Tag - Billy Donovan

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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Thunder Grades: Josh Huestis

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

Next up:

Josh Huestis

The Good

Huestis in his first season with quality minutes wasn’t what everyone expected. He has super shining moments where we sat back and were thinking “wow, this guy is going to make another team a good player on a decent contract.”

He appeared in 69 games, started in 10. He only averaged 2.3 points per game and it felt he was underutilized. Ignore his abhorrent shooting splits. It felt as when Huestis was in the game, the Thunder were feeling it. That’s why the eye test and numbers don’t always align with each other.

“It’s not linear,” Huestis said. “It’s going to be ups and downs and all that. Anybody who thinks that it’s always going to be sunshine is kind of crazy.”

Huestis defensive growth is a huge reason why the Thunder see something in the Stanford alumnus. His ability is almost like Andre Roberson but not as elite. He’s growing and you can tell he’s raw. He’s a dominate G League player and trying to move that offensive ability to the NBA game.

The Bad

It’s unknown what real value he brings to the Thunder. When you look at his shooting splits, he has some god awful numbers. To the point, you may not want someone on their team. As we said, difference between eye test and stat lines.

“If you compare this year to the last few years, it’s a huge step forward for me in terms of working my way into the rotation, being a guy that sees minutes in big games,” Huestis said. “That was a huge step forward.”

In his 10 starts, Huestis never scored more than six points in any of the starts. He shot only 31.5 percent from three in those starts. He provided little to no real offensive threat when on the court. It was to the point towards the end of the season, he was left open when he shot a three. Teams really weren’t worried about his deep threat.

The real difference is the 69 games played. HIs minutes per game were about the same as last season but his production was way down. There are numerous reasons why. The difference in minutes. Starting along three lethal scorers takes the ball out of his hands. Shooting inefficiencies are why as well. We’re not even talking about his 30 percent free throw percentage. It was almost more worth to foul him than to let him make a bucket.

The Conclusion

Huestis future probably isn’t in Oklahoma City. If any indication of how this season went, it’s probably for the best. He’s probably going to find the right scenario, like Jeremy Lamb did. Sometimes a change of scenery will be the best for any team and player. For Huestis, that may be what’s best.

“Obviously I’d like to stay in Oklahoma,” Huestis said. “It’s the only place I’ve known. I’ve made a home here, and I love the city, love the team, the organization”

We’ve mentioned a couple of times, numbers don’t tell the story. That’s the same with Huestis. He was able to make an imprint on the game with his movement and defensive play. Despite his offensive woes, he was a solid defender and that led to him finding playoff time against someone like Donovan Mitchell.

For whatever happens with Huestis, he’s a bit of an underachiever and that’s not really all his fault. Donovan’s weird issues with him and finding minutes for him is awkward. It’s like Huestis was forced upon and he just had to plug him in at his own cringing.

We hope Huestis has a solid career wherever he goes. He’s an intelligent player and an even nicer player.

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Thunder Grades: Terrance Ferguson

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

Next up: Terrance Ferguson

Terrance Ferguson

The Good

The rookie taken 21st in the 2017 NBA Draft was expected to learn behind Victor Oladipo and Co. However, things change. Dipo’ was shipped off to Indiana and the void left at the two-spot forced Ferguson into some action that frankly he wasn’t ready for. However, he used his length and athleticism to try and carve out a role for himself. He didn’t play with the G League much, stuck with the senior team for all but three games.

“I think I had the best rookie season,” Ferguson said. “Just a lot of people around to help me with my game.”

There are some serious bright spots. He’s three-point barrage in a win over the Lakers in early January showcased what he could really do.

Coming from a prep academy that was purely about basketball and then going overseas, his adjustment at each increased level has been tough but Ferguson has taken it in stride.

“I think a lot of guys you look at, and you notice they have that ‘it’ factor,” Paul George said. “Terrance has that ‘it’ factor. As a young rookie in this league, he’s not afraid, he’s not scared of the moment. That stands out, and that goes a long ways.”

