Tag - Billy Donovan

There’s no fun in Thunder as Paul George returns to Indiana

Oklahoma City is off to their worst start since the 2014-15 season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are two games below .500 and set in the ninth spot of the Western Conference, just outside the playoffs. It’s a far cry from where the basketball world thought they would be 26 games into to this season.

Paul George seems to be at a loss in explaining his team’s recent struggles, telling reporters “It’s getting to a point where we can’t allow ourselves to be at this point. We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that, but at some point, it’s gotta stop.”

Gotta stop? How about it’s gotta start? The Thunder have bonafide superstars, stars that supposedly admire and like each other. In the banana boat age, that should be enough to make you more than competitive. However, this group seems to be lacking the critical element that Golden State figured out a long time ago.

Fun.

Kevin Durant expressed on his way out the door that the Warriors love fest was one of the main reasons he left OKC for the left coast.

The Thunder are hitting the road for the next three games starting tonight with Paul George’s homecoming in Indiana. George knows the crowd will treat him to the same reception that greeted KD when he returned to The Peak. What we don’t yet know is to what extent his teammates rally behind him. Carmelo Anthony was quick to point out that picking on George amounts to picking on the Thunder. If that is true, then we might see some life in this team who looks they are grinding towards the end of the season heading into the playoffs.  All of which would be fine, if it wasn’t December.

George says Oklahoma City is enjoying the battles and “everything that brought this team together.” But what really brought this team together? This wasn’t an organic process like Thunder teams before, or even three guys “clouding” the way the Heat did in 2010. It was trading guys like Victor Oladipo, who Billy Donovan touts for the hard work he was putting in during the offseason, and Enes Kanter, who not only produced on the offensive end but was maybe the most likable guy in the locker room.

There is nothing natural about this version of the Thunder, and it shows in the lackluster performances they’ve racked up this season. Despite the schedule not being kind to Oklahoma City,  this road trip can’t come a moment too soon. Maybe George returning to a bloodthirsty Pacer fan base, and Melo returning to Madison Square Garden might give the Thunder something to rally around. If that doesn’t do the trick, then maybe Sam Presti pushes the panic button along with his critics.

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Thunder storm back to win third straight

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally did something impressive, storming back from as many as 17 down to beat the Utah Jazz 100-94 on Tuesday evening.

Oklahoma City improves to 11-12 on the season and now have won three straight.

“Our guys were flying around, and our energy picked up,”Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “The second unit played so hard and with great effort.

It appeared to a bad Thunder game as the Oklahoma City fell behind by double digits early on. However, it was an impressive fourth quarter, powered by Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook. The MVP-Kiwi duo found themselves tag teaming the Thunder’s come back.

“His [Westbrook] never-die attitude was just keeping us alive,” Donovan said.

Westbrook finished with 14 assists and 13 rebounds. Steven Adams had 20 points and nine rebounds.

“People have it really backwards,” Donovan said. “That’s the greatness to me of Carmelo Anthony. The reason Steven’s doing what he’s doing is because of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.”

The Jazz led 47-39 at halftime. However, Utah hit a three to start the half. They would eventually expand their lead to 72-55 with 4:13 left in the third. It appeared the Jazz had the game in hand but Westbrook would not let the Thunder quit. Westbrook scored 11 of the Thunder’s 13 points to end the quarter. An Adams’ tip-in was the only other points.

“I give those guys a lot of credit coming out in the second half and self correcting,” Donovan said.

While Westbrook did all the heroics, the Thunder still trailed by 12 after three frames. The reserves stepped up, cutting it to 82-76 with 7:30 left in the game.

Westbrook would force a steal off a really nice Adams hedge; he took the ball, racing off to the rim and giving the Thunder a 88-87 lead with 4:10 remaining.

Carmelo Anthony started the game going 2-of-13. Hit four of his last six shots, all in the fourth quarter. A nice pick-and-pop from Westbrook extended a Thunder lead. While he didn’t hit a three all game long, he never quit within the offense.

Oklahoma City’s largest lead grew to 99-92 with 26 seconds remaining after a pair of Westbrook free throws.

With a win streak on the line, the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to Mexico to play the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. Oklahoma City and Brooklyn tips off at 8 p.m.

Keys to the Game

Rebound: A+

Oklahoma City dominated the boards and the Jazz. It’s once again showing how out the Thunder are dominate are when they can control the glass. Oklahoma City out rebounded the Jazz 47-36 and more importantly 27-16 in the second half.

