Tag - Kyle Singler

Thunder Playoff Game Day: at Utah Jazz – Game 3

Series tied 1-1

Saturday, April 21 :: 9:00 p.m. CST ::Vivint Smart Home Arena (19,911)
TV Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
TV Coverage: ESPN (DirectTV 206, Cox 29, HD 1300, Tulsa Cox HD 1025)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 4½-point underdog. The over/under is 207.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Jazz: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder look to get back on top of a tight series with a win in Utah tonight. If the Thunder fall tonight, the series gets tough. If they win, they take a commanding 2-1 lead with a game back in Oklahoma City potentially close out the series.
  • Utah beat the Thunder 102-95 on Wednesday night in a game that saw Oklahoma City go on a 19-0 and then Utah respond with an 18-3 run of their own. Oklahoma City’s Big Three went 0-of-14 in the fourth quarter, a first this season.
  • The Thunder scored its 10,000th playoff point, one of just three teams to do so since the 2010 postseason (San Antonio, Miami).
  • Russell Westbrook fell one rebound shy of a triple-double with a team-leading 19 points, game-best 13 assists and nine rebounds along with a game-high four steals.
  • Paul George notched his third playoff double-double with 18 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds while blocking three shots.
  • Jerami Grant set new postseason career highs in both scoring and rebounding with a bench-leading 13 points and six rebounds while going 6-for-10 from the field.

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).
  • Tonight’s game is on ESPN for the national broadcast. It’s unknown who the broadcast team will be.

SCOUTING THE JAZZ

  • The Utah Jazz finished the regular season 48-34 on the season, fifth in the Western Conference.
  • Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Utah all finished with the same record. However, the Thunder’s best overall record between the three teams is what secured the Thunder the fourth seed.
  • Over their last 10 games, Utah is 7-3.
  • In their last 10 road games, the Jazz are 7-3.
  • All-time against Utah, the Thunder are 106-78.
  • Since relocation from Seattle, Oklahoma City is 27-12 against the Jazz.
  • When the games are played at the ‘Peake, the Thunder are dominant. They’ve won 14 straight against the Jazz.
  • Utah hasn’t won in Oklahoma City since the arena was named Oklahoma City Arena.
  • The Thunder are 17-2 against the Jazz in the OKC era at home.
  • In the regular season, Oklahoma City won the series, going 3-1 against Utah.
  • You really have to throw the season series out of the window as the last meeting happened on Dec. 23 and the Thunder are a much different team since the loss of Andre Roberson.
  • Oklahoma City is 10-2 against the Jazz dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Utah came on Dec. 20, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 107-79 (28-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (21 points) vs. Utah occurred during a 120-99 loss on Oct. 31, 2010

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out for the season.

JAZZ INJURY REPORT

  • Thabo Sefolosha (knee) is out.

CONNECTIONS

  • Thabo Sefolosha spent six seasons with the Thunder.
  • Alec Burks Andre Roberson played together at Colorado (2010-11).
  • Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler were teammates in Detroit for three seasons (2012-15).
  • Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder, Jazz Assistant Coach Antonio Lang and Singler all played at Duke.

WHAT’S IN A JAZZ NAME

  • No, Utah isn’t known for its Jazz. The team originated in New Orleans in 1974 and club officials decided to keep the name after relocating to Salt Lake City in 1979.
  • The Jazz nickname was originally chosen through a name-the-team contest, which produced seven other finalists: Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights.
  • Deltas would’ve translated to Salt Lake City rather well (the airline of the same name has a hub there), while Cajuns may have been even worse than Jazz.



Three Keys to the Game

Pace

Utah struggled keeping up with the pace in Game 1. For some reason, the Jazz (25th in pace in the regular season) thought they could keep up with Oklahoma City in transition. It didn’t work. Oklahoma City really forced Utah into some compromising positions as a result. Oklahoma City has to talk them into doing it again. Push the pace. Get Utah uncomfortable.

Rebounding

Utah is 35-8 when they win the rebounding battle and they only allow 10.9 second chance points per game. The Jazz are also only 19-21 when allowing 11 or more second chance scoring. They’re 29-13 when they allow 10 or less. Oklahoma City MUST find a way to gobble up offensive boards and make the Jazz pay. This goes back to Steven Adams.

Share the ball

Oklahoma City continues their sharing ways, they’ll be good. Oklahoma City is 31-12 when Westbrook has at least 10 assists. he’s averaging 22.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.0 assists in four games against Utah. If Westbrook could get to that 10 assist mark that means two things: 1) he’s trusting his teammates and 2) those said teammates are hitting their shots.

