Author - Marshall Clayton

Schröder’s 29 helps OKC win third straight

In their third game in four nights, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to come out with one of their more impressive wins on the season, defeating the Utah Jazz 104-90 in a second night of a back-to-back road game.

Oklahoma City and Utah fought back and forth throughout the first quarter, but the Thunder were able to use a quick 6-0 run to close out the opening quarter, and led the game wire-to-wire from that point on.

Oklahoma City once led by as much as 22 points tonight, and were able to keep Utah out of reach for the majority of the second half.

The Thunder did their most damage in the opening period of the second half, where they had their biggest lead of the game. They outscored the Utah Jazz 34-21 in the third period. It was a bright spot in a quarter where Oklahoma City has historically struggled throughout this season thus far. In the last 5:44 of the third quarter, Oklahoma City outscored Utah by a pace of 19 points to just seven points for Utah.

It was a big scoring night between Thunder guard’s Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and Dennis Schroder, and some stingy defense from Oklahoma City overall to get the win. The Thunder held Utah to just 40 percent shooting from the field, and just 26 percent from three. Shai put up 20 points while Schröder was able to finish a game-high 27 points.

Oklahoma City entered tonight’s matchup with quite a few injuries, leading to Darius Bazley and Abdel Nader both being included in the starting lineup. Along with Hamidou Diallo and Andre Roberson not being able to play, Oklahoma City was also without Terrance Ferguson and Danilo Gallinari, who was dealing an ankle injury. It led to the 2019 two-way rookie Lu Dort to play a bench-high 29 minutes tonight.

Dort had some solid perimeter defense on the night, and was able to finish the night with nine points and two rebounds. Steven Adams also had quite the night, with another double-double, with 11 points, 13 rebounds along with four assists.

This was the Thunder’s third win a row, the longest win streak of the season this year. It was also their second win on the road in a row, in the midst of a four game road-trip. Oklahoma City will continue their road trip with a game at Sacramento on Wednesday.

Utah only had three guys finish with double-digit scoring on the night, as they just had multiple stretches with very little scoring, credit to Oklahoma City’s defense, especially around the perimeter. Donovan Mitchell led the way for Utah, with 26 points. Gobert was right behind him with 19 points of his own.

This win puts Oklahoma City at 11-12 on the season, which has them seventh in the Western Conference Standings. They are now 6-4 in their last ten. This loss for the Jazz drops them to 13-11, which puts them at one spot ahead of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference. They are 1-4 in their last 5, and 4-6 in their last ten.

Amidst the rumors heating up about who might be traded on this Thunder roster after December 15th, Oklahoma City is playing some of their best ball with a lot of their younger guys getting quite a bit of run. So despite who might be traded over the next few months, it is at least nice to know this team will still be pretty darn fun to watch when the young guys are called their numbers even more.

Next up: Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento.

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Thunder Outlast New Orleans 109-104

It was a total team effort in the fourth quarter, as the Oklahoma City Thunder battled back in the fourth quarter to steal a 109-104 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Thunder started out strong, leading wire to wire in the first half, behind a great performance from the reserves. Steven Adams got out to a quick start, putting up 10 points just in the first quarter.

It was a low energy third quarter from Oklahoma City that gave the Pelicans life, who led by five to start the fourth quarter. New Orleans was able to outscore the Thunder 31 to 17 in the third quarter, alone.

Oklahoma City, like they have done plenty of times this season, battled back in the fourth quarter. It was led by Dennis Schröder, who finished with 25 points on the night, put up 12 points in the fourth quarter which was a huge lift for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City played great as a team tonight, with a game high 27 assists. They also had a stellar performance from the bench, as the bench unit put up 58 of Oklahoma City’s 109 points. Nader was a huge part of that, chipping in 19 of those by himself, as he hit four three-pointers while shooting 80 percent from beyond the arc.

After starting out very quickly, Adams was held scoreless after the first quarter. That was until the final minute of the game, as he scored back to back buckets to seal the win for Oklahoma City.

The Thunder move to 2-0 on the year versus the Pelicans. They will face them again in New Orleans on Sunday, which will be the last time they see the Pelicans until late February.