Points off turnovers: C

Oklahoma City had 18 points off 18 Jazz turnovers. It really wasn’t earth shattering. The Thunder did struggle in the first half. In the second half, the Thunder have nine points off five Utah turnovers. So, there was some considerable improvement in the second half.

Get to the line: A+

Oklahoma City attempted 26 attempts on Tuesday night. It’s the most free throws in a victory since Oklahoma City beat the Warriors in what feels like forever ago. Oklahoma City went 18-of-26 from the line. Which leaves a lot to be considered in terms of making their shots. That’s for another time.

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Thunder hit a new low, losing to Magic 121-108, recap/notes:

A new low, as the Oklahoma City Thunder dropped an ugly one to the Orlando Magic, 121-108. It was night with a lack of effort defensively from the Thunder, and too many stretches where Oklahoma City just could not get a bucket. With this win, the Magic snap a 9-game losing streak, as the Thunder have now lost three in a row. Those three losses are to the Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, and Orlando Magic.

Tonight began with a slow start offensively for Oklahoma City, as they found themselves down double digits quickly. They also turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter, four of those from Russell Westbrook.

The Magic put up 31 first quarter points, and that really set the tone on how this game was going to go. They caught fire and from there on never looked back.

Even when the offense was rolling, particularly in the second quarter, the Thunder just couldn’t get stops on the other end. The Magic put up 28-plus points in all four quarters, shooting almost 60 percent from the floor.

Aaron Gordon led the way for Orlando, putting up 40 points along with 15 rebounds. Steven Adams was in foul trouble all night, and Gordon took advantage.

Adams only played 10 first half minutes with foul trouble, and the Thunder defense was very bad when he went to the bench throughout the game.

The game began to get out of hand after a dismal third quarter offensive performance by the Thunder. They went four and a half minutes of game time late in the third without a point, and Orlando responded by expanding their lead to double digits.

“I thought we made some strides offensively, like to see us with a little more stamina and consistency for the 48 minutes,” Billy Donovan said.

“But again, 108 points with the way we play defense is normally a pretty good number” Donovan said.

For perspective on how bad Thunder were at times on offense, there was a stretch in the third quarter that span into the fourth quarter where Oklahoma City missed 17 of their 18 shot attempts. Orlando found themselves up 20 early in the fourth quarter and cruised the rest of the way.

Even with those offensive woes, Donovan is right in 108 points should be enough. But as bad as the offense was at times, the defense was just not there for most of the game.

Westbrook gave it all he had in the fourth quarter, hitting five of his six three-point attempts and attacking relentlessly. He finished the night with 37 points, 20 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

After the game, the broadcast showed a very dejected Westbrook sitting on the bench as the rest of the team headed to the locker room. It seems this really rough start to the season could be taking its tolls on the team.

At some point, the Thunder have to figure something out. With them being 20 games in, this is the time teams start to find an identity but with this team, it doesn’t feel that way. Thunder now have a few tough games ahead and could find themselves on a bad losing streak if they do not put something together quickly. Up next is the Minnesota Timberwolves at home, who have defeated the Thunder twice this season by a combined five points.

Keys to the game

Rebound: A

Rebounding was not the problem tonight, even with Adams in foul trouble. The Thunder out rebounded the Magic by 11, and grabbed a massive 21 offensive rebounds as the Magic only got two. Usually in these type of games, the Thunder win comfortably, but the defense made this outcome different.

Less is more: F

The Thunder once again gave up way too many points, and found themselves on the losing end. The defense was hard to watch at times, with it being an effort problem more than anything on that side of the ball. As Oklahoma City gave up 121 points tonight, they now are 1-8 when giving up 100 points or more.

Get to the line: B

Oklahoma City did get to the line 30 times, with them attacking the rim very well in the first half. But that changed in the second half as they started to settle way too much, leading to them going cold and Magic blowing this game open.

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How hot is Billy Donovan’s seat?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are riding the struggle bus and for some the first place blame goes to is the head coach. Even Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said at practice on Monday, he’s to blame (along with others). While everyone blames Donovan for the inefficiencies the Thunder have faced this season, how hot is Donovan’s seat?

