Author - Chuck Chaney

Paul George ignites Thunder’s 107-106 win

The local fire department didn’t arrive in time. The inferno had already engulfed Vivint Smart Arena.

While the flames were metaphorical, Paul George’s game was not. George went off for 43 points on Saturday night against the Utah Jazz, with 26 points in the second half.

The Thunder won the game, which is the most important thing, 107-106. However, what Paul George has done over the last 10 games or so, and especially with the lack of offensive production from Russell Westbrook has been the most impressive.

George becomes the first player since Russell Westbrook (March 2-3, 2017), to score 40 points in back-to-back games.

“I didn’t like the way I finished in this arena the last time I was here,” George said.

George started out with only five points in the opening fame but a blacked out superstar went bananas over the final 36 minutes. His ability to attack the rim and put the Jazz on the defensive paid off. A man who struggled to end last season had something to prove.  Oh boy, did he ever prove it.

Utah led 50-38 with That’s when George took over. He would score nine of the next 13 points as the Thunder equalized the Jazz. Oklahoma City trailed a majority of the first half, found themselves only trailing 61-58 at the break.

Utah, for all of their struggles this season still have really good players. They were flexing and things were going right as Ricky Rubio hit a big three, putting the Jazz up 79-70 with 5:45 left in the third.

George appeared again. His tips sizzling and simmering. It appeared out of almost no where. George scored 19 of Oklahoma City’s final 28 points in the third quarter. The smoke settled and the Thunder sat with a double-digit lead after three quarters. The Jazz were stunned. Paul George had smoking coming off the fingertips as he had 39 points after three quarters.

A 23-2 run for the Thunder, led by George who jawed as the smoke rose from his body. He talked trash to Joe Ingles. He called for the ball and split double teams like it was a hot knife through butter. When he wasn’t hurting Utah on the offensive side, he made huge defensive strides. He had multiple tips and steals. Oklahoma City’s steal of a win came off the steals of George and Co.

Utah made their run. Their defense stepped up and Westbrook struggled offensively. As the Jazz moved closer, the Thunder kept doing enough to keep Utah at arm’s length. Terrance Ferguson hit a long 2-point jumper with 6:08, which appeared to put Oklahoma City up seven.

George would continue his onslaught. A jumper to put Oklahoma City up seven. Another one to put Oklahoma City up nine. The legitimate MVP candidate did almost anything and everything to help the Thunder on Saturday night.

Westbrook, who was struggling offensively all game, had five fouls before stepping up with one of the biggest blocks of his career. Westbrook was called for a foul, but Westbrook blocked Donovan Mitchell with 1.5 seconds left, leaving Oklahoma City a chance at overtime.

Except, Mitchell missed the first one. Oklahoma City had a chance.

He made the second and Steven Adams inbounded quickly and Oklahoma City held on for the win.

While Westbrook’s offense was absent, George stepped up and the NBA’s best defensive team showed why they’re a real contender for an NBA championship.

George finished with 43 points on 15-of-25 shooting. He was 5-of-10 from deep with 14 rebounds and six assists. He also had five steals for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City will have a short turn around for a back-to-back on Sunday night. Oklahoma City will host divisional foe, the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-18) at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the ‘Peake.

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Thunder dominates Sacramento 132-113

If you would’ve told us the Thunder had a 40-point scorer, a player with 17 assists and another one with 23 rebounds, the assumption would be Russell Westbrook had a pretty amazing night. Instead, it was a complete team effort as the Thunder dominated the Sacramento Kings 132-112 on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma City improves to 20-10 on the season. It’s their best record through 30 games since the 2013-14 season.

It was a team effort as Paul George scored 43 points. Russell Westbrook dished out 17 assists and Steven Adams set a career high with 23 rebounds. The Kings made a run but in the end, it was the lethal fire power the Thunder have in their line up that led to the final score.

The first eight minutes of the first quarter was all Sacramento as they held the Thunder at arm’s length but Oklahoma City made their run. After that, it was over. Another 12-4 run put the Thunder out in front for good.