For all his of faults, Ferguson wasn’t afraid to get dirty. He’d do whatever was asked of him and did it without complaint. Instead of being a spot up shooter, Oklahoma City would benefit by using him slashing to the rim, ala Andre Roberson.

The Bad

Where to start? His experienced showed on both sides of the ball. He constantly was beat off the dribble and often left his teammates to cover his tracks, which left them in compromising positions. His shot didn’t look broken but absolutely was. Outside of the Lakers victory, Ferguson was really a non-factor. It’s really surprising, especially for being a first round selection.

“The biggest challenge? It was probably at the beginning of the season, just coming in, not playing a lot, and then having to go right into starting,” Ferguson said

Which is a bit surprising given his lack of play in the Australian league. You think he’d be used to it by now.

His splits were bad. He had some really rough defensive games and that led to him being yanked out the second he made a mistake, the Billy Donovan rookie special.

The inexperience at the professional level was obviously exacerbated this season as he was forced into starting games when he wasn’t ready. Ferguson could’ve used a year in the G League, honing his craft. Instead, he was forced to guard James Harden and getting cooked.

The Conclusion

Ferguson definitely had more negatives than positives this season. The kid is not even 20 years old yet. So, there’s plenty of room for growth and improvements. We’ve seen it in players like Reggie Jackson. Sometimes it takes a year or two to adjust to the speed and the NBA game.

“I just want to come back a totally different player, working on my skillset,” Ferguson said. ”This offseason I definitely want to be able to make my own shot.”

That’s what Oklahoma City will need from Ferguson if he’s going to fit into the rotation of a contending team. Presti’s draft picks lately haven’t been the best. Ferguson can buck the trend by improving and getting better, avoiding the Cameron Payne way of the NBA.

In his limited minutes, Ferguson had thunderous dunks and hit some big threes. He’s 6-7 and has some real length and that goes along way in this game. He’s shown the ability to hit threes and get to the rim. He needs to put on some muscle, weighing only 184 lbs, if he’s going to play the two and three positions.

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Thunder Grades: Billy Donovan

In the first 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.

First up: Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan

This man here. For the most part, there isn’t really a middle ground on Donovan. You either think Donovan should be fired or you think he’s the right man for the job. However, in reality, it’s in the middle. Oklahoma City’s head man was dealt a weird hand. It started with a bunch of new players and then the loss of Andre Roberson forced him to pivot. He didn’t do that particularly well but many forget how well Oklahoma City was playing when Dre hit the court.

The Good

Donovan had to integrate Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Sure, Anthony said some choice words at his exit interview. However, let’s give both Donovan and Anthony credit, both did their parts in trying their best. It just wasn’t the right fit.

“Every year as a coach you’re always trying to evaluate areas where your team can get better and improve,” Donovan said. “I feel a strong sense of always wanting to improve and get better individually.”

The offense struggled for the first 20 games of the year and that goes on more of Russell Westbrook not doing Westbrook-like things than on Donovan. The defense remained on point until the loss of Roberson.

“We have a great group of guys that want to be successful that want to win and want to do the right things,” Westbrook said. “The biggest thing for us is being more and more consistent throughout the season. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”

Like Anthony trying to play the four and not complaining throughout the season, that’s a credit of two things: Donovan trying to appease his players and providing a good locker room chemistry that no one was publicly complaining.

The Bad

Many want to bash the offense but as we’ve covered it wasn’t that bad. The real negative was his rotations. Questionable decisions on keeping Anthony on the court when Jerami Grant was obviously the better choice. We saw him change that up. We did see Anthony baby his way back into the Game 5 where Oklahoma City fought back from down a billion.

There are other times with many thinking Westbrook played too few minutes. When in fact he played the most minutes of his career by almost a full minute more a game. His decision making to maybe let Westbrook sit in certain situation when games may have gotten away from the Thunder is a question mark.