Before the firing of Earl Watson three games into this season, no NBA head coach had been fired since May 2016, a streak of 533 days. He was the first coach to be fired in season since Derek Fisher was fired from the Knicks job in Feb 2016. There had been his weird continuity with organizational leadership and coaching stability. However, that’s out the window. Since the start of the season, two coaches have been fired (Fizdale Memphis and Watson Phoenix). There might be more on the way (see: Fred Hoiberg Chicago and Budenholzer Atlanta).

The NBA is so much different than the NFL. Most NFL coaches are fired on what they call “Black Monday.” The NBA owners react without care of public perception. They strike without justifying their terminations. The stability in which we’ve seen in the last year or so is really an anomaly of it all. In the last 10 seasons, there have been nine Coach of the Year winners (Poppovich won twice). Five have been fired. Not resigned. Fired. So, this is truly a league of what have you done for me lately.

With David Fizdale gone in Memphis, many in Oklahoma City perked up an eye, maybe calling for him to come to Oklahoma City. That’s not happening. Well, at least in mid-season. We’re at the point in the season, which is any point past training camp through the end of the regular season, to where no organization in their right mind would bring in an outside coach. They would just promote an assistant to an interim position.

So, if the Thunder were going to can Donovan, it would be assumed that Mo Cheeks, the only coach on the staff with prior head coaching experience to step in and take the reigns. Cheeks has won over 600 games and was fired in Detroit for one season after going 21-29. The NBA sometimes doesn’t make any sense.

However, what does make sense is the Thunder front office. They’re known for their patience and their timing. They waited until the end of the season to fire Scott Brooks, despite still winning 45 games. They did dismiss PJ Carlesimo after only 13 games, when the Thunder started 1-12. Presti said at the time of the Carlesimo firing: “There’s accountability for everybody involved — players, coaches, myself and anyone involved with our basketball team. We understand that.”

Firing a coach may not always lead to results. The last five coaches in season (not counting Fizdale) have seen difference of success. Jay Triano, who stepped in for the fire Earl Watson in Phoenix is 7-11 during his tenure this season. Which is nice considering the Suns started out 0-3, losing by massive margins. However, Phoenix is only 3-7 in their last 10 games.

When Derek Fisher was let go by the All-Star break in 2016, Kurt Rambis stepped in and went 5-12 to start his campaign. He finished an abysmal 9-19.

The Rockets let hall of fame player, Kevin McHale, go 11 games into the season that same year. Houston was 4-7 at the time. J.B. Bickerstaff, the same guy who’s been named interim in Memphis, was named interim in Houston. Bickerstaff went 37-34 over his time in Houston that season.

Not everyone is fired for performance issues. Mike Malone was fired 24 games into the 2014-15 season. Sacramento would go on in the middle of the season to lose 12 of 13 games under Tyrone Corbin, former Utah Jazz head coach.

Mike Brown has been fired twice, despite turning out excellent resumes. He won 41 games in the strike shorten season with Los Angeles. However, the Laker’s management cited lack of patience as a reason why they canned the former Cavs coach. Before that, Cleveland let him go as LeBron bolted for Miami despite him winning 66 and 61 games the previous two seasons. Mike D’Antoni replaced Brown, going 40-32 for the rest of the season as that was the last time the Lakers made the playoffs.

So, there are tons of reasons why coaches get fired. Donovan falls under the lack of performance one. However, the chances of Donovan getting canned mid-season are slim. The Thunder with all of the up in the air issues with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, you cannot risk firing a coach and forcing a start over of sorts with players who might not want to play for an uncertain coach.

Then again, they could and I could have typed all of this for nothing.

 

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Thunder blow out Warriors 108-91

Seven months ago, the Golden State Warriors heard Russell Westbrook say “I’m coming! I’m coming!” It might have not been that night. On Wednesday night, Westbrook brought some new friends and brought it. No longer saying “I’m coming!” He was here. Westbrook powered Oklahoma City to a 108-91 blow out of the Golden State Warriors.

“The effort, the intensity, our disposition in the second half was really good,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.

Oklahoma City beat the Warriors for the first time since Jan. 2015. They had lost seven in a row before winning tonight.

The Thunder finally did what we’ve wanted them to as they played essentially a 48-minute game. It was intense and it was a playoff level game for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City jumped on the Warriors and never let up. They led by 11 in the opening quarter, pushed it to 17 by halftime. It’s exactly what Oklahoma City needed to help exercise their demons.

“The possibilities were shown tonight,” Donovan said.

