Author - James Horvath

King George of Brooklyn

The Thunder won on Wednesday night 114-112 over the Brooklyn Nets. If you saw that score without context, you might think it was a closely fought battle all game.

The Thunder trailed by two points to end the first quarter. The deficient got worse and worse every quarter until a man by the name of Paul George showed up. George had a career high 25 points in the fourth quarter, as the Thunder outscored the Nets 39-19 to complete the largest comeback in Thunder history.

The game was defined by the three-point shooting. The Nets were 15-for-36 from the field tonight, and the Thunder were 13-for-38, with six of them coming from George.

Russell Westbrook had 21 points, 17 assists, and 15 rebounds tonight, his fifth 15-point, 15-assist, 15-rebound game of his career. Westbrook was 2-of-9 from the three-point-line tonight, adding another poor performance from downtown. There is no need for him to be shooting that many three-pointers. It’s a detriment to the team.

Paul George of course, was the man of the night. George had 47 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 assists on 15-of-27 shooting, 6-of-13 from three, and 11-of-14 from the free-throw-line. George was one point off of his 48 point career high.

“I got into a zone, a comfortable place, I stared off a little slow, the guys were behind me, and told me to just kept going,” George said.

George hit a hesitation three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left to put Oklahoma City in front 114-112. It was Oklahoma City’s first lead since they led 21-20 with 1:01 left in the first quarter. George scored or assisted on the Thunder’s final 20 points of the game. He scored 18 of them and assisting on Grant’s lone bucket late in the quarter.

The Thunder trailed by as many as 23 in the third quarter before Oklahoma City made their move. The Thunder were within 18 when the third quarter starter. Brooklyn kept the Thunder at bay for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter but that’s when George went bananas.

George scored all 25 of his fourth quarter points over the final 7:11 of the fourth quarter. He went 9-of-12 in the quarter. Russell Westbrook had four assists to George in the fourth quarter alone. George outscored the Nets 25-19 in the quarter and 25-11 over that 7:11 time frame.

“He never really got going at the start,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He got it going and Russell and the group got him the ball.”

George’s 47 points were a career high with the Thunder. It tops his previous high of 43 against the Nuggets in February 2018.

Oklahoma City shot an atrocious 15-for-26 at the line tonight, which is just under 58 percent. Steven Adams was a contributor to the poor free-throw percentage, only making 1-out-of-6.

“I give them a lot of credit for their resilience, their competitiveness, being down for as much as we were at the start of the 4th quarter to make that comeback,” Donovan said.

Note: Hamidou Diallo returned for the first time since the scary fall in Golden State. Diallo played four minutes and had one point and two turnovers.

The Thunder are now 16-7, good enough for the second best record in the Western Conference, and are half games back of the first place 17-7 Nuggets.

Oklahoma City ends their road trip on Friday when they visit Chicago to play the Bulls (5-20) at 7:00 p.m. Thunder time.

Keys to the Game

Limit Turnovers: B

The Thunder turned the ball over 13 times, one less than their season average, and four less than they did versus the Detroit Pistons on Monday night. A few specific turnovers come to mind; Westbrook’s first two, the flashy pass that went off of Adams’ hands, and the other flashy pass that went off of Jerami Grant’s hands. Paul George had a very bad pass off an Oklahoma City steal that lead to a Nets three. The best practice to limit turnovers is to make smart decisions and solid passes. Mistakes will happen however, as these players are human.

Bench Production: F

The Thunder bench scored 18 points, compared to the starters’ 96 points. There were only three Thunder bench players to score; Dennis Schroder with 12, Nerlens Noel with five, and Diallo with one. 76 minutes were spread across the bench total, with the majority going to Schroder’s 30-minutes. Alex Abrines was next up with 18, and Noel was the last bench player with minutes in double-figures as he played 14. This game was ran by the Thunder stars, but it’s not always going to be that way. Players have to step up, like they have in previous games this season.

Get Abrines and Patterson looks from 3: D

Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson shot a combined three 3-pointers, while Russell Westbrook shot nine. Westbrook can of course create his own shot, so he is able to get more looks, but Abrines and Patterson are on the Thunder to shoot threes. If they aren’t receiving looks, they are dead weight. Abrines played 18 minutes while Patterson played only six.

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Thunder annihilate Pistons 110-83

Andre Drummond dunked off an assist from Reggie Jackson to begin the game. That was the only lead the Pistons had all night. The Thunder embarrassed the Pistons in their own arena, 110-83.

The game was defined by the stifling defense that Oklahoma City played. The Detroit Pistons shot 33 percent from the field, and 18 percent from three. The Thunder defense forced 15 turnovers.

“Just our rotations, thought we rotated really well,” Steven Adams said.

Oklahoma City is 15-7 on the year and are 15-3 since starting 0-4, the best record since then in the NBA.