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Thunder Playoff Game Day: Game 1 vs. Utah Jazz

SERIES IS TIED 0-0

Sunday, April 15 :: 5:30 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: TNT (245 DirecTV, 31 Cox, 730 HD 108 AT&T U-Verse, 138 Dish)
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 3½-point favorite. The over/under is 206.
Online StreamFS OK | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Jazz: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Welcome to the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Thunder’s long time real season. Sure, those 82 games mean something but we all knows players like Russell Westbrook thrive in these moments. 51-point triple-double against Houston. 43-point barn burner against Miami in the NBA Finals. This is stage and he’s a rockstar.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder host the Utah Jazz in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The two teams have never met in the playoffs. The two teams have never met while the Thunder have been in Oklahoma City.
  • Oklahoma City lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round last season 4-1, winning Game 3, losing the rest.
  • Last season was the first season in six seasons the Jazz made the playoffs. They beat the Clippers in the first round and were swept in the second round by the Warriors.

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.
  • Matt Pinto 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).
  • Tonight’s game is on TNT as well. Ian Eagle, Brent Barry and Dennis Scott have the call for Turner.

SCOUTING THE JAZZ

  • The Utah Jazz finished the regular season 48-34 on the season, fifth in the Western Conference.
  • Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Utah all finished with the same record. However, the Thunder’s best overall record between the three teams is what secured the Thunder the fourth seed.
  • Over their last 10 games, Utah is 7-3.
  • In their last 10 road games, the Jazz are 7-3.
  • All-time against Utah, the Thunder are 106-78.
  • Since relocation from Seattle, Oklahoma City is 27-12 against the Jazz.
  • When the games are played at the ‘Peake, the Thunder are dominant. They’ve won 14 straight against the Jazz.
  • Utah hasn’t won in Oklahoma City since the arena was named Oklahoma City Arena.
  • The Thunder are 17-2 against the Jazz in the OKC era at home.
  • In the regular season, Oklahoma City won the series, going 3-1 against Utah.
  • You really have to throw the season series out of the window as the last meeting happened on Dec. 23 and the Thunder are a much different team since the loss of Andre Roberson.
  • Oklahoma City is 10-2 against the Jazz dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Utah came on Dec. 20, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 107-79 (28-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (21 points) vs. Utah occurred during a 120-99 loss on Oct. 31, 2010

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out for the season.
  • Alex Abrines (concussion) is probable as he went through practice the last couple of days.
  • Corey Brewer (knee sprain) is probably and expected to play after going through practice.

JAZZ INJURY REPORT

  • Thabo Sefolosha (knee) is out.

CONNECTIONS

  • Thabo Sefolosha spent six seasons with the Thunder.
  • Alec Burks Andre Roberson played together at Colorado (2010-11).
  • Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler were teammates in Detroit for three seasons (2012-15).
  • Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder, Jazz Assistant Coach Antonio Lang and Singler all played at Duke.

WHAT’S IN A JAZZ NAME

  • No, Utah isn’t known for its Jazz. The team originated in New Orleans in 1974 and club officials decided to keep the name after relocating to Salt Lake City in 1979.
  • The Jazz nickname was originally chosen through a name-the-team contest, which produced seven other finalists: Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights.
  • Deltas would’ve translated to Salt Lake City rather well (the airline of the same name has a hub there), while Cajuns may have been even worse than Jazz.



Three Keys to the Game

Paint scoring

Rudy Gobert is a monster and for that, Oklahoma City has to find a way to attack the paint and score. Utah is second best in the NBA in defending paint scoring, only allowing 41.8 points in the paint per game. Oklahoma City averages 43, so they need to find a way to beat their average.

Rebounding

Utah is 35-8 when they win the rebounding battle and they only allow 10.9 second chance points per game. The Jazz are also only 19-21 when allowing 11 or more second chance scoring. They’re 29-13 when they allow 10 or less. Oklahoma City MUST find a way to gobble up offensive boards and make the Jazz pay. This goes back to Steven Adams.

Share the ball

Oklahoma City continues their sharing ways, they’ll be good. Oklahoma City is 31-12 when Westbrook has at least 10 assists. he’s averaging 22.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.0 assists in four games against Utah. If Westbrook could get to that 10 assist mark that means two things: 1) he’s trusting his teammates and 2) those said teammates are hitting their shots.

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!

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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Ranking Westbrook’s six best game winners

The lights are beaming down on the court. The fans are holding their breath. A quick check of the scoreboard says there’s only enough time for one shot. This moment needs a hero.

