Author - Ben Noble

MVPG leads OKC by Bucks 118-112

The Thunder defense showed up and showed out against Milwaukee Sunday evening in Oklahoma City. Persevering through some late game runs by the Bucks, the Thunder pulled through, winning 118-112, to make it a five-game win streak.

The beginning of the game started out slow for the Thunder as the Bucks went on a quick 8-0 run in the first 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Oklahoma City finally got on the board off of a Steven Adams shot, coming at the 9:27 mark in the first quarter. Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez became an early irritant for Oklahoma City as he hit three 3’s in the first quarter. Late in the first quarter Steven Adams had an injury scare as he sprained his right ankle, but would return later in the game. The Thunder were able to end the quarter 31-25, as Paul George put up 11 points early in the game.

The second quarter, otherwise known as the Nerlens Noel show, was a display of how good the Thunder are when they commit their identity to their defense. With Noel coming in while Adams was back in the locker room, he did a little bit of everything. There was an incredible sequence around the 10:47 mark by Noel where he made a putback layup, blocked Giannis Antetokounmpo, then finished an alley oop on the other end of the floor. Paul George also starting to heat up beyond the arc, hitting 2-4 from the three point line. Oklahoma City made a huge effort to lockdown Antetokounmpo, keeping him away from the rim as much as possible. Nearing the end of the half, Westbrook and Antetokounmpo collided near halfcourt and it appeared to be harmful to Westbrook’s left knee. Westbrook walked it off heading to the locker room at halftime, appearing to be fine for the remaining half. Oklahoma City lead 56-42.

The third quarter was when the Bucks were their strongest. Antetokounmpo finally hit his first shot, a three-pointer, after not making a single shot in the first half. Steven Adams had some highlights such as stealing the ball and turning it into a Euro step layup on the other end. There was a significant lack of Paul George in the third quarter as after having 21 points in the first half, only scoring an additional three points in the quarter. The Bucks also went on a concerning 9-0 run, cutting the lead down to seven, before Dennis Schröder hit a three to boost the lead back up to ten to end the quarter. After a 37-point quarter by Milwaukee, the Bucks trailed 89-79.

The Thunder finished out the fourth quarter with razzle, dazzle, and a little frazzle. With some late-game lack of communication, blown coverages, and eyebrow raising foul calls, The Bucks were able to get within four points of taking the lead from the Thunder. Thankfully, Paul George was able to ignite late in the fourth; pairing a poster dunk over Antetokounmpo and clutch three point shot to allow Oklahoma City to breathe. Antetokounmpo was blocked a career high seven times tonight. The play that sealed the deal was a steal by Jerami Grant, who had been phenomenal on defense all night. With late game energy, the Thunder were able to finish 118-112 over the Bucks and look forward to playing the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

Oklahoma City increased their winning streak to five games and are now 31-18 on the season.

Russell Westbrook finished the night with 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting (2-of-5 from three), 11 assists and 13 rebounds. This was Westbrooks sixteenth triple double on the season.

Paul George finished with 36 points on 12-of-21 shooting (8-of-12 from three), 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

Jerami Grant had five blocks.

All starters scored in double figures.

Oklahoma shot fifty percent from three tonight going 16-of-32.

Oklahoma City will now travel to Orlando for a 6 p.m. tip-off against the Magic on Tuesday night. The Thunder will put their five-game winning streak on the line in a place where they’ve gone just

Keys to the Game

Lockdown Defense: A-

The Thunder, at their best, lead the Bucks by 19 points. Most notably they were able to put great pressure on Antetokounmpo by blocking him seven times, a career high. The defense is the Thunders identity and they did an excellent job of defending the paint. The surge from the Bucks late in the fourth caused concern but blocking and steals saved the Thunder win.

Three Point Shooting: B+

The Thunder hit 16-of-32 from beyond the arc, a rather rare percentage from a team that was the worst three point shooting team earlier in the season. With players like Terrance Ferguson and Patrick Patterson becoming viable scoring options as the season progresses, the Thunder will be able to rely on another element of their game.