“We weathered some turnovers in the first half, up by 10, then in the 3rd quarter we really established ourselves,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “It was a complete game by our guys on both ends of the floor.”

Terrance Ferguson returned from injury, and played 26 minutes. He only attempted one shot, a 3 pointer, and missed, but his main impact is never scoring. Terrance had 4 assists, a steal, and a great block on Andre Drummond. The steps that he has taken forward this season on the defensive end are massive to the Thunder.

“When you’re out like that, sometimes it can take you a while to get going, but it was great to see him come back in his first game and respond the way he did.”

Hamidou Diallo was cleared to play, but was still feeling some discomfort, so the Thunder ultimately held him out.

Steven Adams lead the Thunder in scoring tonight with 21 points on 7-8 shooting. while being 7-7 from the free throw line.

Russell Westbrook had a slow start to the game, being 0-of-4 and scoring his first points off of a layup. He had five turnovers in the game, and shot 2-of-7 from the three-point line. Still, he had 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting, with six assists and six rebounds.

Jerami Grant’s improvement as a player is a wonderful sight to see. Grant had 15 points on 5-6 shooting, which included 2 3s. Grant isn’t afraid to drive to the basket or shoot, and confidence is a major part of success in basketball. He’s long, athletic, and can defend at a high level.

The third quarter was the turning point in the game, as it was only a 10-point Oklahoma City lead heading into halftime. The Thunder outscored Detroit 37-19 while holding them to 35 percent shooting on only 20 shots. The Thunder shot 50 percent on 13-26 shooting. OKC turned the ball over zero times, and forced four turnovers on the defensive end. A great win to begin a three-game road trip.

The Thunder head to Brooklyn to take on the Nets for a Wednesday night showdown. Oklahoma City and Brooklyn is set to tip-off at 6:30 p.m. Thunder time.

Keys to the Game

Fast Break points: C

The Thunder forced 15 turnovers on the night and had 10 steals. The bad part, is that the Pistons also forced 17 turnovers and had 10 steals. Oklahoma City outscored the Pistons 10-9 in fast break points. The transition defense was stellar by both squads tonight, but OKC needs to keep turnovers down in future games. There were definitely some turnovers by Russell Westbrook and co. that could have been prevented by smarter play.

Free throws: A

Oklahoma City shot 85 percent from the line tonight, which is where you want to be. In addition, the dynamic duo of Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook, combined for 9-of-10 shooting from the line, which is a lot better than their season average. 20 free throws is four less than OKC’s season average, but if they can continue making free throws at at-least an 80 percent clip, they will be in great shape.

Bench: B

Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder have been a bright spot for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, and continued that tonight. Dennis had 12 points nine rebounds and six assists on 6-of-13 shooting, while Nerlens had 12 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting, including two blocks and two steals. Patrick Patterson had a rough game with minimal production, as well did Alex Abrines. Schroder and Noel carried the bench tonight, but in closer games, Abrines and Patterson are going to need to find looks from the 3-point line and knock them down.

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Thunder pick up easy win over Atlanta 124-109

Alex Abrines had a career night from the 3-point line, shooting 7-of-11 for 21 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder popped the Atlanta Hawks 124-109 on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Oklahoma City improves to 14-7 with the win tonight, tying Toronto with the best record in November, 11-3.

“The shots were just going in,” Abrines said. “I felt good the other night they just weren’t going in. Tonight thankfully they went in.”

Abrines nailed his three attempt from deep, really setting up the rhythm the Thunder needed all evening.

“That’s what he does well,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “I think it speaks to Alex’s character as a player that he can go 1-for-9 the other night and see him make big shots tonight.”

Russell Westbrook was a rebound shy of a triple double, with 23-10-9 on 8-15 shooting, as well as 2-4 from downtown.

Paul George encountered light foul trouble, having 4 fouls early in the 3rd, but played through it, ending the night with 20 points on 6-14 shooting.

Nerlens Noel played fantastic, with 14 points on 6-7 shooting, with 3 steals and 2 blocks.

In the first quarter, the Thunder looked very sloppy on both ends of the floor, only leading the 5-17 Atlanta Hawks by 2 points by the end of the quarter.

That didn’t last long.

In the second quarter, Oklahoma City outscored Atlanta by 18 points, lead by a 13-0 run mid quarter which included two Russ 3s, as well as Patrick Patterson’s first made 3 pointer since November 17.

The third quarter was filled with some worry, as the Hawks got the Thunder lead to as little as 10, but OKC quickly stormed back with a 10-0 run to get it back to blowout territory.

The fourth quarter was standard, both teams scored the same amount of points, with most of Atlanta’s coming in the final 3 minutes.

Note that Hamidou Diallo was cleared by the Thunder to play tonight, but logged 0 minutes. Probably just precautionary. He’s missed the last three games with an ankle sprain.