Sounds like a job for one man: Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook consistently goes pedal to the floor from start to finish, and it shows in his willingness and confidence to take the deciding shot when the time comes. In the last 10 seconds of any given game, he has hit seven three-point shots to take the lead or tie over the last two seasons.

To celebrate this clutch monster, here’s a ranking of Russ’s best game winners when all eyes were on him.

If you disagree, @ThunderDigest on twitter or FB.com/ThunderDigest for your picks!

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Westbrook-less Thunder waxed by Lakers

Russell Westbrook missed his first game of the season with a sprained ankle and Paul George wasn’t enough to do it by himself. The Los Angeles Lakers used an 8-0 run from the first to the second quarter, taking the lead and never looking back as Los Angeles beat the Thunder 106-81 on Thursday night.

Oklahoma City falls to 31-25 on the season and the Thunder are now 1-5 in their last six games.

it’s the first time since the Thunder relocated from Seattle the two teams split the regular season series. The last time the two split before this season was the 2002-03 season.

Westbrook rolled his ankle in the Thunder’s 125-105 win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night and it’s pretty understood if this was a must win game, the Thunder could’ve let him roll out there. However in the name of preservation and health, the Thunder held out Westbrook despite him going through some walk through drills in pre-game and in shoot around.

George scored 15 of the first 22 Thunder’s points and it appeared the Thunder were in good spirits. However, a horrible stretch where the Thunder missed 14 consecutive shots, spanning almost five minutes.

Oklahoma City fought back from a double digit deficit to close within 52-46 at halftime.

George couldn’t do it all tonight, he finished with 29 points on 11-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-12 from beyond the three-point line.

Steven Adams struggled from the floor against Brook Lopez. He was only 4-of-11 for 13 points and nine rebounds.

However, the free throw shooting seemed to be the Achilles tonight. Oklahoma City was dreadful once again. The Thunder went 9-of-19 (47.6 percent) from the free throw line. Then, they tried to match that by going 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) from the three-point line.

Oklahoma City would get within 89-71 with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter but the Thunder would get no closer. Los Angeles would push their lead to as many as 27 in the fourth quarter.

Kyle Singler had three points in the second half, second highest total this season.

Oklahoma City only scored 35 second half points.

Oklahoma City will turn their attention to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday evening. The Thunder and the Grizzlies haven’t met yet and will do so twice in three games. They’ll also play on Thursday night with a meeting with the new look Cleveland Cavaliers in between.

Keys to the Game

Limit Threes: F

The Oklahoma City Thunder struggled to defend the three. The Lakers blitz Oklahoma City from beyond the arc, hitting 10 three-pointers. Los Angeles shot 10-of-31 from three (32.3 percent). It was an absolutely pathetic defensive performance.

Lawler’s Law: F

The Lakers hit 100 first. Oklahoma City didn’t even hit 100. This is a rough performance when one of the NBA’s best players sits with an injury. Oklahoma City really missed Westbrook explosive ability to get to the rim tonight. On the bright side, the Thunder don’t play again until Sunday.

Paul George: B

George turned it over six times but scored 29 points. George really had to do it all and was trying his best. When you’re the only one gaining any momentum, the Thunder were bound to struggle. Outside of the first six minutes of the game, George only scored 14 points the remainder of the game.

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Thunder show interest in Avery Bradley

Oklahoma City is struggling on the defensive side of the ball since losing Andre Roberson for the remainder of the season. It appears they’re interested in Tony Allen and now they’ve reached out about the L.A. Clippers’ Avery Bradley according to the Washington Post.

Bradley can be a lock-down defender and has been known to be a high energy type of guy that bodes well in the locker room and for team chemistry. He also can be a quality three-point shooter. His short stature at only 6-2 doesn’t help his 7-0 wingspan. It’s tough to keep in front of a 6-6 player even though you’re almost a half-foot shorter.

The only holdup would be Bradley’s health. Bradley, 26, is averaging 15.0 points per game and has shot 38.1 percent from three this season. However, he’s missed nine games this season due to injury. Bradley was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team in 2015-16 with the Boston Celtics.

Bradley is making $8.8 million this season and is set to be a free agent this year. Which, can make him a nice fit for the Thunder. You can offload some scholarships, like Kyle Singler and Josh Huestis for a player’s expiring deal when you’re trying to re-sign Paul George. You’re going to need to use two players (see the two I mentioned). It just depends on what the Clippers are really to move Bradley.