“From start to finish they were constantly trying to work on things to help us be a better team,” Donovan said.

While the Thunder got better as the season progressed, it really was the loss of Roberson who sealed Oklahoma City’s fate. George wasn’t as good. Neither was Anthony. Oklahoma City’s stats slipped considerably across the board. Donovan failed to adjust the identity of this team after that point. It resembled last season’s “let Westbrook, be Westbrook” season. Which is all fine and dandy but with two other really solid offensive players, there could’ve been more variety at times, but it was a revert to bad habits.

The Conclusion

Donovan gets a  

He wasn’t overtly spectacular this season and he didn’t deserve to be fired. I also didn’t think Scott Brooks deserved to be fired. There is a growing sentiment General Manager Sam Presti has his hand in the cookie jar more than the franchise will lead you to believe.

The constant roster changing and injuries are tough. He’s still a growing coach learning from his mistakes. In a state where football is still king and a single loss could be the end of everything, Thunder fans still hold the coach to this weird pedestal.

“I thought Billy did an excellent job,” Presti said.

For the record, Donovan still has two years, $12 million left on his contract.

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Billy Donovan to return as head coach

It was pretty understood but there was still some debate. However, Thunder general manager Sam Presti shot down any notion of a coaching change as he said Billy Donovan would return as head coach for the 2018-19 season.

When asked if Donovan would return as head coach, it was just a one word answer: Yes.

“With respect to Billy,” Presti said. “One of the things that I’m most excited about and excited for him about going forward is the fact that if fortunate enough, he’ll be able to work with the same core of a team that, as I said before, has a baseline that we’ve established, but has some controllable areas we need to improve.”

Donovan is 150-96 in his three years at the Thunder helm, sixth best in the NBA during his tenure.

“After coming here from college,” Presti said. “He [Donovan] had us within two minutes of going to the NBA Finals.”

Despite returning, Presti admitted being disappointed in the season’s end result. Especially with all of the trades and expectations. Injuries, among other things, led to the first round exit this season. Presti hopes Donovan will have the same core for the first time in his tenure for the following season.

A bunch of that is going to rely on the choice made by Paul George. If he returns, Oklahoma City’s foundation will return. If he heads elsewhere, the Thunder will have to try and find another one to add and try to stay relevant.

“He’s done a good job of playing the cards he’s been dealt and making sure we have the sets, giving us the defensive schemes we need to succeed,” Russell Westbrook on Donovan.

Oklahoma City would look to get back to the mountain top of the Western Conference next season and that will be led by Donovan.

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OKC drops Game 2 102-95

This game had the makings of an exciting fourth quarter showdown between some of the NBA’s best athletes. The problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder was that only Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz were the only ones to make plays down the stretch.

After a 19-0 run to take the lead late in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook and company looked prime to steal a game at home that they had frankly been outplayed in.

Then Donovan Mitchell happened once again.

The “rookie” entered the fourth with 15 points, noticeably not as explosive as he was in Game 1. With a few days of dealing with a minor toe injury, Mitchell was able to find his feet late and drop 13 points in the final quarter.

On the other side, Westbrook, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, 13 assists and eight rebounds, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined to go 0-for-14 in the fourth. Not the performance you want out of your stars in a tight playoff series.

“We just missed shots,” Westbrook said in the postgame. “We got the looks we wanted, they just didn’t fall.”

“I don’t really know what happened or have any excuses as to why we missed so many,” Anthony added. “Fourth quarter, we just didn’t shoot the ball well.”

Much of that is true, but a substantial amount of credit needs to go to the Jazz defense. In Game 1, “Playoff P” stole the show, scoring 36 points on 8-for-11 shooting from three.

After that performance, Mitchell was very precise as to what his wishes were for Game 2.

“I hope he doesn’t go 8-for-11 again,” Mitchell said afterwards.