The Thunder will start a 3 game road trip beginning Monday at 6:00 p.m. CST in Detroit. Their next home game is Dec. 10, versus the Utah Jazz.

Keys to the Game

Limit threes: A

Atlanta was 11-36 from 3 tonight, equaling just over 30%. That’ll do. As noted in the game preview, Thunder wins this season usually stem from elite defense at the 3pt line. The Hawks best player, Kent Bazemore was 3-10 from the field and 1-6 from 3 tonight. Shutting him off was big to assure an easy Oklahoma City victory.

Free throws: A+

Although the Thunder only shot 15 free throws tonight, they were near perfect at 14-15. Russell Westbrook was 5-6 from the line, which is a boost from his mediocre 60% average this season. Steven Adams took 0 free throws, something that would have probably been different had the Thunder been playing against a stronger opponent.

Block out: B-

While the Thunder did win the rebounding battle 46-42, the Hawks doubled up the Thunder on the offensive rebounding side, 14-7. That has to be flipped around, as versus better teams, they will take those free opportunities and most likely convert, leading to a rough time for Oklahoma City.

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Thunder drop second game of the season to the Clippers 108-92

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the LA Clippers on Friday night 108-92. The Thunder never could find a way to pull ahead in a game where they fell behind 16-0. Yes, 16-0.

The Thunder are 0-2 on the season. It’s the first time the Thunder have started out the regular season 0-2 since 2014-15, the injury plagued season.

“It’s no panic, we’ve got one of the best players coming back to our team at some point,” Paul George said. “But I take a lot pressure on that. I’ve still got to get this group ready to go.”

The Thunder were without Russell Westbrook for the second straight game of the season, and Dennis Schröder once again started at Point Guard. The Clippers started the game on a 16-0 run, but OKC eventually stabilized and got the deficient down to 7 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was filled with solid defense by the Thunder and missed shots by the Clippers. Abrines had 10 points on five shots going into halftime.

The third quarter was ran by George, who made two 3s, one being a 4 point play, and locking down on the defensive end. The Thunder led 77-71 going into the final 12 minutes with confidence and a positive outlook after their mediocre start to the game. The first four minutes both teams traded buckets with the OKC lead staying at around 6. The tides started to turn. At the 6:51 mark, Paul George would make a 3 to tie the game at 90. OKC would only score 2 more points in the last 6 minutes and 51 seconds. The last six minutes were filled with bricks by Dennis Schröder and Paul George, as they would combine for 0-8 shooting. The Clippers just made shots and OKC didn’t.

Dennis Schröder and Paul George combined for 28 points on 9-of-42 shooting, which is unacceptable and the reason why the Thunder lost the game. PG made up for some of his shortcomings on the offensive end in his 3rd quarter stint, but being good one-fourth of the time isn’t going to lead to Ws. Schröder was off the whole game and Felton might have been the better choice to close the game.

The Thunder will return to OKC for their home-opener on Sunday, October 21 to face the winless Sacramento Kings at 6 p.m. local time. Russell Westbrook is likely to make his 2018-19 debut as he was cleared today for full-contact.

Keys to the Game

 

Rebounding A

The Thunder outrebounded the Clippers 52-47 with 15 offensive boards compared to the Clippers 9. Steven Adams had 18 rebounds (6 O 12 D) tonight, which is a great bounce back from his poor performance vs the Warriors on Tuesday.

Free Throws C+

The Thunder were 17-23 from the line on Friday night, which is around 74%. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the monstrosity that was 15-27 on Tuesday night.

Bench B+

The Thunder’s bench tonight was solid, the starters were the ones that let the team down. The bench scored 38 points, with Raymond Felton leading the bench in scoring with 12. Nerlens Noel played a solid 14 minutes scoring 9 points and locking down on the defensive end. Alex Abrines played 32 (!!) minutes off the bench tonight, scoring 10, but failing to score at all in the second half.

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Thunder Preview: The Bench

In the 2017-18 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a very mediocre bench, to say the least. Obviously, the Thunder will look to improve upon these marks this season, as the bench’s ability to retain a lead while the starters rest is vital to regular season success.

The Bench

Dennis Schroder

He was acquired from the Hawks this off-season in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Schroder is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate that should bring a huge playmaking boost to the bench, something that Raymond Felton struggled with last season. The bench ranked 29th in assists last season. Schroder’s play in the pre-season should excite Thunder fans, as he averaged 15.2 points and 5.5 assists while showing excellent PnR chemistry with center Steven Adams.

Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel signed a 2-year contract with the Thunder back in July that included a player option. Noel brings in a much needed second center to the Thunder, one thing that wasn’t present last season in Dakari Johnson. Noel is a stout defensive player that should be able to protect the rim. The shot-blocking duo of Jerami Grant and Noel should cause havoc for opposing players at the rim.