Thunder Digest has made the stance of saying stay away from Bradley. In December, it was reporter Bradley paid off a woman to avoid going to the police about a sexual assault allegation. When you agree to a settlement of this topic, you’re admitting guilt.

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. The Thunder are known for their last second dealings. We’ll see what they cook up.

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Five Thoughts 2-5-18 (Lakers 108, Thunder 104)

Five Thoughts 2-5-18 (Lakers 108, Thunder 104)

1. First off today, a bit of a life lesson– and probably one I should have learned by now. Was able to attend the game today with my wife and my two oldest kids (nine and six). Our one-year old soaks up a lot of time for obvious reasons so it’s nice when we can do something where the focus is 100 percent on the non-babies. As I’ve mentioned here many times, my 9-year-old daughter is a super fan and one of her “rules” is that we don’t leave early. Up big or down big, she wants to stay until the final horn. She has not yet been jaded as a person or fan to a point where she ever gives up on a game. With just over a minute to go and the Thunder down by 10, I was insanely frustrated– it has been building all game and I was holding myself back from muttering expletives and throwing a tantrum. At that point I figured let’s not sit here and stew–beat traffic and get the hell out. I stood up and in a fairly grumpy manner motioned to the crew to get moving. My daughter looked up at me and said no. She wanted to stay. This created a little “battle” that lasted about 30 seconds. She looked disappointed that I was forcing her to leave before it was over. But because I can be kind of a jerk, I insisted– and again, I wasn’t super polite about it. So we get down the stairs and then my wife realizes she left her scarf (a useless accessory if you ask me). By now it’s too late to go back up so we have to wait until the game ends to go grab it. But we can’t stand at the bottom either as the ushers will make you back up. So the Thunder make this almost miracle comeback and we aren’t really watching it. There was a tiny part of me that was relieved they ultimately fell short because man, if we missed that and they won…. boy, I’d never live that down. I’ve told myself many times to never quit on a game based on the wild things I’ve seen at The Peake over the years. Obviously I don’t always follow through on that. Probably would be wise to follow the lead of the 9 year old.

2. I actually was not surprised or disappointed that the game wasn’t a blowout. We have played the Lakers twice previously and humiliated them both times. It is very hard to destroy any NBA team three times in a row. And the Lakers don’t suck. They are below average. They are very inconsistent. But they have some decent young players and Lopez can give you problems when he is making three’s (which of course, he was doing today). It is absolutely a game the Thunder should have won especially considering the came in on losing streak, but I wasn’t expecting it to be a bloodbath. That was one of those games that a good team just figures out a way to win. Instead it goes down as another maddening chapter in this book the Thunder are writing this season. It is filled with chapters of losses to subpar teams. It has passages that make no sense because in a situation where the team should have EXTRA energy, they have very little. The Thunder have been completely unable to establish any sort of baseline this season. They are a rollercoaster. They have not been able to find an acceptable middle ground where the just play pretty well game after game. Instead they are either really good or really bad. The “really good” keeps hope alive because that’s what you need in the playoffs. Teams that want to make noise deep into spring have to be able to turn it up. Thunder have shown they can do that. But they can also be shut down– and we are too deep into the season to chalk that up to anything intangible. This appears to be who they are. It is frustrating as heck. It’s hard to win eight in a row in the NBA. You have to be pretty good to do that. Then, to follow that up with four straight losses? C’mon man.

3. At some point we will need to stop talking about the Andre Roberson factor and just accept it and move on, but for now it’s still fresh enough that it seems like a relevant point. The numbers don’t lie. I can’t believe it is as staggering as it is, but considering it has coincided EXACTLY with his absence-return-absence it is hard to deny. They were awesome with Andre and awful without him. Simple as that. It’s almost stupid. A certain fall off? Sure. Adjustments that need to be made? Of course. Time needed to figure out how to handle it? Absolutely. But this kind of swing is absurd. I hope Andre is feeling pretty validated right now. He should be, my goodness.