Tonight was a much different story. George went 6-for-21 from the field, including 4-of-12 from three. “Playoff P” played like “Post All-Star Break P.”

Obviously a large emphasis was put on making George have a difficult night. Utah did the things necessary to make it happen. It was all the more impressive considering George’s first two made threes were and-1 opportunities.

“I think the way we locked in defensively,” Mitchell said after Game 2. “These two (Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert) really played well, and we came ready to play and took turns on it.”

Much of the blame will rest upon the Thunder’s inability to keep the Jazz off the offensive glass. A big turning point came at the 6:42 mark of the first quarter which saw Steven Adams pick up his second foul. After going to the bench, Favors and company went to work.

The Jazz finished with 15 offensive boards but grabbed seven of those in the 12 minute absence of Adams. It snowballed from there. Gobert grabbed five offensive boards and Favors finished with eight.

“We felt like Derrick offensively was really good in Game 1,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. “He was really good on the offensive glass during that run for sure.”

Utah opened the game on a 9-0 run. After a Billy Donovan timeout, OKC responded with a 9-0 run of their own. With the 19-0 run by the Thunder in the third, and the Jazz 14-3 run to close the third and begin the fourth, it is obvious both teams struggle with maintaining their consistency.

With the series tied 1-1, the Thunder look to respond on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. In the last two seasons, Oklahoma City is 2-2 at Utah. Game 3 tips off at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 on ESPN.

Three Keys to the Game

Paint scoring: F

OKC finished with 40 points but surrendered 50 to Utah. It is apparent that Steven Adams is dealing with some discomfort. Billy Donovan was not willing to say he is injured but that all players “are not 100 percent at this point in the year.” With Adams in foul trouble, the Thunder’s small lineup was no match for the combined efforts of Gobert and Favors

Rebounding: F

This was the main culprit of tonight’s loss.

Share the ball: B

There were moments of great ball movement. The problem was most of it occurred during the runs the Thunder went on. In the middle of said runs, Oklahoma City would settle for bad shots, and stagnant in the half court.

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George shreds Utah as Thunder take Game 1

“You haven’t heard of Playoff P,” Paul George asked yesterday in practice.

Some scoffed at that statement. Rightfully so considering George’s play since the All-Star break. Others lumped this into the long list of statements this wildly inconsistent Oklahoma City Thunder team has said since being formed in the offseason.

Well “Playoff P” showed up.

George was Mt. Vesuvius to the Utah Jazz’ Pompeii all evening as Oklahoma City beat Utah 116-108. He finished with 36 points on a ridiculous 13-for-20, including 8-for-11 from three. Step-back threes, in-rhythm shots and some silly heat checks were all falling for the All-Star forward.

“You tip your hat to guys that make shots like that,” Utah Jazz coach Quinn Snyder said during the postgame. “He’s a great player, and when you’ve got a guy like that, you’ve just got to do the best you can.”

Utah tried multiple coverages and defenders on George. The Jazz’ bread and butter drop defensive coverage allowed George to find openings early and catch fire. Then Utah resorted to trapping him when he refused to miss a shot, but he was able to make pristine passes to open shooters.

The Jazz simply had no answer.

“It was as big as the fish I posted (on his Instagram),” George said when asked how big the basket seemed all evening.

Despite this, the Thunder could not pull away and bury Utah. The paint was walled off thanks to the defensive exploits of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Oklahoma City finished with 32 points in the paint but didn’t crack 20 until late in the third quarter.

“I hope he doesn’t go 8-for-11 from three next game,” Donovan Mitchell said. The exciting rookie finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

An early 16-4 start for the Jazz brought on feelings of anxiety throughout the packed Chesapeake Energy Arena. Easy Jazz buckets and George and Carmelo Anthony’s combined 0-for-4 start was all too a familiar scene.