Oklahoma City was without Dennis Schröder and Raymond Felton for leaving the bench during the altercation with the Bulls on Monday night. They were both suspended for one game.

The Kings pushed the Thunder in the third quarter, which is usually Oklahoma City’s hot quarter. After leading by as many as 23 in the third, De’Aaron Fox turned it on. The second year player out of Kentucky got hot and the Kings pushed the Thunder to within eight in the third. However, the Thunder were able to keep the Kings at bay.

The fourth quarter started with the Thunder blowing out the doors on a 10-0 run before the Kings even scored. Oklahoma City’s defense held the Kings scoreless for the first 3:13 of the fourth quarter. By the time the Kings put two points on the board, Oklahoma City already led by 18.

The Big Three were exceptional all game long. From Paul George’s scoring, to Russell Westbrook doing his triple-double thing, to ending with Steven Adams rebounding like a boss, the Thunder had an answer for everything the much improved Kings could throw at them.

The Big Three’s stat line:

Paul George 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting, 4-of-8 from three, 9-of-10 frm the line, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Steven Adams scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, he was 4-of-4 from the line and had 23 rebounds, nine of them offensive. The 23 rebounds are a new career high for the big man.

Russell Westbrook did his thing. He scored 19 points, dished out 17 assists, pulled down 11 rebounds and finished up with six steals. He has 17 steals over his last three games. It’s the most assists for Westbrook this season.

With the win, Oklahoma City moves to second place in a very tight Western Conference playoff race. They remain a full game back of the Denver Nuggets. Those two losses to the Nuggets are looming huge right now.

Oklahoma City will now travel to Utah for a tough but important divisional matchup on Saturday night. It’s a Mountain time tip-off, an 8 p.m. start. We’ll have all of your game day coverage just like we do every game.

Keys to the Game

Defend: B

Oklahoma City, despite giving up 113 points was pretty good defensively. They held the Kings to 41.9 percent shooting from the floor. Buddy Hield scored 37 points but had to do it on 25 shots, 14 of them were threes. Oklahoma City could’ve done better on three-point defending but we’ll take the win.

Free Throws: D

Woof. Oklahoma City made just 17-of-27 from the line. Russell Westbrook continues missing free throws. He was 2-of-7 from the line, including missing his final five free throws. George and Adams went a combined 13-of-14 from the line to help Oklahoma City. Westbrook has missed 49 free throws this season. Took him 25 games to miss 50 free throw last year. It’ll be 23 games for him this season (assuming he misses one against Utah on Saturday).

Make 3s: A+

It doesn’t happen often but the Thunder went bananas from three, especially in the first quarter. The Kings and the Thunder were trading haymakers and the Thunder, for once, were keeping pace. It was the seventh time this season Oklahoma City shot better than 40 percent from three. It’s the eighth time they made at least 13 threes.

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Thunder Game Day #30: at Sacramento Kings

Oklahoma City Thunder (19-10, 7-7 away)

at

Sacramento Kings (16-14, 7-6 home)

Wednesday, December 19 :: 9:00 p.m. CST :: Golden 1 Center (17,608)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 5-point favorites. The over/under is 224.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Kings: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder have righted their wrongs after losing 3-of-4 last week. They’ve won two in a row as they travel to the California capital to take on the Sacramento Kings.
  • Tonight is Game 3 against the Kings. Oklahoma City is 0-2 against Sacramento this season. They’re not the old fashioned Kings. They’re good. This is the most games Sacramento has been over .500 since the 2004-05 season. They won 50 games that season.
  • Sacramento is led by De’Aaron Fox. He’s only in his second year but the kid is really good. He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA.
  • Oklahoma City is coming off a 121-96 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.

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.
  • Chris Fisher 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).