Jerami Grant

Grant was one bright spot for the Thunder off the bench last season, finishing at the rim and drawing fouls while being a great defender. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds on 53.5 percent shooting in 20.3 min in 2017-18. He should see an increased role and minutes this year with the departure of Carmelo Anthony.

Alex Abrines

The Spaniard returns for his third year with the Thunder, and also his contract year. Abrines started shaky last season because of injuries and lacked mobility. The main issue with him is his ability to find and take shots. He only attempted 2.9 three-pointers a game in 15.1 minutes last season, which is too little considering he’s on the floor to shoot 3-pointers and nothing else. If he can find shots this season and make them at a good percentage, he will be huge for the Thunder. If he can’t produce, he simply won’t be on the roster next season.

Hamidou Diallo

Diallo comes in as the 45th pick in this year’s draft. He had a great preseason, improving in every game and ending with a 19 point performance in a win over Milwaukee on 8-of-16 shooting while being 3 for 5 from 3. Diallo excels at grabbing rebounds on both ends of the floor, averaging 4.5 in the pre-season with 2.8 of them being on the offensive end. Diallo still a rookie however, and it’s not very plausible that he will be an impact player this season. He just needs to improve every day, because he certainly has the potential to be great.

Abdel Nader

Abdel Nader was brought in this summer in a trade with the Celtics, and he remains a mystery. Nader sat out all of the pre-season games with knee soreness, but is on track to be available for opening night. Abdel appeared in only 48 games with the Celtics last season, playing 10.9 minutes per game, and averaging 3 points on 3.1 field goal attempts.

Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

TLC was the second part of the Carmelo Anthony trade that netted the Thunder Dennis Schroder. TLC is a player that the Thunder should know what to expect of for this season. He is a very average wing that can shoot a lick and play a little bit of defense. He averaged 5.8 points on 5.1 field goal attempts with three of them being from the 3pt line while playing 15.5 minutes per game. TLC is also still very young, with room to improve in all aspects of his game.

Raymond Felton

Felton was a fierce competitor for the Thunder last season, seeming like the reincarnation of Michael Jordan at the beginning of last season with how much better he looked than Semaj Christon. Felton averaged 6.9 points, 2.5 assists per game on 40 percent shooting in 16.6 minutes per game. He had a large number of isolation possessions, mainly because of the bench’s lack of shot creating and playmaking, something that should improve this season with the addition of Dennis Schroder. Less minutes will be had for Felton this season, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Felton’s veteran leadership in the locker room is invaluable to the Thunder.

Terrance Ferguson

Terrance Ferguson returns as a second year player looking to make a jump. Ferguson has been inconsistent throughout his young career so far, last season, in the Summer League, and pre-season this year. Ferguson played 61 games in the 2017-18 regular season, and was inserted as a starter for 12 games when Andre Roberson suffered a torn patellar tendon in January. Ferguson averaged 3.1 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 12.5 minutes per game for the season.

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Jerami Grant ready for primetime

As an unrestricted free agent this past offseason, forward Jerami Grant reportedly had a handful of potential suitors. Despite interest elsewhere, he quickly re-upped with OKC by signing three-year, $27 million contract on July 1. “It’s big, it’s the start of the season,” Grant said. “I put in a lot of work over the summer and the goal is to continue building team chemistry. I feel like we did a good job building that last season.” “Everything about the team and the organization made it an easy decision for me to return,” Grant said. “I’ve been here for a couple years and have gotten comfortable. It was a no-brainer for me.” Grant is one of two players that could be starting at the Power Forward position this year, with Patrick Patterson being the other option. Patterson brings more of a shooting approach with corner 3s, while playing Grant would sacrifice three-point shooting for more athleticism and switching power on the defensive end. “I love playing fast; that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career,” Grant said. “Excited for what this year brings.” The Thunder’s lineups in the 2018 playoffs thrived when Grant was on the floor, outscoring the Jazz by 8.9 points per game. A lineup that could see success this year includes Westbrook, Abrines, George, Grant, and Adams. This lineup saw massive success in the little time it was used last year; in the playoffs (below) and the regular season (above). Grant, 24, is still at the beginning of his career. He has improved every year that he’s been in the league, and is poised to continue that trend. His role and importance will only increase this year with the departure of Carmelo Anthony and the uncertainty of who will be the starting Power-Forward. “Every team needs that kind of guy… you can plug him in everywhere,” Paul George said. “He plays quick and can get around. Special kind of player that I was vouching for to come back.” Grant was traded to the Thunder two games into the 2016-17 season for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected first round pick. He made a big improvement from his first season with the Thunder to his second season by upping his Field goal percentage from 46.9 percent to 53.5 percent on more shots taken. “I love playing fast; that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career,” Grant said. “Excited for what this year brings.” 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!