Brandon Ingram again continued with a solid performance in what has been a rejuvenating season for his career. He had a team-high 26 points, along with eight rebounds and four assists, and was a huge part in New Orleans’ third quarter run to take the lead over the Thunder, which proved to be temporary. The Pelicans had seven different players finish with at least 10 points tonight.

Heading into tonight, the Pelicans had been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA this year. Oklahoma City held them to just 29 percent from deep on the night, which was another key in the win for Thunder. Oklahoma City shot nearly 40 percent from deep as well.

The Thunder were able to outscore the Pelicans 30-20 in the fourth quarter, as well as scoring the final five points of the game, which proved to be the most important.

Kenrich Williams, who started for New Orleans, left the game early in the first half after a nasty ankle roll while driving into the paint. He was fortunately able to walk to the locker room under his own power.

Oklahoma City finished the month of November at 6-7. Overall on the season they move to 7-11, and are 3-4 in their last seven. The Thunder will need to be locked in moving forward, as they will play five road games in their first seven games entering into the month of December.

 

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Thunder defense leads OKC to 122-113 win

It was another impressive performance from Oklahoma City, as they beat the Utah Jazz 122-113 in game 25-of-82. The Thunder’s defense was stifling, giving the Jazz problems all night long. It was an impressive bounce back win after a close loss in Chicago three days ago.

Oklahoma City forced Utah to turn the ball over 20 times, 11 of those coming from Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were also in foul trouble all night, both heavily struggling to get anything going against this Thunder defense.

Paul George was the man of the game, who seemingly could not miss, especially catching fire in the second half. He put up 31 points on just 10 shot attempts, going 10-for-12 from the free throw line. He was unconscious from three, hitting five of his six attempts from deep.

George did it on both ends, ending the game with four steals of his own, in a game which was one of his best of the young Thunder season. Tonight cemented him firmly in the very early MVP discussions, playing great basketball on both ends of the floor.

Oklahoma City was in control of this game from the very beginning, setting a tone early with their defense. They jumped out to a 6-0 lead to begin the game, causing Quin Snyder to call a very early timeout. It didn’t stop the bleeding though, as this Jazz team looked lost offensively for the majority of this game. A big part of that was Oklahoma City holding Mitchell in check for most of the night. Donovan finished with 19 points, but shot just 40 percent from the floor.

Schröder was a big part in Oklahoma City’s win tonight, running the second unit flawlessly, especially to begin the second quarter. Dennis finished with 23 points on an efficient 53 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma City really imposed their will in the third quarter, putting up 42 points while holding the Jazz to 29. Oklahoma City led by as much as 29 in this game, and the final score did not indicate how dominant of a performance this was from the Thunder.

Steven Adams made Rudy Gobert frustrated all night, as he could get nothing going, all the while unable to stop fouling Adams down low. Steven finished with 22 points and seven boards.

In one of Thunder’s more dominant performances of the season, Westbrook found himself struggling more than he has all year. He could not get anything to fall offensively, and was abysmal from the charity stripe.

Impressively enough, though, Russell somehow managed to finish the game with his 110thcareer triple double. He was the first to leave the floor at the end of the game, visibly frustrated with his performance.

Westbrook finished his rough night with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It is a testament to how much better this team is this year compared to last year’s, as a performance like this from Russell last year would’ve most likely had a game like tonight’s end in a loss.

“I think it is about our team, we played with good pace,” Billy Donovan said. “Guys are trying to play the right way. It was just an overall team effort. Russell in his way, contributed also.”

This is a very deep Thunder squad, as coach Donovan alluded to, and tonight was a great example of that. With the way this team consistently plays defense, they don’t need crazy offensive performances to win games against good opponents, as they seemingly defend with a purpose no matter how the game is going on the offensive side of the ball.

Oklahoma City is now 1-0 versus Utah this year, with three more meetings left. One of those meetings will  happen in less than two weeks. As of now, Oklahoma City finds themselves tied at first in the Western Conference standings, with a 17-8 record. Utah falls to 13-15 on the year, which puts them at 14th in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City will now travel to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans on Wednesday, and then to Denver to face the Nuggets on Friday. Those games will be big on how the Western Conference standings will look like after week nine of NBA action.

Keys To The Game

Slow down Mitchell: A

Oklahoma City put the clamps down on Donovan early, and never let up. Mitchell got going a bit before halftime, but he was pretty non existent besides that. Thunder got him to turn the ball over, and also had him in foul trouble for most of the night.