With the return of Kevin Durant, the atmosphere continued to be raucous but it wasn’t vile. The boos rained down on the former Thunder favorite. However, there were no cupcake costumes. The Thunder used their talent to punish Durant over and over.

“It seemed pretty civil compared to last year,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.

Durant and Westbrook went head-to-head with Durant calling names. After that, the game took another turn. Oklahoma City turned their 17-point lead into a 26-point lead, with 54 seconds left in the third. The Thunder led 94-68.

“I play the same way every night, whether it’s against Kevin or, whoever we play Friday, Detroit and Reggie Jackson,” Westbrook said.

It’s symbolic. Going back to that Feb. 11 blowout loss to the Warriors. Despite how intense and entertaining the game was, the Warriors led by 26 at their precipice in that game. Less than a year later, the Thunder were on the other end of that footing. Up 26, crowd was flowing and the Thunder’s defense was at a Championship level.

“We had our best game tonight,” Raymond Felton said. “We made up our mind we’re not losing anymore.”

Westbrook finished with 34 points on shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds, dishing out nine assists and finishing with four steals. He was everything we loved in him and more. He was mouthy, flashy and down right nasty. His euro-step in the third quarter was so nice, he did it twice.

“His entire leadership tonight was great,” Donovan said.  “Not only on the floor, he had a huge impact on our team as he was really driven throughout the entire game.”

The Thunder pushed their first double-digit lead out in the first quarter when Oklahoma City led 31-20. They’d have a 17-point lead at the break when Westbrook stole a pass, went in for the lay up and put it off the glass. Oklahoma City led 65-48 at the break.

“We sustained a high level of concentration tonight,” Donovan said.

Paul George hit his shoulder shimmy, finding a big three to push the Thunder lead multiple times. George and Carmelo Anthony combined with Westbrook to literally outscore the Warriors “Big Four” on their own74-58. Anthony had 16 in the first half alone. George finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Anthony had 22 points, including three three-pointers.

“The stories about the game we lost. They kicked our ass,” Durant said.

It’s the game you’d like to see from Westbrook. He summoned his Why Not? attitude and that was apparent from the opening tip. He went right Steph Curry and anyone else who decided they could guard Westbrook, or at least try. He hit his free throws and dished assists to his opponents. He stole the ball and it was the MVP in his own form, coming up the best when it mattered most.

 

For the Thunder, they’ll have to use short term memories. This win is great. Take the things in which led to the victory and turn them onto the Detroit Pistons. They’ll roll into the Peake at 7 p.m. on Friday night. It will be the second time Reggie Jackson has returned to Oklahoma City to play since his trade two seasons ago.

“Hopefully this starts a run for us,” Felton said. “We cannot go backwards.”

Keys to the Game

Rebound: A+

Oklahoma City dominated the rebounding all night long. In the first two minutes of the game, the Warriors scored a couple of buckets on second chance points. However, Jerami Grant checked in and shut that down. From there on out, Oklahoma City limited the Warriors to five offensive rebounds the final 46 minutes. Oklahoma City out rebounded the Warriors 50-39.

Share the ball: B

Russell Westbrook had nine assists and the rest of the Thunder only had seven assists. You’d like to see more assists from the Thunder, however, you give them “B” because of all of the breakout scores on steals. There were a lot of opportunities that didn’t call for assists.

Get to the line: A

Oklahoma City did just that tonight, took 26 attempts. They were in control all night. They were aggressive and that led to excess free throw attempts. If the Thunder can get to 26 or so attempts per game, the Thunder are going to go on some kind of run coming up. You have to have those easy points and the good guys did tonight.

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OKC drops another lead, game to NOLA 114-107

It was another day at the office for the Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9). Sadly that is not an endorsement for great play recently.

After an early 19-point lead, Oklahoma City fell back down to earth as the New Orleans Pelicans (9-8) fought back and eventually overcame the struggling Thunder 114-107. Oklahoma City surrendered 58 points in the paint. All this with Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins ejected from the game at the five-minute mark in the third quarter for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head.

So much of it started with the ejection of DeMarcus Cousins. With five minutes left in the third quarter, Cousins raised his elbows near Westbrook’s face after grabbing a rebound, and the Thunder guard dropped to the floor holding his head. Officials reviewed the film and decided a flagrant-2 was the right call.