SCOUTING THE KINGS

  • The Sacramento Kings are 16-14 on the season, good enough for eighth in the Western Conference playoff race.
  • In their last 10 games, the Kings are 6-4.
  • In their previous game, the Kings fell 132-105 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
  • All-time against the Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City is 145-88.
  • Since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City, the Thunder are 29-10 against the Kings.
  • When the Thunder play in Sacramento, Oklahoma City is 12-8.
  • Last time these two met, the Kings escaped with a 117-113 win on Nov. 19.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Marvin Bagley III (bone bruise) is out.
    Iman Shumpert (hip contusion) is questionable.
    Bogdan Bogdanovic (sore foot) is questionable.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Sacramento came on Feb. 15, 2011, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 126-96 (30-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (21 points) vs. the Kings  occurred during an 104-83 loss on Jan. 7, 2015.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out

UNIFORM WATCH

NEXT UP

  • The Thunder have a showdown against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Dec. 22 in Salt Lake City.
  • Oklahoma City then plays the Timberwolves at 7 p.m. on Sunday for another SEGABA.
  • The Thunder round out the Christmas week with a game in Houston against the Rockets at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day.

WHAT’S IN A NAME

  • The Kings’ royal lineage stretches all the way back to the founding of the National Basketball League’s Rochester Royals in 1945.
  • Originally, the Kings were known as the Seagrams, you know the alcohol maker. That was the nickname of the Sacramento Kings, way back in the day (1923) when they were the Rochester Seagrams.
  • In 1945, a 15-year old by the name of Richard Paeth won an essay contest to name team.
  • The Royals retained their nickname after a move to Cincinnati in 1957 and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (soon dropping the Omaha) through a name-the-team contest in 1972.
  • The name remained unchanged when the franchise relocated to California in 1985.
  • Also, fun fact: Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner was drafted in the seventh round by the Kansas City Kings in 1977.



Three Keys to the Game

Defend

The Thunder can’t let the Kings go bananas from three again. Buddy Hield and Iman Shumpert blew up Oklahoma City last time, going 9-of-20 from deep. The Thunder cannot let that happen again. If Shumpert and Bogan Bogdanovic doesn’t play, it’ll help Oklahoma City. However, if they play, the Thunder have to defend.

Free throws

Oklahoma City’s free throws are huge reasons why they’ve let some games slip this season. They have to make their free throws. It’s simple and just to the point. Make your free throws and you have more of a chance to win some games. Miss them and put yourself behind the 8-ball, yet again.

Bench

Dennis Schröder and Alex Abrines have to step up. Abrines didn’t play last time and Schröder was an abysmal 3-of-17 from the floor. I’m sure just the presence of Abrines will help. However, Schröder goes through these slumps. Oklahoma City needs him to have at least an average game tonight.