Limit second chance points for Utah: B

Utah pulled down 11 offensive boards, but Oklahoma City did a great job of giving Utah limited second chance opportunities, a big part in that was Steven Adams dominating down low.

Take advantage at the free throw line: B+

Oklahoma City got to the charity stripe early and often. They hit 72 percent of their attempts, which is acceptable for how bad this team has been at the free throw line at times. The Thunder did a good job of getting to the rim and drawing fouls, getting the Jazz in foul trouble.

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Thunder down Cavs 100-83

Russell Westbrook posted his 107th triple double in his career, leading the Thunder to their 13th win of the year, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-83.

It was a big performance from Russell, as well as an impressive outing by the Oklahoma City defense. The Thunder are now 13-7 on the season, up to fourth in the very tight Western Conference.

With his 107th triple double, Westbrook tied Jason Kidd with third all-time in NBA history. He finished with 23 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists.

Oklahoma City also finished with a season high 11 blocks, as they were active around the rim defensively all game.

It was a slow start to the game, as Oklahoma City had no energy to begin this game, while the Cavaliers were uncharacteristically on fire with their outside shooting. It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter, Westbrook led the Thunder on a scoring tear to get back within just two points right before halftime, while being down as much as 11 points in that first half.

Oklahoma City built off that run to end the second quarter, playing well on both ends in the second half. They held the Cavaliers to just 15 points in the third quarter, only giving up a total of 36 points in the second half. On the other end, the Thunder put up 53 points in the second half, fully in control that whole second half.

Paul George was in foul trouble all night, picking up his fourth foul just 13 seconds into the third quarter. Though he only played 24 minutes, he put up 18 points on eight for 13 from the field.

Jerami Grant stepped up with Paul George on the bench, pouring in 21 points in 33 minutes.

Oklahoma City also had some very nice contributions from their bench players like Deonte Burton and Raymond Felton. This team has a lot of depth and Billy Donovan is not afraid to throw all kinds of different rotations in there. Even Abdel Nader got some time in, checking in at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“I thought we got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought at the end of that third, beginning of the fourth quarter, I give those bench guys a lot of credit for keeping themselves ready, and they certainly gave us a great jolt to end the third and start the fourth.”

Oklahoma City bounced back tonight with a win, after a tough home loss to the Denver Nuggets this past Saturday. The Thunder will look to build off this win, as they will play the young Atlanta Hawks here in Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday, Nov. 30.

Keys To The Game

Bench Play: A

Billy Donovan gave the bench ton of opportunities tonight, and it paid off. They put up a total of 29 bench points, but more importantly, played well together and defended well. This team seems to have so much more depth than the Thunder teams of the past, and it seems to make Oklahoma City have so much more energy when the starters check back in.

Free throws: B+

Though Oklahoma City shot just 15 total free throws, they did a pretty good job of taking advantage, shooting 80 percent from the charity stripe. Free throws have been a problem all season, but the Thunder were able to negate that just a little bit tonight.

Block out: A

As Billy mentioned in his post game presser, Oklahoma City was great in the rebounding column. They out rebounded the Cavs 50 to 43, eight of those 50 coming on the offensive end. Oklahoma City did a good job of limiting Cleveland to just one chance of scoring on each possession.

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Thunder Game Day #15: at Phoenix Suns

Oklahoma City Thunder (9-5, 3-3 away)

at

Phoenix Suns (3-11, 2-5 Home)

Saturday, November 17th :: 8:00 p.m. CST :: Talking Stick Resort Arena (19,023)
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 9.5-point favorites. The over/under is 215.5.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Knicks: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder go for their ninth win in 10 games as they travel to Arizona to take on the Phoenix Suns
  • Oklahoma City is coming off a win against the New York Knicks last Wednesday, as they won by a margin of 25 points.
  • The Suns, who the Thunder defeated in Oklahoma City just five days ago, are 2-5 in their last seven games, but are fresh off a home victory versus the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Russell Westbrook is a game-time decision for the Thunder. He participated in practice yesterday, and will be evaluated this afternoon.