At the time, the Thunder held a comfortable 76-72 lead. However, once Cousins went to the locker room, the Pelicans went to work. New Orleans turned on a 12-5 run to take a 83-81 lead with 2:12 left in the quarter.

The Pelicans were in complete control after that.

“It’s the same story line,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We go up 20 and teams work it down. We can’t allow that.”

One again, the Thunder start strong and struggle after they balloon their lead to double-digits. The Thunder began the night 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and shot 7-of-30 the rest of the contest.

“It’s different things,” Billy Donovan said. “The constant is the lead’s evaporating, but its not the same thing. Tonight there were too many fouls, sometimes it’s shot selection or turnovers.”

New Orleans attempted 36 free throws to Oklahoma City’s 26.

Westbrook had his fifth triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 assists and 16 rebounds. His 31 percent from the floor was a glaring flaw on an otherwise solid outing for the reigning MVP. Paul George continued his stellar defensive play with five steals, four in the first half, and added 20 points.

Carmelo Anthony struggled throughout most of the middle of the game but finished with 19 points on 19 shots.

For Oklahoma City, the “it is still to early to panic” time frame is running out. With this loss, the Thunder are 16 games into an 82 game season, 20 percent of the way done. If Oklahoma City is going to seriously contend for a playoff run, the wins need to start happening in bunches sooner rather than later.

On the flip side of it all, Anthony Davis ate the Thunder after the ejection. Davis went 8-of-8 at the line, scoring 16 points over the last 17 minutes. For the game, Davis finished with 36 points and 15 rebounds.

“There’s a few [coincidences in losses],” Westbrook said.  “Teams get confidence. On the road you can’t do that.”

Andre Roberson was negative-10 on the court in only four minutes. Westbrook went 1-of-8 during that stretch. The Big Three were more like the little three trouble. Oklahoma City’s trio went 4-of-16 from the floor, turning it over six times, including 4-of-12 from three.

All was not terrible for the Thunder. Jerami Grant continues his improved play off the bench, scoring 10 points  on 4-of-7 shooting. Steven Adams was a factor early on and in the fourth with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Despite some nice numbers sprinkled amongst the box score, the Thunder continue to play amazing basketball in spurts with disorganized stretches haunting the team the rest of the game. It has now become a trend, a trend the Thunder want nothing to do with.

Oklahoma City saw their lead in the first quarter balloon to 25-6 when Alex Abrines nailed a three-pointer. New Orleans responded with a 28-9 run of their own to take their first lead at 38-37 with 8:39 remaining until halftime.

The Thunder led 65-57 at halftime.

Oklahoma City will have to regroup quickly. The Golden State Warriors make their way to the Chesapeake Arena Wednesday and the Thunder will have to fix a lot of problems if they are going to compete with the world champs.

Oklahoma City now is 0-8 in games decided by seven points or less. It’s the sixth time out of nine losses the Thunder have blown a double-digit lead in a loss.

“You can talk,” Westbrook said. “Talking don’t do anything at this point. You got to go out and play. You can talk as much as you want to, but guys got to take personal pride and understand how important it is to go out and compete and not take it for granted.”

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Thunder blow another early lead, OKC lose to Spurs 104-101

It was another blown lead by the Oklahoma City Thunder as they drop a 104-101 loss to the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday night.

It is something Thunder fans have become way too familiar with early this season: Thunder start strong, gain a big lead, then spend the rest of the game playing undisciplined and end up losing a game they should have won. Oklahoma City found themselves up by as much as 23 points in the first half, but answered that strong early play reverting back to iso ball, and lack of effort on the defensive end.

Oklahoma City began the game holding the Spurs to just 15 points in the first quarter, but the defense broke down midway through the second quarter. The Thunder gave up 89 points in the next three quarters, giving up plenty of offensive boards and wide open three-pointers.

San Antonio hit 14 total three-pointers tonight, shooting 40 percent from deep. They also out-rebounded Oklahoma City, as well shot better from the charity stripe.

Oklahoma City built their early lead off of Spurs first quarter turnovers, turning the ball over seven times in the first 12 minutes of the game. After that first half, the Spurs cleaned it up. They only turned it over four times in the second half and the Thunder just couldn’t hold off the comeback any longer.

Thunder did build a big lead, but it was very early. The Spurs were back within single-digits before halftime, and the second half was pretty much back and forth the whole way.

