on the same level as their opponent whether it is the 30th ranked team or the first. Mental stamina has been a recurring phrase tossed around in the locker room as a reason why promising leads turn into disgraceful losses.
Jab-step Carmelo Anthony has been replaced with accepting catch-and-shoot Carmelo Anthony but when the pressure is on, 15 years of experience kicks in and throws all the progress out the window. The use of Steven Adams on offense has been inconsistent throughout the season but as of late he is the third best scoring option behind Westbrook and George, an ideal and necessary piece required for the rest of the season and a deep playoff run.
With the All-Star Break wrapped up and a little more than 20 games left, the Thunder have their focus fixed on the playoffs and it is time to go all in. Before playing the Kings on Thursday night, George was aware of how the game needed to be a building block for the rest of the season.
The win against Sacramento was the epitome of the Thunder’s season. Confident start, turbulent middle and struggling to finish. It’s a movie Thunder fans are getting tired of seeing and not the strongest block to build upon. With obscure player rotations, lack of defense and poor shooting, it’s obvious Oklahoma City needs to be locked in for a full 48 minutes. The only problem is they don’t have much time to iron everything out.
If the Thunder commit to being the team they believe they are, then they’re a real threat. With Westbrook and George being the scoring powerhouses, Anthony at the ready for catch-and-shoot threes, and Steven Adams leading the league in offensive rebounds, the Thunder could make a run at passing the Timberwolves and Spurs for the third seed in the West.
It all depends on consistency, and the results speak for themselves.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!