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 SUNS

  • The Phoenix Suns are 3-11 on the season, with all three wins coming on their home floor. They are currently the worst team in the Western Conference.
  • The Suns are 2-5 in their last seven games, their two wins coming against the Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies
  • In their previous game, Phoenix beat the Spurs 116-96.
  • The Suns have struggled all season so far, but have impressive wins over two teams with winning records.
  • Phoenix is the worst team in the league in scoring, only averaging 102 points per game.
  • Suns rank second to last in turnovers per game, averaging almost 18 turnovers a game.
  • Devin Booker, by far the Suns best player, averages 23 points per game.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    The Suns are relatively healthy, but Trevor Ariza (personal reasons) will be a game-time decision after missing Wednesday’s game.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over New York came on 12/25/13, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 123-94 (29-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (15 points) vs. NYK occurred during a 96-111 loss on 12/16/17.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

NEXT UP

  • The Thunder will travel to play the Kings on Monday night, November 19th.
  • They will play the Warriors on November 21st, the night before Thanksgiving.
  • Then, they will get to come home for a four-game home stand, to wrap up the month of November.

 

THREE KEYS TO THE GAME

Force Turnovers

The Suns are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to taking care of the basketball, while Oklahoma City is one of the best at forcing those turnovers. The Thunder will be well off if they can continue to defend and create turnovers.

Slow down Booker

Devin Booker is the main pulse to the Suns offense. If they can slow him down, and force him into some tough shots, Oklahoma City should run away with this one.

Keep the pressure on

Five days ago when these two teams met, Oklahoma City got out to a huge lead early, but let the Suns creep back into it early in the second half. Though they were able to still get the win, it would be nice to let the starters get some rest in the fourth quarter if Thunder could take care of business early.

 

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Thunder edge out Cavaliers, win sixth straight

CLEVELAND — If you fell asleep during this game, no one would blame you one bit. It was quite the snooze-fest, as Oklahoma City Thunder took care of business against the worst team in the league in the Cleveland Cavaliers, 95-86.

The Thunder are now 6-4 on the season, and on a six game win streak. The Cavaliers now fall to 1-10, the worst record in the league.

Dennis Schröder was phenomenal for the second game in the row, finishing with 28 points on 58 percent shooting from the floor.

Outside of a 17-0 run by Oklahoma City, which was over a span between the second and third quarter, this was a pretty sloppy contest from both teams. There was a combined 31 turnovers, and both teams shot below 40 percent for the majority of the game. The Thunder finished just above 41 percent from the floor.

Oklahoma City led by as much as 16 points, but with the poor shooting, could not keep Cleveland from inching back into this one.

The Cavaliers did it by committee tonight, with six different players scoring in double figures. The rookie Collin Sexton led the way with 15 points, showing off some impressive finishes at the rim.

Oklahoma City started the second half with a lot of good ball movement, which led to a lot of good looks.

“I think we had good ball movement, and had really good energy, and got some good stuff going down hill,” Billy Donovan said. “Then [Cavs] chopped it down, and the lead stayed between seven and eleven points.”

“I thought both teams were inconsistent shooting the ball,” Donovan said. “For us, I am happy the way we defended and fought on that side of the ball.”

After Oklahoma City got up 12 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers caught fire with a handful of threes, hitting four from deep in the fourth quarter. They used those to tie it up at 84 with just under five minutes left in the game.

Then Oklahoma City finally seemed to wake up a bit, putting the clamps on Cleveland holding them to just two points in the last 4:49. The Thunder outscored the Cavs 11-2 over that final span.

Paul George finished with a quiet 18 points, while Hamidou Diallo had a nice spark off the bench with eight points in 13 minutes.

Steven Adams gave Tristan Thompson fits all night as well, as a he pulled down five of the Thunder’s seven offensive rebounds.

Oklahoma City will now head back home for a game tomorrow night versus the Houston Rockets, and will still most likely be without Russell Westbrook. The Thunder will be looking for their seventh win in a row.

Keys To The Game

Start Fast: C+

Both teams shot very poor in that opening quarter, but Oklahoma City still was able to get out to a lead, being very active on the defensive side of the ball.

Stop Fouling: B

There was still plenty of fouling going around, but Oklahoma City didn’t allow Cleveland to get in the bonus early in quarters like they did versus New Orleans a couple nights ago. Still, plenty of room for the Thunder to improve on not picking up dumb foul calls.