4. They have to do something about it. Whether in-house or out, they can’t just trot Terrance Ferguson out there. The kid isn’t ready at all to be a contributor on a good NBA team. I think he was a good/smart draft pick and I’m glad he is in the fold, but he just isn’t ready to go right now. He has taken a total of four shots in four games. That might make it seem like the team just isn’t involving him enough and there might be some truth to that. But it also has to do with a young guy that doesn’t really know what he is doing yet. He doesn’t know how to get open or how to create anything on his own. We see at least a handful of timer per game, Andre would score on a slash to the basket, alley-oop, fast break, etc. He also would get some points here and there on offensive rebounds/put backs. Ferguson is just sort of lost out there. And he is obviously a massive decline defensively as well. My preferred solution would be to find someone out there via trade or buyout that has a bunch of experience and is at least an above average defensive player. If he can hit three’s that would be a plus, but isn’t a must. The “must” part is that he can defend and can at least finish plays/move without the ball on offense. If Presti is unable to land someone then they have to change things up with what they have. I mentioned Kyle Singler the other day and I’d still be willing to try that. I certainly understand why anyone would say “no thanks” to that though. I would also consider starting Patterson at the power forward spot and sliding both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George down to their natural positions. But Donovan just can’t keep throwing Ferguson out there.

5. It’s a no excuse loss. I thought the other three losses this week all had a bit of explanation behind them. I could reluctantly accept them losing at least two of those games. This one, nothing flies. It is a bad loss. One thing we always do as fans is point to the emotional aspects of “why.” Fans are emotional by nature so perhaps that makes sense. We say things like “energy,” “heart,” etc… but more often than not, actual basketball comes into play as well. Donovan very clearly mentioned their terrible three point defense in the post game today. He didn’t sugar coat it. He went as far to break down the specifics that they are “stopping short” when closing out almost in fear that the shooter is going to drive past them. They’ve gotten torched this week by opponents canning three’s in their eye– and far too often those shots have been uncontested. It’s a four game winning streak now and it will likely be a five-gamer after Tuesday in Oakland. Not exactly a great time to catch the Dubs– we are fading and they are struggling. That means they will be locked in for us Tuesday night, especially considering we wiped them out earlier this year already. Thunder could essentially erase this entire four game win streak with a win on Tuesday. If they can keep proving they can tango with the elite then it makes losses like today more annoying and less troubling.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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Five Thoughts 1-27-18 (Thunder 121, Pistons 108)

Five Thoughts 1-27-18 (Thunder 121, Pistons 108)

Absolutely no need for five thoughts. There is only one thing that happened tonight that truly requires any attention or recognition… unfortunately.

It’s funny (actually it’s not funny at all, but I often preface in-funny things with “it’s funny,” so why stop now), at halftime I’d decided my thought number one was going to center around how unstoppable the Thunder starting five have been for the last two months. Today they extended their win streak to 16 when Russ-Andre-PG13-Melo-Adams are the fivesome to start the game. Not only are they winning, but with those five on the floor they were dominating. It was as if Presti’s vision had come to fruition. The chemistry looked right; roles settled; like a well oiled machine with each part doing it’s job to make the engine rev. And lately, they’ve been leaving people in their dust. Tonight, the bench was pretty terrible, but the starters were almost toying with the Pistons. I felt a little sorry for Detroit at one point. The 15-0 lead to start the second half was total dominance. And then…. damn. I’ve always been a Andre fan, my blog history proves as much. But this year he was finally in his perfect role, where his strengths were highlighted and his weaknesses hidden. His minutes were down, his impact was up. The fact that we were streaking and then he goes out for several games and we tank and then we start streaking again when he returns should be proof enough of his importance. The fact that Andre has such a positive impact while barely being able to shoot a basketball is astounding. It speaks to just how good he is at everything else.

I feel terrible for him, first and foremost. This is devastating injury for an athlete. It is far worse than an ACL tear and probably worse than a broken leg. Everything we have ever heard about patellar ruptures is that they are painful and require a long and arduous rehab. His season is obviously over, but beyond that, Andre will be facing a very long battle to get back. Feel for him; tough to see him in tears like that. I have no doubt the physical pain was palpable, but I am guessing the majority of that emotion was Andre realizing the ramifications. Certainly thoughts go out to him for a full recovery.

It is also no surprise that from that exact moment, the Thunder looked lifeless the rest of the game whereas they had been destroying the Pistons prior. The air was totally let out of the balloon. Thunder did enough to close it out and Russ really had some nice plays down the stretch to seal it, but you could tell the entire team was distracted and deflated by what happened to Andre. That will fade. They won’t play with their heads down for long. Emotionally, they will get over it and it might even ratchet up their level of focus and intensity, knowing there is a void that needs to be filled. I’m not worried about that. What I am worried about is what they CAN’T replace.