Then the Thunder got rolling. A 12-0 run after the initial timeout in the game sparked the team and the crowd. From then it was the “Playoff P” show. Westbrook had the offense rolling and the Thunder handled their 5th-seeded opponent rather well.

The middle of the game was an onslaught of Thunder jumpers falling and pesky defense being played by guys like Anthony and Corey Brewer.

The end of the game also brought back memories of late-collapses. A comfortable Thunder lead dwindled into single digits with under a minute to go in the game. Alec Burks exploded off the bench for 10 points in two quick minutes.

“Obviously we need to do a better job collectively closing as a group,” Billy Donovan said. “Game 2 will be tougher.”

With that, Oklahoma City takes a 1-0 advantage in the series. Westbrook wasn’t overly impressed with the win, taking the route of “we did what we were supposed to do.”

“We didn’t do anything special,” Westbrook said at the podium. “We won one game at home. Game 2 is Wednesday.”

Oklahoma City host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on NBATV or on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Our own Brady Trantham will be in arena for that one.

Three Keys to the Game

Paint scoring: C

The Thunder were forced away from the paint all evening. Westbrook didn’t get going downhill towards the basket, rather opting for his back-to-the-basket turn-around jumpers — which were falling. Finishing with 32 points in the paint is nothing to sneeze at, this is what Utah does.

Rebounding: A

Anytime you can out-rebound the Utah Jazz you’re doing soemthing right. Adams had his hands full with Gobert but was able to hold his own. Westbrook finished with 13 boards while the trio of Adams, Anthony and George each registered seven.

Share the ball: B

The Thunder mainly relied on George hitting tough shots. When the ball was moving, the passes were crisp. Anthony in particular was swinging the ball around getting OKC better looks. Westbrook finished with eight dimes.

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Thunder beat down Grizzlies as Westbrook makes history

Many saw the final game of the 2017-18 regular season for the Oklahoma City Thunder as a foregone conclusion.

They had already proven to be mentally tough by winning on the road in Houston and Miami and earning a spot in the playoffs. A matchup with the lowly Memphis Grizzlies had little to do with this game’s pregame hype.

That of course rested with the will-he/wont-he Russell Westbrook grab those 16 rebounds to clinch averaging a triple-double for the second consecutive season. A feat no other player has ever accomplished.

“It’s amazing,” Billy Donovan said afterwards. “Last year everyone tracked it and this year no one did. It just speaks to how great of a player he is.”

The reigning MVP did not disappoint as the Oklahoma City Thunder used his ability to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 137-123 on Wednesday night.

“It’s an unbelievable blessing,” Westbrook said in the locker room. “To have teammates that support me, and I support them. To succeed at a high level like this. It’s special.”

Westbrook finished with a career-high 20 rebounds, 19 assists and a meager six points. There was some fair share of conceding by Westbrook’s teammates to allow their point guard to gobble up a rebound or two. But this was a game where Westbrook’s rebounds led to explosive outlet-to-fastbreak points for Oklahoma City.

“He (Westbrook) really surveys the floor well,” Donovan said. “When our team is shooting the ball like that, he tries to read the game to the best of his ability and it resulted in some easy points.”

With the Thunder up 27 at halftime and Westbrook only five rebounds away from the 16th board, everything seemed to be going according to plan. A few minutes into the third quarter Westbrook grabbed rebound number 16 to a loud Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd, and then it seemed Oklahoma City stopped playing focused.

“We didn’t do a great job,” Donovan said. “But we took care of business when we had to.”

Memphis went on to outscore the Thunder 39-28 in the third quarter. The deficit was cut to nine. We have all seen this movie before.

But it ended up being Oklahoma City’s night. A Terrance Ferguson three followed by two Raymond Felton buckets kept the Grizzlies from mounting a serious comeback and the Thunder were able to leave with a victory.

Lost in all this was the fact that Paul George decided not to miss a shot for most of this game. The recently struggling George dropped 40 points on 13-of-20 shooting (8-of-14 from 3) and looked like the player prior to the All-Star break.