Paul George: B-

Though he didn’t score a ton, as most of the scoring game from Dennis Schröder, George picked his spots well, and was the playmaker when needed. He got a lot of guys open looks, while shooting the ball relatively well.

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Thunder beat Pelicans, win fifth straight

The Oklahoma City Thunder used a 38-point third quarter to rally together after the Russell Westbrook injury, to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 122-116.

Thunder are now on a five game winning streak, after losing their first four, and now are above .500 for the first time this season.

As for the Pelicans, they are on the opposite track of things, as they fall to 4-5 on the year and have lost five straight.

Oklahoma City put up 36 points in the first quarter, the highest scoring first quarter they’ve had all season.

Tonight, though, was the Dennis Schröder show as he showcased how huge he is to this team. Once Westbrook went out with the ankle injury early in the third, it felt like the Pelicans could run away with this one as the energy had been zapped out of the arena. It was quite the opposite though as Hamidou Diallo and Schröder got some fastbreak scores to ignite Oklahoma City.

Dennis finished the night with 22 points, 16 of those coming in the second half. He was the answer constantly in the fourth quarter, hitting big buckets one right after the other.

Oklahoma City led by as much as 14, but behind Julius Randle’s 26 points, New Orleans was able to keep the door open late in the game, but wasn’t ever able to get over the hump to regain the lead.

Anthony Davis scored 20 points, but shot only 35 percent from the floor as Steven Adams was able to keep in check for most of the night.

Adams also had a great night offensively, finishing with 18 points on 75 percent shooting.

The Thunder announced midway through the fourth that Russell Westbrook suffered a left ankle injury, but nothing else was reported. The information right now is limited, but with how severe the ankle injury looked, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss some games.

“Right now it is a sprain ankle, I know nothing more than that,” Billy Donovan said.

It is a little easier to take though, knowing Oklahoma City’s next seven games are against opponents with a combined record of 20-46.

The Thunder will be back on the court on Wednesday night in Cleveland versus the Cavaliers, looking for their sixth straight win.

Keys To The Game

Shooting: C+

It was a pretty average night, shooting wise, for Oklahoma City. They shot below 50 percent from the field, only 37 percent from three, and a poor 71 percent from the free throw line. You’ll take the field goal percentage, but the three point and free throw percentages need to continue to improve.

Free Throws: C

Still, the free throw shooting is a problem. The Thunder are leaving way too many freebies at the line, and at some point it will cost them games.

Stop Fouling: D

It feels like I’m being harsh on the Thunder in a win, but the Pelicans were able to get into the bonus very early in every quarter. This team fouls way too much, and it was a big reason New Orleans was able to hang around till the very end.

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Thunder Grades: Jerami Grant

In the 2018 edition of the Thunder Grades, we’re going to break down what we think went well and went poorly for players and coaches. We’re going to avoid players who barely play. So, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier won’t be graded.

We’ll do it in there ways: The Good, the bad and the conclusion. We’ll release two a day, hopefully flying through all of these.

Previous Grades: Billy Donovan, Terrance FergusonJosh Huestis and Alex Abrines

Next Up:

Jerami Grant

The Good

Grant definitely had his best season of his young career, improving his game immensely this season compared to the player he was last year in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Jerami shot a career high percentage of 53.5 percent from the floor in his fifth NBA season. He played 20 minutes per game this season, and was easily Thunder’s best player off the bench, who should’ve probably played a lot more throughout the season especially in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

There were tons of great most improve player candidates in the NBA this season, but one that flew under the radar was Jerami Grant. His improvements from the player he was last year to this year were drastic and fun to see happen over the course of the season.

Grant brought solid rebounding to the Thunder, and with his athletic ability, he was super versatile defensively being able to guard any position on the floor. When Oklahoma City had to play small ball, Grant was a big part of that lineup, as he used his length and athleticism to disrupt the opponent’s small ball advantages.

Jerami also became way more crafty in being able to finish at the rim. Last season, his goal was to dunk anything that was possible to dunk, which ended in a lot of weird misses and lost scoring opportunities. This season, Grant used his length to finish acrobatic layups, and throw down vicious dunks at the right time.

