Author - Matt Bohamed

Improvements for Game 3: OKC vs Portland

With the series shifting back to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday, the Thunder find themselves with their backs against the wall for the third straight year in the first round, trailing the series two games to none against the third-seeded Blazers. The Thunder looked great in the first half with a 10 point lead midway through the second, but a quick run by Portland ending with a three at the buzzer by McCollum tied it 54-54 at halftime, with all momentum to Portland on the way to a 20 point blowout. The good news? PG looked himself and Adams was dominant. Heading into game three, here’s how OKC can secure a win.

Implement Adams Past the First Quarter

Steven Adams finished with 16 points and nine boards going 7-of-8 from the field. He was great in the first quarter, just like game one, but it seems as if OKC forgets him down the stretch. He barely touched the ball in the second half. The Thunder must continue to go into Adams the entire game because Portland has nobody to stop him.

Shoot Better

I wrote this same thing after game one. I said the Thunder wouldn’t shoot as bad as they did (15%, 5-of-33 from deep). They pretty much did the exact same thing, shooting 5-of-28 from deep, the second worst offensive night of the year. Yes, after 84 games, the two worst shooting nights of the entire season were these first two playoff games. That is the worst start from deep in NBA postseason history.

Grant and T-Ferg

They have both basically been nonexistent on both ends. Ferg cant stop CJ and Mo Harkless is having field days on the offensive glass. Grant and Ferg are a combined 2-of-15 from three; not ideal for who I consider being our x-factors. They have to step up to the level that they were playing at near the end of the season if OKC has any chance to come back.

Steals

OKC averaged 9.0 steals per game in the regular season. Knowing they aren’t a great shooting team, the steals lead to transition, where the Thunder are most lethal. Only seven steals in Game 2 led to Portland outscoring OKC on the fast break (6-of-6 for 19 points in transition), a place where the Thunder should dominate. If the shooting woes continue, they must be able to make it up on the break as they did in the regular season.

Westbrook

I’m a little worried about his left hand, as he repeatedly banged it and kept clinching it but he seems to be okay. I’m not worried about his play however; he took full responsibility and knows what to do when facing a do or die game (see game 5 and 6 last season).

 

The Thunder are shooting horrible, but the fact is that they are shooting unsustainably horrible. I fully expect them to come back to earth for home court with a more comfortable scenario at the Peake. Another positive for Thunder fans: I’ve been to 3 OKC games in my life and the Thunder are 3-0. Hopefully, we can continue the streak as I’ll be cheering us on at Game 3.

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Where to Improve Heading into Game 2

The Thunder took a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s Game 1 matchup against the Trail-Blazers, but that quickly was out the door as OKC found themselves down 38-21 early after Lillard hit a three from 28 feet out to start the game. Before Game 2, Here are a few ways the Thunder can improve on Sunday’s loss:

3-point Shooting

The Thunder will undoubtedly be better shooting the ball, as they shot a franchise third worse percentage from three since relocating from Seattle when attempting at least 20 three-pointers (OKC shot 5-of-33 from three). After hitting 16 against the Rockets and 23 (!!) against the Bucks, still not too worried about the shooting, we were due for an off day. If OKC just increased the 15% night to 17 percent (two more makes) they would have left Portland with a win in Game 1. Look for OKC to not have the worst shooting night in the NBA for the rest of the playoffs.

Schroder’s timing

He played pretty bad the entire first three quarters, either switching onto bigs during screens or picking up CJ McCollum who he couldn’t stay in front of. Schroder has been known to get hot in the fourth, which is exactly what he did. With just under nine minutes left the Thunder were down 84-77, and he dropped in two quick buckets back to back to cut it to 84-81. He was able to get hot at just the right time, but OKC can’t afford to wait until the fourth quarter for their bench leader to get hot. He showed what he can do last week draining eight threes against Milwaukee and taking over scoring 12 straight points against Minnesota to put away the T-Wolves. OKC’s bench has struggled down the stretch, and in the playoffs when stakes are higher, the bench leader Schroder has to take control while the starters rest.

T-Ferg

Another OKC improvement that I look for Billy Donovan to make is making better use of Terrance Ferguson. It seems like he has finally gotten back to his January-February form, providing key three-and-D minutes that the Thunder so desperately need. He only played 16 minutes and didn’t play down the stretch. I think his great defense this year on McCollum will return and he will provide great minutes down the stretch, he just has to avoid picking up early fouls again.

Paul George

No, I’m not worried about PG and you shouldn’t be either. He stated his slump was from an off rhythm, understandable since he hasn’t shot the ball since his game-winning three in Houston last week. Look for PG to catch fire in Game 2.
In the end, I’m not worried. We had the worst shooting night in the NBA this year and lost by five on the road. Heads up Thunder fans, we got this.

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