Author - James Horvath

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.”

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