With Grant being the most consistent role player for Oklahoma City, it will be interesting to see what happens in the offseason as Jerami is an unrestricted free agent. The Thunder do not have much money to play with, but it should be essential to try to get Grant back in a Thunder uniform next season.

The Bad

Even with all the great improvements Grant made this season, there is a couple things he could work on, especially offensively. With Grant being able to guard any position, it would be huge for him to be able to stretch the floor offensively with him improving his outside shooting.

Grant shot the three quite a bit, but only averaged to make 29 percent of his attempts, which was a drop-off from the year before. Though that percentage isn’t very good at all, Jerami did hit the corner three quite well, and that could be something he could build on.

If anything, Grant needs to learn to maybe avoid shooting threes unless he is in the corner, as he seems way more comfortable shooting those. With the way he’s able to get to the rim, he could become even more dangerous if he keeps developing his outside shot.

Another small improvement Jerami could make is in his free throw shooting. He shot only 67.5 percent from the charity stripe, which in itself was better than he was last season. Still, it would be nice for his game to at least be a 75  percent free throw shooter, as much as his game will get him to the free throw line.

Conclusion

Overall, Grant had a great individual season. He helped Oklahoma City in many ways, and it could have been pretty rough if it wasn’t for his improvements. The bench play was pretty poor overall, and without Grant it could have been absolutely awful.

“I think my confidence comes from my work. The more work I put in, the more confident I am on the court,” Grant said about his development. He also credited Thunder assistant coaches Mike Davis and Adrian Griffin to the improvements he made this season.

Like mentioned earlier, Grant is a free agent now so if he stays with the Thunder or ends up somewhere else, somebody will have a very good role player who shows every sign that he is only going to get better. It was unfortunate Oklahoma City couldn’t take advantage of his skillset against teams like Golden State or Houston in the playoffs.

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Thunder Grades: Alex Abrines

In the 2018 edition of the Thunder Grades, we’re going to break down what we think went well and went poorly for players and coaches. We’re going to avoid players who barely play. So, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier won’t be graded.

We’ll do it in there ways: The Good, the bad and the conclusion. We’ll release two a day, hopefully flying through all of these.

Previous grades: Billy Donovan, Terrance Ferguson, Josh Huestis

Next up:

Alex Abrines

The Good

The 24-year old from Spain was in his second year in the NBA and averaged just about 15 minutes played per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Abrines was drafted in 2013, but made his rookie debut last season after playing professionally over in Spain. In his second year, there were some up and downs, along with some battles for Abrines trying to stay consistently in Billy Donovan’s rotation.

For the most part, Abrines got his fair share of playing time, as he appeared in 75 of the regular season games while starting in eight of those.

The best part about Alex, is himself being young but also knowing his role on this team. He knows he has to be a knock down shooter from three, while not being a total defensive liability on the other end. As Abrines came into his second year, it was apparent he would have to be a lot better defensively to get more playing time.

As the season went on and he battled to stay in Donovan’s rotation, Abrines made some serious progress with his defense. He became more aggressive, more physical and overall showed a lot of growth on the defensive end. By the tail end of the season, Alex was no longer a liability defensively, and actually had a few impressive steals and blocks on that end of the floor.

Abrines also showed no lack of confidence. There were stretches of games it felt like he was in a shooting slump and couldn’t get anything to fall from three. That didn’t stop Abrines from shooting threes, however. With the Thunder roster as is, Oklahoma City will need that confidence from Alex moving forward, as he progresses in his career and improves even more as a shooter.

Year 3 will be big for Abrines, as the Thunder will look for more consistent shooting from him, and maybe use him in the pick and roll more.

The Bad

As mentioned above, Abrines two biggest criticisms as a player this year were his defensive mishaps and inconsistency offensively.

Alex made quite the improvement defensively from year 1 to year 2, so that criticism will die down as his career moves forward, especially with the way he was playing defense to end the season. It felt like we were watching a totally different player at times, with how aggressive he was.

For the inconsistency offensively, it is what the major improvement needs to be going into year three of Abrines’ career.

In year two, Alex shot about the same percentages from the field and from three as he did in his rookie season. With how many ball dominant players Oklahoma City has, the Thunder absolutely need Abrines to be a consistent knock down shooter from deep, as it could help the offense in so many ways.

If Abrines can work on that consistency, while also improving his ball handling skills, Alex could find himself as an integral part of the Thunder’s rotation.