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Bulls Meltsdown 12.17.18

  • they gotta be in full revenge mode after dropping a game to us last week, especially Russ after being blocked by our rook.
  • Away game against a good western team that we beat just 10 days ago? Yeah, this is a 25+ pt loss.
  • This ain’t going to be pretty. Anything better than a 20 point loss is a moral victory.
  • lol okc starting off the game laying some impressive bricks.
  • Dunn needs to chill the f out. He could easily have 2 fouls rn.
  • The bulls started good let’s see if the spurs win turns the corner for them
  • What the hell did Dunn just do to Aquaman? Crushed him and walked away like a bada$$
  • Man, I hate Justin Holiday…
  • are you kidding me Lauri? Come on dude attack the **** rim.
  • I strongly dislike every player on the floor other than Bobby.
  • Adams out there giving moving, at a sprint screens on Lopez….yet Dunn gets offensive fouls
  • WTF is lopez doing, you can’t flash for a entry pass then bail that soon. He is checked out for half his stints on the floor.
  • I thought we were done with the Cameron Payne Experience.
  • Payne should be on the bench permanently
  • what a garbage possession, good job Payne!
  • This team sucks so **** bad.
  • These refs are pissing me off
  • The Thunder don’t need official help to beat the Bulls….
  • I’d pay 100 dollars to punch Lopez or Payne in the face.
  • payne almost blew an wide open layup…Nothing comes easy for this guy…
  • Payne is the leading cause of the opiod epidemic…
  • Schroder is annoying. We never have anyone who can stop him.
  • I’m confused why Robin Lopez touches the ball more on offense than Lauri.
  • Westbrook looks like he’s getting tired, we’ve been all over him great team game on him.
  • We should stop putting Holiday on George.
  • Paul George is like I don’t have to play defense as Lavine is out so I can just have fun on offense as Arci can’t guard him or Holiday.
  • must be nice to have good players.
  • And just like that its 20
  • remember when boylen said we would start playing winning basketball?
  • what is lauri doing? he looks awful.
  • Archie on Westbrook is a terrible gameplan
  • Damn Grant… That was a nasty dunk
  • Lopez just walked away from Adams in the paint and gave up a dunk….
  • i turned it off, unwatchable, tank on.
  • This is probably the only season that I have more “I’m glad, I’m going to work than finish a Bulls game” day. lol
  • Feel like Westbrook main goal is to get triple doubles
  • Hell watching Lopez beat the piss out of someone would be more entertaining than this game.
  • Am I the only one that hoped a fan would say something resulting in Payne going in the stands and being suspended for the remainder of the season?
  • Payne is the worst player I’ve ever seen
  • Why is Payne even playing? He has no future here. Play Hutch.
  • Maybe Payne can be ejected,that’s the only way he won’t playing big minutes for the Bulls
  • The Bulls are coaching apparently requires having one of, or both Archie and Jughead on the floor at all times
  • Robin is one of the few guys on this team with balls. Love that guy.
  • Cam Payne fouling out is happiness…
  • The Bulls are painful to watch.
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Thunder Game Day #29: vs. Chicago Bulls

Oklahoma City Thunder (18-10, 11-3 home)

at

Chicago Bulls (7-23, 3-12 away)

Monday, December 17 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 13-point favorites. The over/under is 212.5.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Bulls: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Oklahoma City responded to losing three-out-of-four games with an impressive win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. What was most impressive about it: they won against a winning record team, on the second night of a back-to-back.
  • The Thunder currently sit comfortably in the third seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They’re a full game up on the Los Angeles Lakers and trail the Golden State Warriors by a full game for second place.
  • Coming into tonight’s game, the Chicago Bulls did the unthinkable. They won a basketball game in the second half while being down 21. The Bulls beat the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night after trailing by 21 in the third quarter. It was Chicago’s first win since beating the Thunder a week or so ago.
  • Speaking of that… The Bulls stunned Oklahoma City on Dec. 7, winning 114-112. Oklahoma City never could find their rhythm and players like Zach LaVine went bananas.

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.
  • Chris Fisher 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).

SCOUTING THE BULLS

  • The Chicago Bulls are currently 6-23 on the season, 13th in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Bulls are 2-8. With their only two wins being over San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
  • In their last 10 road games, it gets worse. Chicago is only 1-9.
  • All-time against the Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 72-74.
  • Since relocation, the Thunder are 12-8 against Chicago.
  • When the two throw down at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City is 6-4 all-time.
  • In the post-KD era, the Thunder are 3-2 against the Bulls, with 1-1 home record.
  • INJURY REPORT
    Zach LaVine (left ankle) is out.
    Jabari Parker (illness) is questionable.
    Denzel Valintine (left ankle) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Chicago came on Oct. 28, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 101-69 (32-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (28 points) vs. the Bulls occurred during an 128-100 loss on Feb. 1, 2017.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out.

UNIFORM WATCH

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City then will go on the road for seven out of the next nine games, starting in Sacramento on Dec. 19.
  • Oklahoma City will play in Utah on Dec. 19.
  • They’ll return home for a one game battle against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, Oklahoma City will play on Christmas Day against the Houston Rockets.