Billy Donovan was asked about the great start, and then letting the Spurs back into the game, “Obviously we got off to a great start, but playing on the road you know the home team was going to make a run” Donovan said. “I didn’t think that was going to continue or maintain for the whole game,” he continued.

Billy went on to talk about how the Thunder did not close the first half well, and it was a back and forth battle from there on out, and a game of runs the whole second half.

It wasn’t a great night shooting wise from Thunder’s big three, but Russell Westbrook was especially bad. He hit only five of his 22 attempts from the field, at one point missing 11 shots in a row. He was frustrated much of the night, and when he struggles like this, it will most likely result in a loss for Oklahoma City. He finished with just 15 points.

Paul George also struggled offensively, hitting only five of his 16 field goal attempts for 18 points.

Carmelo was far and away the best offensively tonight, putting up a team-high 20 points on nine for 17 shooting from the floor.

Even though their was plenty of iso ball, the Thunder moved the basketball pretty well for the most part except for in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City continues to revert to old habits in crunch time. As the season goes on, hopefully that is something the Thunder can avoid.

Oklahoma City had plenty of chances late to tie this one up. After missing two three pointers that were open looks, Carmelo hit a shot that was initially ruled a three-pointer, but was just a long two after the review.

Still, after Spurs hit a couple free throws, Oklahoma City had one more chance. The Thunder tried to get a look from deep but ran a very ugly inbounds play that ended up with Westbrook heaving the ball with one hand towards the basket.

Late game execution continues to be a thorn in Thunder’s side, and something they will need to be working on continuously up till playoff time in April.

For the Spurs, it was a total team effort, as everyone chipped in offensively. They were once again without their superstar in Kawhi Leonard, which makes this win even more impressive for San Antonio.

Guys like Danny Green, Manu, and Davis Bertans hit big shots from long distance all game long. Aldridge also did his part, putting up a game-high 26 points along with a few key offensive rebounds late in the game.

For Oklahoma City, it is the same story as it has been all season long: being able to stay focused and maintaining leads. The Thunder now have eight losses on the season, and the majority of those they had significant leads but ended up losing it at the end.

The Thunder are now once again below .500, and have a tough few games coming up, including the Golden State Warriors in just 5 days. Next up: at the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night.

Keys to the game

Lawler’s law: F

As mentioned in the pre-game, the Spurs were 7-0 this season when they put up 100 points or more. Make that 8-0 as they win tonight, with scoring 104 points. Thunder fall to 1-7 on the season when they give up 100 points or more.

Control fast break: A

Oklahoma City definitely slowed down the Spurs, holding them just nine fast break points. The Spurs made up for that by protecting the ball in the second half, and getting plenty of second chances off the offensive glass.

Get to the line: D

Oklahoma City only shot 21 free throws, compared to the Spurs’ 28 attempts. The Thunder were aggressive, but did not get to the line as much as they would have liked, and only hit 14 of their 21 attempts. This game might end differently if Oklahoma City takes advantage of the easy points.

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Real Plus/Minus: Thunder throttle Chicago

The Oklahoma City Thunder took care of business on a normal Wednesday night, beating the Chicago Bulls 92-79. Oklahoma City now has won three straight and are 7-7 on the year.

PLUS

First Quarter Defense

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s first quarter defense was phenomenal. The Thunder held the Chicago Bulls to just seven points for the entire quarter. The Thunder were able to cause multiple shot clock violations while also keeping the Bulls to shooting 2-of-16 at 12.5 percent. OKC also dominated the glass by out rebounding the Bulls 15-8 with eight of the Thunder’s 15 rebounds being on the defensive side of the ball.

Westbrook lights up the second quarter

Russell Westbrook shot 0-of-4 in the first quarter. Westbrook exploded in the second quarter shooting 5-of-5 at 100 percent from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point range at 100 percent and if that wasn’t enough after starting the season struggling from the free throw line Westbrook went 5-of-5 from the line at 100 percent. Westbrook also had three trademark Russell Westbrook slams, It wasn’t just on the offensive side of the ball Westbrook was impacting, but on the defensive side, he had three steals continuing his streak of three-plus steals in a game to five. Westbrook finished the game playing 31:53 minutes scoring 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists with four steals.

Jearmi Grant continues to grow

Jerami Grant continues to develop as a player since he has been traded to the Thunder from the Philidelphia 76ers last season he has grown leaps and bounds from the player that first arrived. This season Grant has become more controlled and intelligent basketball player. Grant has developed into an excellent defender who can switch and rotate and also has become someone who has developed a skill in getting charge calls along with his athleticism he has become a real asset for Billy Donovan.