Conclusion 

There were definitely more positives than negatives this season for Alex, but there is a lot of improvements that Oklahoma City needs to see from him next season.

“Then to develop my offensive game. Not just being a shooter, just putting the ball on the floor, or playing the pick and roll, and being able to create for my teammates,” Abrines said in his exit interview about improving his game in the offseason.

As Abrines continues to show comfort in this system, his shooting and playmaking should only continue to improve. With the Thunder strapped for cash with Paul George either leaving or coming back, it is imperative they get their young guys like Abrines to grow each year and become better overall players.

 

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Jazz 96, Thunder 91: What they said after Game 6

In another wild game in what has been an insane series, the Utah Jazz were able to hold off a surging Oklahoma City Thunder to take the first round series and advance to the conference semifinals. Utah won the series 4-2.

Russell Westbrook had to do a lot by himself offensively, as Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were nonexistent scoring-wise. Russell finished with 46 points, hitting 18 of his 43 shot attempts. Without Westbrook going into the mode that he did, Oklahoma City would have been absolutely blown out.

Donovan Mitchell was phenomenal for Utah, and helped them a ton when Rubio went out of the game early with an injury. Mitchell finished with 38 points, 22 of those in the third quarter.

After a very active offseason in 2017 and having high expectations, the Thunder will now go home early in the postseason with a lot left unaccomplished.

Here are some key quotes from tonight’s wild game six:

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“I thought our guys came in and competed, we battled. I think if you look at the six games that both teams have played in, there have been incredible runs in both directions.”

“We gave ourselves a chance and an opportunity. It has been a great group to work with, I really really appreciate all these guys, and what I really appreciate is when you bring a new group of people together, you never know how it’s going to be in the lockerroom and how guys are going to get along. Those guys did a great job. I think there is great optimism and hope, in my opinion, of what the team could end up being going forward, because I think there is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow from this and get better from it. So, we are disappointed our season has come to an end, but we give a lot of credit to the Jazz and how they played here today.”

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“I think other people are finding out, stuff that we’ve known. Alec Burks is probably the best example of that tonight. A guy that, we’ve said, that all year long whether it is an injury or a game or foul trouble, we have had guys step up. That’s been what these guys are about, and Alec was that guy tonight. Found himself a situation, that he didn’t envision, at shoot-around today. He stayed ready….You saw tonight as good as example as you can have of a guy that was able to do that, and we don’t win that game without Alec. There’s no question about it. He is a reflection of what our whole group has been about all year.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

Every night I play, man. I leave it on the floor. I continue to say this every time I play, I’m not saying it for my health, that is just how I play. Regardless of win, lose or draw, I leave it on the floor, everything I have. Sometimes you come up short, sometimes you win. That’s my job, to bring my energy, aggressively for my team and that is what I do.”

“I don’t confront fans. Fans confront me. Here in Utah a lot of disrespectful things are said to the players. Truly disrespectful, talking about families and kids. I’m tired of going out and playing and fans saying whatever they want to say.. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t come up and say that. I don’t play that shit. I think it’s just disrespectful they can do whatever they want to do. Especially in Utah.”

Oklahoma City’s Paul George:

“It is our first year playing together. I knew that coming here. High expectations to win. I think you have to figure out the in between stuff. It takes time to become a championship team.”

“It is too soon. I would love to remain a Thunder, but that’s what the summer’s for.”

“[Russell]’s unbelievable. Amazing. A stand up guy. Its not cliché, people say he’s an amazing player and amazing person. That’s truly how you can describe Russ. He’s one of the best teammates by far. Just learned a lot. He’s an unbelievable person.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“Man, I don’t think words can really describe it. [Thunder] are a great team, they play with heart and passion, but the way we play together, we weathered the storm when they came out hot early. We stuck together that’s been our motto all year. To beat a team like that, says a lot.”

Utah’s Joe Ingles:

“It was a fun game, we obviously did not want to go back to [Oklahoma City], we wanted to finish it in front of our home fans. It is going to take a little while to wind down after that tonight. It’s a quick turnaround for Houston, and we will figure out what we got to do for that series. But obviously, tonight, is something we want to enjoy together. We’ve been a great team all year, sticking through the ups and downs, and tonight was just an example of that.”

 

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