Three Keys to the Game

Fast Break points

Oklahoma City needs to turn up the pace against Chicago. The Bulls are in the bottom third of fast break points are 5-5 when they win the fast break battle. The Thunder are 14-6 when they win the fast break battle. It’s imperative the Thunder are able to use their defensive prowess to win this battle.

Free throws

Oklahoma City dropped in the free throw rankings, they’re 29th in free throw shooting at 70.3 percent. Oklahoma City has to make free throws if they’re going to win a game, let alone a championship. If they can get over 75 percent, this game is done for. That starts with Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, the two who’ve been struggling the most. Oklahoma City is shooting over 75 percent in victories. They’re only 63.9 percent in losses.

Bench

The Thunder’s bench has become super consistent but the points are showing it. That’s fine with the injuries the Thunder have experienced but the bench has to produce some points. When the Bulls bench is outscoring their opponents bench, Detroit is 3-2. Oklahoma City is 10-6 when they win the bench battle.

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Thunder picks up Billy Donovan contract option

With the Thunder sitting with the sixth best record in basketball, the Oklahoma City Thunder have picked up the 2019-20 contract option on head coach Billy Donovan.

Donovan is four years into his first contract with the Thunder worth $30 million. They picked up the fifth year on his original deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Donovan is 168-106 as the head coach of the Thunder. He’s been to the Western Conference Finals once and has a 14-15 playoff record. Donovan is the fourth winningest coach with same team over his four years, behind Kerr, Popovich and Stevens.

Thunder fans been short fused with the former Florida Gator head coach as the team started 0-4. However, the Thunder have reeled off one of the better records since, going 18-6 since their rough start. However, there are still folks who would want to see a coaching change.

Donovan was hired in May of 2015 after the Thunder missed the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. Scott Brooks was let go and Donovan was hired from Florida. Donovan’s hire was questioned by many as he appears at times to be a clone of Scott Brooks. Donovan, 53, has his differences. His ability to adjust at key moments are why the Thunder the best third quarter team in the NBA. It’s fueling their large record since their bad star.

The timing didn’t help the Thunder following, in Kevin Durant’s last season, and Durant’s appeasement of Brooks as a coach, stoked fire to one of the reasons why Durant bailed for Golden State.

Though the Thunder are loyal to a fault. As Brooks should’ve been let go a season before when the Thunder didn’t meet expectations with the best record in basketball. However, they’ll give Donovan his full contract’s worth. With the Thunder in the upper half of the NBA’s echelon, will Donovan get Oklahoma City to those vital wins? That remains to be seen but the Thunder have faith he can do it.

Donovan coached at the University of Florida for 20 seasons, winning two national championships and had multiple Final Four appearances.

The Thunder play the Chicago Bulls tonight at 7 p.m. and with the new contract, maybe we’ll see a reinvigorated Donovan under suit and tie.

 

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Paul George, Thunder beat Clippers 110-104

If you never watched the Oklahoma City before, you would assume this is Paul George’s team. The three-spot dropped 33 points en route to the Thunder beating the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 on Saturday night.

Oklahoma City improved to 18-10 on the season as the Thunder are now a third of the way through the schedule.

The Thunder are now 3-1 on the second night of a back-to-back.

It was the fourth time in seven December games George scored at least 30 points. He’s averaging 29.1 points this month while shooting 52 percent from the field.

“I thought they came back really focused and ready to play tonight,” Billy Donovan said.

Oklahoma City trailed for only a second, with Danilo Gallinari hitting a jumper to give the Clippers (17-12) a 2-0 lead early. However, Oklahoma City would rattle off six straight to lead for the rest of the contest.

It was the Oklahoma City defense that led the charge. They forced 26 turnovers, the most for any Thunder opponent this season. It was just a suffocating style the Clippers had no response for. Russell Westbrook had six steals.

“When we defend like that, we’re the best team in the league,” Westbrook said. “We have to defend to win.”

Westbrook finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists and six steals. He shot 4-of-17 but as stated, did more as his offensive side continues to struggle. He also made 2-of-3 at the free throw line.