The Thunder now know their foe in the playoffs — the Utah Jazz. Currently, the Jazz are playing Portland on the road. Depending on that game will determine whether the first playoff game will be in Oklahoma City or not.

Three Keys to the Game

Bench: A

40 points is great any night. Ferguson was great from three, dropping 12 points. Jerami Grant did his usual solid stuff. Felton was a welcome addition.

Efficiency is key: A

Oklahoma City shot over 55 percent for the game. They scored a season high 77 points at half. All this without their leading scorer attempting to score much.

Rebound: A

For obvious reasons. 

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Thunder players in National Championship games

There’s zero NBA basketball on tonight. We all get a breather. The nation will watch Villanova and Michigan do battle for the national title. Villanova is easily the favorite but who knows what’ll happen.

For the Thunder players, there’s a lot of looking back to their collegiate days. Many played in national championship games. Some won. Some lost. Here’s how the Thunder players fared in their title bouts.

Kyle Singler

There’s just something about awkward, bad hair guys from Duke. Singler led the Duke Blue Devils to the 2010 National Championship over the Butler Bulldogs. Yeah, you know that game. Gordon Hayward took a half court heave that almost ended with a story book ending. It didn’t.

Who would have thought Hayward would be the bigger superstar and Singler would be on the outs of his rotation? Maybe the 0-of-10 game against Baylor in the Elite Eight gave it away.

Anyway, Singler was voted Most Outstanding Player of the game and tournament. He averaged 18.2 points on 45.7 percent from three.

Raymond Felton

How good was Raymond Felton in college? This good:

Felton was put on the cover EA’s March Madness, later renamed NCAA Basketball. Felton was a catalyst in the Tar Heels beating the previously unbeaten Illini of Illinois. Felton had Felton had 17 points, dished out six assists on 4-of-9 shooting in the win over Illinois in the championship game.

Sean May, who’s not in the league anymore, was the Most Outstanding Player. Felton was named to the NCAA Tournament All-Tournament team. It was North Carolina’s first national title in 12 years.

In six games during the NCAA tournament, Felton average 13.7 points, 6.8 assists per game on 44.1 percent three-point shooting. Felton had a near triple-double in the Sweet 16 win over Villanova. He finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.

Dakari Johnson

The forgotten Thunder player, Dakari Johnson went to two final fours in his two seasons at Kentucky. His freshman year, he started 18 games, en route to the National Championship game in 2014. That’s where Kentucky ran into Kevin Ollie’s UConn team. The Huskies beat Kentucky 60-54 in a surprising but boring game.

Johnson started the title game but was largely ineffective. He scored just five points on 2-of-5 shooting, pulled down four rebounds.

Johnson would be on the really talented Kentucky team that was upset by Wisconsin in the 2015 Final Four. That Wisconsin team would fall to Duke in the National Championship game the following season.

Nick Collison

Mr. Thunder was the best player in the country at Kansas his senior year. He was the coach’s choice for Player of the Year. Consensus All-American. Big 12 Player of the Year and helped the Kansas Jayhawks to the 2003 title game.

After going through Dwyane Wade’s Marquette team in the Final Four, Collison led the Jayhawks against this upstart freshman named Carmelo Anthony and the Syracuse Orangemen.

Collison played 40 minutes, only resting during timeouts and at halftime. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, pulled down 21 rebounds… not a typo. He was a beast. Unfortunately for Hair Thunder, he was a poor 3-of-10 at the free throw line as Kansas lost 81-78.

Collison averaged 18.7 points and 13.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 64.9 percent from the floor for the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony

Anthony was a highly touted recruit and it showed throughout the season as Syracuse was one of the best teams in college basketball. Anthony took the Orangemen all the way to the title game against Kansas. You know about Collison’s heroics but it was Anthony who got the last laugh.