Free throw shooting

The Oklahoma City Thunder was coming into this game the 24th worst team at the free throw line shooting at 74 percent. Tonight against the Bulls the Thunder got to the line 37 times making 32 of them shooting at 86.5 percent. The man who has had the most significant struggle at the free throw line this season is Russell Westbrook shooting at 67.9 percent shot seven free throws tonight hitting 7-of-7 at 100 percent it looks like Westbrook and the Thunder are turning things around at the line.

MINUS

There were none we played the Bulls.

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George goes bananas again, Thunder win again

Paul George dropped 37 points and if it wasn’t for a quick timeout by Billy Donovan, the Fresno State alum was about to pull up from three and make it an even 40. George’s 37 points led Oklahoma City to a 112-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening.

The Thunder now have won back-to-back games and are 6-7 on the season.

George hit seven three-pointers, only one off Russell Westbrook’s franchise record of eight, which Westbrook has done twice. George had 29 points in the second half, including five made threes.

Oklahoma City held Dallas to 42.5 percent from the floor and an impressive 29 percent from beyond the arc. Despite getting out rebounded, the Thunder had a fantastic day forcing turnovers. Dallas turned it over 20 times for 28 Thunder points

“I thought we played a complete game defensively,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said.

Westbrook finished with 27 points on 6-of-18 shooting, pulled down six rebounds and dished out five assists. Westbrook started out the first half going only 2-of-10. The birthday boy came out in the second half with different shoes on and threw down 3-of-4 to start the third quarter.

Carmelo Anthony was ruled out about an hour before the contest because of a sore back. Steven Adams missed his second straight game. Jerami Grant and Dakari Johnson started in their place.

After Dallas tied it up at 48-all and Westbrook took over. Chirping at the Maverick’s bench, Westbrook nailed a three, looked at the sideline and said “That’s one.” Westbrook came back and hit another three-pointer after George did. Dallas called a timeout and the run still came at it. Westbrook’s final three put the Thunder up 74-58 with 3:35 left in the third quarter. Oklahoma City’s 39-point third quarter was the highest point guard for the Thunder this season.

“We’ve got to be ready for anything,” George said. “When Steven went down, Dakari (Johnson) stepped up. Melo went down and it was a huge contribution from a bunch of guys. Josh (Huestis) stepped up, Jerami (Grant) stepped up. We’ve got to be that team. We’re fortunate to have two other guys who can take the (scoring) load, but it’s even better when we’ve got young guys who can step up and help the team.”

The Thunder nailed 15-of-32 from three, a season high in makes. The 46.9 percent is also a season high percentage as well.

Oklahoma City will have a few days off before playing the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Thunder already spanked the Bulls by 32 points earlier this season. Oklahoma City will look to have their first three-game win streak this season.

Keys to the Game

Shoot well: B

Outside of the first quarter, the Thunder shot pretty well. Oklahoma City was 5-of-17 in the opening frame and shooting 56.4 percent the final three quarters. That’s exactly what you want from the Thunder and to do it without Carmelo Anthony is impressed.

Share the ball: A

Oklahoma City is now 6-0 when they have 21 or more assists. They’re 0-6 when they have 20 or less assists. Oklahoma City does a good job when they share the ball and getting everyone involved. It’s not every day we see someone nearly have as many assists as Westbrook as Paul George did.

Get to the line: A+

33 attempts for the Thunder tonight. 13 of those came from Russell Westbrook, the birthday boy. Westbrook finished 12-of-13 and that’s the most important thing. Westbrook pushed his season average from 60 percent to 65.4 percent. In the last two games, the Thunder have attempted 73 attempts. The previous five games the Thunder had 85 attempts.

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Thunder Game Day No. 12: vs. L.A. Clippers

Oklahoma City Thunder (4-7, 2-2 home) vs. L.A. Clippers (5-5, 2-1 away)

Friday, Nov. 10 :: 8:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)

TV: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, U-Verse 751/1751 HD)
Online Streamhere.
RadioWWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 6-point favorite. The over/under is 209.
Notes: Thunder: here | Clippers: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Oklahoma City has the longest losing streak in the NBA and look to end that with the L.A. Clippers coming to town.
  • After starting 4-0, the L.A. Clippers have dropped five of their last six  games.
  • Last season, the Thunder and the Clippers split their games, each winning a game on the road and at home.