Oklahoma City already led by 11 at halftime. The NBA’s best third quarter team did it again as they popped the Clippers repeatedly in the third quarter, led by George. He scored nine points in the frame and the Thunder led by as many as 17 in the quarter to give them the best cushion.

“Each game is a battle of its own,” George said. “It’s a chance for us to grow. We lost two straight, and it was good for us to come home and get one [a win]. That was big for us, not necessarily the win over the opponent.”

Though, the Clippers didn’t go away, they were able to pull within six with a minute left but the Thunder did what they needed to seal the game. Unlike in Denver where the Nuggets were able to put the game out of reach.

Oklahoma City will now host the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the Peake. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. We’ll have your game day coverage as always on our social media channels.

Keys to the Game

Make Free throws: B

I know I shouldn’t be giving a 70 percent free throw shooting night a B but the Thunder feel as if they’re finally figuring out that free throw shooting thing that seems to have bugged them so much. 75 percent. That’s all any one is asking for. We know we’re not hitting 80 percent. That’s fine. Let’s be average. That’s all.

Share the ball: A+

The Thunder did a great job getting involved. Oklahoma City dished out 26 assists en route to the victory. Westbrook had 12 and Dennis Schröder had four off the bench. When the Thunder share like this and get multiple people involved, Oklahoma City goes bananas and wins, most of the time.

Russell Westbrook: C

Like, no one knows what’s going on with Westbrook on the shooting part of his game. It’s the only thing missing from another MVP like season. He’s being a defensive beast. He leads the league in assists. He’s the best rebounding guard NBA history. Something is wrong and it appears Westbrook doesn’t even know what it is yet.

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4 Thoughts (12-14-18) Nuggets 109, Thunder 98

1. For the first time this season I’m feeling a little frustration and disappointment in the outcome of a game. The loss at Sacramento had me feeling similarly, but that was still really early. Considering we lost Wed in NOLA and considering we lost once already to Denver, I thought this game tonight took on a dash of added importance. I leave it as a “dash” understanding that it is still just mid-December and assigning too much meaning to any one game is a bit silly at this juncture. But I did take this one a little more seriously and the result has me more frustrated than your typical loss. Russ completely overreacted at the end of the game to Murray indicating to me that he is also feeling the frustration.

2. When you remove yourself from your comfort zone it’s not necessarily easy to just find a new one. I know a lot of people are wondering if what’s “wrong” with Russ right now is a sign of physical decline. I really don’t think so. I believe this is a mental and emotional issue. Based on how he has approached the game this year I think it is 100% clear that he is making a concerted effort to change the way he plays basketball. The result has been a ton more room for PG, Adams, and Dennis to roam. The Thunder do not simply stand around and wait for Russ to save them anymore. Their effort is high and consistent on both ends of the floor. Players and the ball move more freely than they have in the past. Roles are far more defined and guys are much more settled in. Except one. I just don’t think Russ has found where he fits yet. Chauncey Billups said it several times on the broadcast tonight: he wondered aloud why Russ wasn’t being more aggressive. He said he felt it was time for Russ to push the issue. And therein lies the problem. It’s not necessarily some easy switch he can flip. It’s not like he always has the perfect answer as to when he needs goes green light and when he goes red light. I think what we are seeing is Russ getting stuck in that awkward moment when the light is yellow and you aren’t sure if you need to floor it or hit the brakes. In that situation I always feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Ultimately, I think this will work out. PG is playing like an MVP. Adams is playing like an All-Star. Dennis is playing like a Sixth Man candidate. Thunder have the best D in the league. The one thing that isn’t on par (yet) is their leader. He is doing everything he can right now to do things the right way. He’s probably trying TOO hard. I think this is just something you wait out. If it still looks the same in March, then we have a real problem.