Anthony scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists as Anthony was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. The real performance was the 33-point scoring output by Anthony as Syracuse handed out to Texas in the Final Four.

Anthony averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 47.6 percent three-point shooting. After the game, Anthony declared for the NBA Draft, being taken third by the Denver Nuggets. The rest is history.

Corey Brewer

Maybe the most successful in the NCAA tournament out of all Thunder players. Brewer was apart of the back-to-back championships Florida had in 2006 and 2007. Coach by Thunder head man, Billy Donovan, Brewer and the Florida Gators lost just 11 games over the two championship seasons.

In 2006, Brewer helped Florida win their school’s first banner as the Gators beat the UCLA Bruins 73-57. No, Russell Westbrook didn’t play in this game. Brewer had 11 points and seven rebounds in the win over UCLA.

In 2007, Brewer led the Gators to their second consecutive National Championship. Brewer and the Gators beat Ohio State in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. Something about Florida playing Big 10 teams in title games. Brewer scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. This game involved eight NBA players, five on Florida and three on Ohio State. Brewer was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

Brewer averaged 15.9 points and almost seven rebounds per game as a senior.

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Thunder lose in OT 126-125 against Denver

In a game that encompassed the entire season; the Thunder blew a late lead; took an errant three-pointer they didn’t need; missed a plethora of free throws. Then, capped it all off by losing a game they should’ve won.

The Denver Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-125 in overtime on Friday night.

No one was good for 53 minutes. No one overwhelmed you on a night when someone should’ve. Sure, Jerami Grant played well in the fourth quarter. So much, the Carmelo Anthony sat down and let Grant finish the quarter out. Anthony was solid through the first half but really struggled to be integrated down the stretch and into overtime.

It came down to free throws, really. It wasn’t Miles Plumlee’s block on Grant with 5.5 seconds remaining that iced this game. Oklahoma City missed 12 free throws, going 15-of-27 on the night. George split free throws in the final seconds that would’ve iced the game. In overtime, George missed another, albeit intentionally and it put the Thunder in a predicament.

Thus is the Thunder season. A lack of real energy for two or three quarters put the Thunder behind the eight-ball. It didn’t matter they jumped on the Nuggets 9-0. A 15-point deficit in the third quarter put the Thunder in a bind. They rallied and even had a five-point advantage.

Then, the wheels fell off. Just like the entire season.

“I wouldn’t use the word frustration, but I would certainly, I think there’s been things as it relates to execution,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

It appeared the Thunder were on their way after Westbrook powered a dunk, putting the Thunder up by three. George would split free throws, putting the Thunder up 114-112 with 14.2 seconds remaining.

Oklahoma City floundered throughout overtime.  After an Anthony three-pointer, putting Oklahoma City up 120-118 with 2:40 left in overtime. After that, the Nuggets outscored the Thunder 6-1 over the next 2½ minutes, essentially icing the game.

With the loss, Oklahoma City falls to 44-33 on the season. They dropped to sixth in the Western Conference. They’re half-game behind San Antonio.

Oklahoma City will try to passover this losing streak on Easter Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. The game will be on FS Oklahoma and with the Thunder a half-game up on the Pelicans, this game is crucial.

Keys to the Game

Three-pointers: B

Oklahoma City made theirs and they played decent defense, holding the Nuggets to only 33 percent from deep. Oklahoma City hit 20 three-pointers, a franchise record. It’s really all for naught though.

Rebounding: F

Denver pulled down 58 rebounds, scored 19 second chance points on 18 offensive rebounds. NIkola Jokic dominated the boards, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds. The Thunder really struggled to get offensive boards. The Thunder have struggled to rebound during this losing streak.

Make your free throws: F

This game fell on the shoulders of every single player who missed free throws. George missed three. Adams missed three. Westbrook missed three. Oklahoma City is 29th and probably should be 30th in their shooting. There’s little to no excuse to why this is happening.

 

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