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.
  • Brian Davis 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).
  • You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for game updates.

SCOUTING THE Clippers

  • The L.A. Clippers are 5-5 this season, eighth in the Western Conference.
  • After starting the season 4-0, the last undefeated team, L.A. has dropped five of their last six games.
  • Last season the Clippers finished 51-31, fourth in the Western Conference.
  • In their season series, the Thunder and Clippers slit the season series 2-2.
  • All-time against the Clippers, Oklahoma City is 132-75.
  • Since relocation, Oklahoma City is 17-16 vs. L.A.
  • At home, the Thunder are 9-7 against the Clippers.
  • Patrick Beverley (knee) is out.
    Danilo Gallinari (hip) is out.
    Austin Rivers (ankle) is out.
    Milos Teodosic (foot) is out.
  • On Tuesday, the Clippers lost to the Spurs 120-107 for their third straight loss.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Los Angeles came on April 15, 2009, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 126-85 (41-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (22 points) vs. the Clippers occurred during an 98-120 loss on Jan. 16, 2017.

NEW FACES

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder added a bunch of new faces this year.
  • Paul George was acquired on June 30 for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
  • Carmelo Anthony joins the Thunder after Oklahoma City sent Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second round pick to the Knicks for Anthony.
  • Oklahoma City also signed Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson via free agency.
  • Terrance Ferguson was drafted in the first round out of Australia.
  • Oklahoma City also added PJ Dozier, undrafted rookie out of South Carolina to a two-way deal.

OK3

  • The trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined for 5,992 total points last season, which is the most by any other set of three teammates in the league this year. They are followed by Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler (5,810 combined points) and Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas, LeBron James and Derrick Rose (5,307 combined points).

Anthony moving up the ranks

  • Carmelo Anthony currently ranks 24th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (24,385 points) and fourth among active players behind Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James and Vince Carter.
  • Anthony is also one of six players in league history alongside Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to record 24,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 three-point field goals.

Turnover a New Leaf

  • Through the first ten games of the season, Oklahoma City leads the league in both steals per game (10.60) and opponent turnovers per game (19.0).
  • The Thunder has yet to finish within the Top 5 in the NBA in these categories since they moved to Oklahoma City as their previous season bests were 8.28 steals per game in 2012-13 and 15.2 opponent turnovers per game in 2013-14.
  • Additionally, the Thunder tops the NBA leaderboard for deflections per game (19.2) and forced turnovers on 19.6% of opponent possessions, which tops the league.
  • Paul George ranks first in the league in deflections per game (4.8) and in steals per game (2.40)

Adamsant Scorer

  • Steven Adams currently ranks second in the league in field goal percentage (.676, 48-71 FG).
  • On Oct. 27 at Minnesota, Adams went 8-for-8 through the third quarter, which is his personal best start from the field.
  • As a point of reference, the Thunder record from the floor is held by Serge Ibaka when he went 12-for-12 on 1/31/14.
  • He has scored in double figures in six of the first seven games and led the team in rebounding four times while posting four double-doubles.

Injury Report

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are relatively healthy at this point.

Still good odds

  • According to Sportsbook, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the sixth best odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • They have the fourth best odds to win the Western Conference behind, the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and the Warriors.

Next Up

  • The Thunder is taking on the Mavericks on Sunday evening. Both teams aren’t playing well. Someone is bound to win.
  • Then the Thunder host the Bulls on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Three Keys to the Game

Shoot well

Shoot well. Oklahoma City has lost four straight but they’re ranked 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage. Only Phoenix and Utah shooting worse. They’re also worst in the NBA in free throw shooting. That leads them to being the lowest scoring team in the NBA during their losing streak at 93.3 points per game.

Share the ball

Like rebounding, sharing the ball can be key. Oklahoma City is a cool 4-2 when Russell Westbrook has 10 or more assists. If the MVP gets 10, you might as well chalk up a W tonight. Hopefully he doesn’t try to do it all tonight.

Big Three Do well

The Thunder’s big three haven’t performed well lately. While Carmelo Anthony has played okay but the rest have been pretty bad. Oklahoma City has to find a way to get all three on the same page. We saw Billy Donovan adjust trying to get something to work. It didn’t. He’ll continue working.

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!