3. The one thing we can’t wait out is the free throw crisis. And yes, it’s a crisis. For the way THIS team plays, missing free throws at this rate is not acceptable. It will sink them. Thunder played the absolute “right” way tonight. The only took 19 three’s and they made a higher percentage than the Nuggets. Thunder were pretty aggressive pushing the ball into the paint. But they missed twelve free throws. Denver missed one. It’s a huge problem. Thunder are the most physical and athletic team in the league. And they don’t shoot it well from deep. Therefore, they MUST cash in at the line. I can accept that Adams is going to be a little subpar from the line. That’s OK from your bruising center. But PG, Russ, and Dennis need to be money. All the time. Grant needs to be better. Diallo and TFerg combined to go 0-4. You just can’t have that crap. The problem with free throw woes is that there isn’t really a “solution.” Practicing more may not matter at all. Free throws are very much a mental element of the game. The entire team knows they are struggling from the line and then it becomes a source of tension. A “here we go again” type of thing with each miss. For me, it starts with Russ. He just HAS to figure it out. Hovering around 60% is nonsense. I honestly think it was the deciding factor in the game tonight. Thunder plAyed hard. They tried to grind that thing out. Just left too many points at the line. It has to change or it will continue to cost them wins.

4. I think we have hit our first speed-bump of the season. After winning 16 of 19 games, the Thunder have now lost 3 of 4. Two of those three could have been won with a shot at the end. And tonight was in doubt with 2:00 to go. I don’t consider this small skid to be a major eye-opener, but they need to squash is quickly. If they win tomorrow and go 2-2 for the week that’s not a disaster. I’d consider it a mild disappointment, but nothing more than that. If they lose at home to the Clippers tomorrow I think that’s when you start to writhe in your seat just a bit and feel a little antsy. The back to back won’t be an excuse— not when you are coming off of two losses in a row. They have failed so far this year against the Nuggets, who now have the best record in the West. The Clippers have also been a West leader for most of this year so it would behoove the Thunder to take care of business and not turn this week into a a true slide.

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Thunder fall 109-98 in disappointing fashion

In a game in which the Thunder never really led the short handed Denver Nuggets sent the Thunder back to the NBA’s reality with a 109-98 loss on Friday night.

The loss is Oklahoma City’s third in their last four games and their second straight. The worst part about the losses? Two have come against really quality competition and the other was a horrible loss to probably the NBA’s worst team, the Chicago Bulls.

Oklahoma City never found their rhythm all game long. They fell behind early and by a large margin. It was due to the hot shooting of the Nuggets. The Nuggets hit their first six threes, putting Oklahoma City behind by double digits in the first quarter. The Thunder never recovered.

If we’re putting immediate blame on a Thunder loss, it’s going to be their inability to make free throws. Oklahoma City shot 17-of-29 from the free throw line (58.6 percent). It’s the third time this season Oklahoma City failed to shoot at least 60 percent from the free throw line and it killed them.

You make half those free throws and how you manage the end of the game changes. Instead of being down half the points in the first half. You’re not digging yourself such a hole.

While the Thunder gave it their best effort behind Paul George’s 32 points, it was also the lack of defense in the Mile High City that was the most concerning. Sure, Nikola Jokic is a phenomenal player, He pulled down 15 rebounds, including some really key tip outs. They were the killer. While the Thunder continue to try to rely on their athleticism and not their fundamentals in times where it’s the most key, it led the Nuggets to tip out missed shots for wide open threes.

We’re not even getting into how Russell Westbrook hasn’t been himself and we have no real explanation why. Well, him missing contested late game shots that he probably shouldn’t have taken is himself, but we miss the Westbrook that would take over games.

For whatever it is, the Thunder are slouching at the wrong time. Fan base can see it. I’m sure the players can see it, too. Though, everyone was melting down over an 0-4 start and look where the Thunder are now. They’re still third in the Western Conference with another tilt against a potential playoff contender on Saturday night, the LA Clippers. Win that and everyone chills out for a minute.