Bench Points: B

The Thunder bench outscored the Bucks’ bench 24-15. Though seemingly small, it came through players like Noel and Schröder to keep Oklahoma City alive and able to stagger their starters productively.

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!

Thunder take care of LA 121-113

It was a maddening game in March but the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to sweep the Los Angeles Clipper in the regular season in a 121-113 win.

its the first time Oklahoma City hasn’t sept the Clippers since the 2012-13 season.

The Thunder stand 42-29 on the season, currently positioned at the fourth seed. With 11 games left, and the Western Conference still in chaos, now is not the time to let up off the gas.

The Thunder fumbled around in the first quarter with bad turnovers and missed shots, allowing the Clippers to go on an 8-0 run. Finally, Corey Brewer was the one to tell Chesapeake Arena to take a seat.

Through the first quarter shooting woes of Westbrook, Anthony and George, it appeared that Adams and Brewer were doing all of the work along with some assistance from Patterson and Felton.

The Clippers led 30-27 at the end of the first.

As the second quarter rolled around the bench continued to bring energy and hustle. Jerami Grant was able to make cuts to the basket for layups. Ferguson and Felton let their shots fall and Patterson was reliable to sink threes from beyond the arc. It was encouraging to see an offensively productive bench.

The energy was able to carry through up until halftime where the Thunder led 63-56.

At the half, Westbrook, Anthony and George had shot a combined 2-of-16. So, not the best.

After the half, things got really weird.

George was able to start a scoring rhythm. Brewer continued to look like an All-Star with his hustle, cutting and stealing. Boban Marjanovic made Steven Adams look like a small child in the post.

At one point in the third quarter the Clippers had cut the Thunders lead down to 76-74. That was the closest they would get.

In the fourth there were glimpses of plays that every Thunder fan was familiar with. Westbrook driving to the basket, Anthony hitting a catch-and-shoot three, Steven Adams dunking over his victims, and Brewer running around like the Energizer Bunny trying to make plays and steal the ball.

All of this added up to the 121-113 win over the Clippers, making it a five-game winning streak, along with Westbrook obtaining his 101st triple-double, the 22nd on the season.

That being said the biggest takeaways from tonight’s game didn’t come from the OK3 or Steven Adams. Instead they came from Brewer and the bench.

Corey Brewer finished tonight with 22 points and six steals, a career high. It’s no question that Brewer has Oklahoma City new energy. He seems to leave it all out on the court, quickly stealing fans hearts due to his hustle and scoring potential.

It is an energy that has not been at the starting shooting guard position for some time. Even with Andre Roberson, the offense seemed to be playing teams four on five, utilizing Roberson for his occasional cut but primarily defense. With Brewer starting in wake of Roberson’s injury, teams now must make all five players a priority to defend.

The Thunder bench had a big part of winning the game tonight with a combined 37 points from shooting 15-of-26. Ferguson was a bright spot with 12 points shooting 4-of-6 with a slam dunk and an interesting “toe-touch” layup to help get him there.

While the stars didn’t have a necessarily great night, they were still able to show glimpse of their talent, just not on a high scoring level. It was an off night for them, luckily, they had backup.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Moving the ball: B

The ball was flying everywhere across the court tonight, some good some bad. The Thunder’s starting lineup had all 14 turnovers. Fortunately there were 30 assists so the team was looking for open shots, many of which were corner threes. There was not a lot of standing around or ball hogging either. The ball made its way around the arc until an opening presented itself.

Be aggressive on defense: B+

The beginning of the game had a lot of open shots and scoring runs for the Clippers. After some recalibrating the Thunder were able to start blocking shots and get steals. Adams had five blocks, three steals, and Brewer had six steals of his own. The aggression was clearly shown in the form of court awareness.

Simply show up: B-

Though Westbrook got a triple-double and Paul George had 17 points it was an off night for them. Anthony only had nine points off of 11 attempts. The only two starters who made half their shots were Adams (8-of-15) and Brewer (7-of-12). The players that actually showed up tonight were on the bench, keeping the team afloat. While Oklahoma City pulled away with the win, they can’t afford for their starters be off their game anymore.

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!

The All-Inconsistency Team

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!