Oklahoma City (17-10) has a difficult next 15 games up. While only six are teams with winning records. They play San Antonio twice, Dallas twice, The Clippers, at Portland, at Lakers, at Houston, at Utah , and at Sacramento a place Oklahoma City has already lost this season. The schedule is getting brutal for the Thunder. They have to find a way to go any where from 8-7 to 11-4 over the next 15 games. You’re going to win some games you probably shouldn’t and lose games you shouldn’t. If you can keep your playoff position as they flip into the new year.

The Thunder will try to forget this loss immediately as they have a home SEGABABA against the LA Clippers Saturday at 8 p.m. on FS Oklahoma.

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Thunder Game Day #27: at Denver Nuggets

Oklahoma City Thunder (17-9, 7-6 away)

at

Denver Nuggets (18-9, 10-3 home)

Friday, December 14 :: 9:00 p.m. CST :: Pepsi Center (20,491)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
TV Coverage: ESPN (DirectTV 206, Cox 29, HD 1300, Tulsa Cox HD 1025)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 2-point favorites. The over/under is 218.5.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Nuggets: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are setting up for a big divisional showdown against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets.
  • The Thunder already lost to the Nuggets once this season. So, tonight’s showdown in the Mile High City will be even bigger for the Thunder.
  • Oklahoma City is coming off a 118-114 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
  • The Thunder are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have lost back-to-back road games.
  • The Nuggets are facing a slew of injuries and are trying to hold onto first place in the Western Conference.

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.
  • Chris Fisher 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).
  • Tonight’s game is on ESPN. Dave Pasch, Doris Burke, and Tom Rinaldi will have your call for the WorldWide Leader.

SCOUTING THE NUGGETS

  • The Denver Nuggets 18-9 on the season, best in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Nuggets are 8-2, including four straight at home.
  • The Nuggets are currently percentage points better than the Warriors and Thunder for first place in the Western Conference.
  • In their last game, Denver beat the Memphis Grizzlies 105-99 on Wednesday night. It ended a two-game losing streak for the Nuggets.
  • Oklahoma City is 98-80 all-time against the Denver Nuggets. That includes the time spent in Seattle and Oklahoma City.
  • Since the Thunder relocated from Seattle, Oklahoma City is 21-19 against Denver.
  • When Oklahoma City is playing at the Pepsi Center, they are 7-11 all-time.
  • The Thunder lost both games in the Mile High City last season by an average of 7.0 points per game.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Will Barton (right hip) is out.
    Gary Harris (right hip) is out.
    Paul Millsap (fractured toe) is out.
    Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) is out.
    Isaiah Thomas (right hip) is out.
    Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Denver came on Feb. 22, 2015, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 119-94 (25-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (29 points) vs. the Nuggets occurred during a 119-90 loss on March 3, 2010

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out.

UNIFORM WATCH

NEXT UP

  • The Thunder host the Clippers on Saturday, Dec. 15.
  • Then, they’ll play the Bulls in a rematch on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.
  • Oklahoma City then will go on the road for seven out of the next nine games, starting in Sacramento on Dec. 19.



Three Keys to the Game

Fast Break points

Oklahoma City needs to turn up the pace against Detroit. Detroit is in the bottom third of fast break points are 8-1 when they win the fast break battle. The Thunder are 10-4 when they win the fast break battle. It’s imperative the Thunder are able to use their defensive prowess to win this battle.

Free throws

Oklahoma City is slowly moving up the rankings, they’re 26th in free throw shooting at 71.6 percent. Oklahoma City has to make free throws if they’re going to win a game, let alone a championship. If they can get over 75 percent, this game is done for. That starts with Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, the two who’ve been struggling the most. Oklahoma City is shooting over 75 percent in victories. They’re only 64.5 percent in losses.

Bench

The Thunder’s bench has become super consistent but the points are showing it. That’s fine with the injuries the Thunder have experienced but the bench has to produce some points. When the Pistons bench is outscoring their opponents bench, Detroit is 6-1. Oklahoma City is 7-3 when they win the bench battle.

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