That’s the thing about Andre– there just aren’t many guys in the league that do what he does. Now, you can absolutely argue that a player that is 25% worse than Andre defensively and 50% better offensively is actually a better overall player. I might agree with that. There are lots of players in the league that are more valuable overall than Andre as an individual player. But every team has different needs. The Thunder don’t really need another guy in the starting five that can fill it up. Sure, you can’t ever have enough shooters on the floor, but our top three plus Adams inside should be plenty of offense the majority of the time. There simply aren’t many guys in the league that can defend Damian Lillard AND Lebron James AND James Harden AND Kevin Durant. Andre is not only an elite one on one defender, he is highly versatile. This allows us to take our other elite wing defender (PG) and mix and match them to create hell for opponents.

While Andre doesn’t do anything offensively in the stat sheet most nights and while he has zero ball/shooting skills, he does often make a positive impact on the offensive end simply by being so active. He is an excellent rebounder and this year he has been spending far less time standing in the corner and far more time slashing to the basket. He simply creates havoc for the other team on rebounds, loose balls, tips, taps, put backs, etc…

The Thunder do not have a suitable replacement. TFerg will almost certainly step in for now. He is a VERY intriguing prospect. He’s already a little more advanced offensively than most 19 year olds and he at least tries hard and is athletic on defense. He will almost certainly score more than Andre did and he will absolutely be more of a threat from three. Teams won’t be able to completely leave him unguarded. But asking him to step into Andre’s role and do what Andre did for a team with title aspirations is asking a lot– it is asking far too much actually. We know for sure Abrines and Huestis can’t do it. Abrines might be the worst defensive player to don a Thunder uniform; and Huestis is just limited all around. So while this injury will open the door for those guys to likely get more minutes off the bench, I don’t expect to get much more from them than we are getting now. Honestly, the one guy on the roster who most closely resembles Andre in terms of skill set is….Kyle Singler. So there you go.

Prior to this injury, I was calling for Presti to try and make a deal to improve the bench scoring. That is still on the table, but now a new dynamic is in play. Perhaps he changes his approach from “we will call around and see if something works,” to “we really need to add someone else to this rotation or else.” They don’t have a ton to offer– I wouldn’t trade TFerg unless it was a no-brainer. But there are always teams out there in a bad spot with a guy that just need to unload. We know Presti can work some magic on these deals. I won’t count him out. That said, it’s hard to imagine they can swing a deal for another guy in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. Perhaps he is able to simply find another good all around, veteran wing. Maybe he becomes a starter or maybe they leave TFerg there and bring the new guy off the bench. But now, I do think they’ve gone from WANTING a little something extra to NEEDING it. Only bright side to this injury is that it came prior to the trade deadline. Presti now has two weeks to try and figure something out.

My overall assessment to what this does to the Thunder’s chances this year? I’m a positive guy, but honestly, my thoughts tonight are not positive. This won’t send them spiraling or anything. I don’t think some sort of immediate nose dive is coming. And I do think there could be nights where it has a positive effect– certain teams don’t require Andre as much and against those teams having a little extra offense might be beneficial. We also no longer have to worry about how to the handle the Hack-a-Andre strategy. But the reason OKC was a threat to Houston, Golden State, and other elite teams is because we could throw two of the best wing defenders in the league at them. We could hound Kevin Durant AND Klay Thompson at the same time. We had extreme size, strength, and athleticism at the 2-3 positions which is where those teams are strongest. In other words, Andre was at his peak value against the best teams, best players, in the tightest spots. In all reality, this is an irreplaceable skill in my eyes. I’m not throwing in the towel, but without question I believe whatever chances the Thunder had to do something special this year are now significantly reduced.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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Five Thoughts 1-9-18 (Blazers 117, Thunder 106)

Five Thoughts 1-9-18 (Blazers 117, Thunder 106)

1. If you read the site, you know I do my best to stay away from hyperbole and overreaction in the moment. So I don’t feel the least bit of trepidation saying that this was the worst loss of the season. Unfortunately, there are a lot to choose from, but this one ranks at the top for me because it comes after a period when it appeared this kind of play was behind us. I didn’t like the listless effort in Phoenix on Sunday, but considering they won the other two games on the trip I could brush that off as the guys perhaps having a little too much leisure time and playing flat at the end of week long trip. Call it a lousy night and move on. But you can only brush aside a lousy effort if you following it up with a good one. If you toss out an even MORE lousy performance two days later (at home, against a team missing their best player) well, then you might just be, lousy.

2. Defense was atrocious. Obviously they miss Andre Roberson badly in this department as there is a very clear drop off when he is out. He came out of the Milwaukee game very late and wasn’t on the court for the final possession when Giannis Antetokounmpo beat Josh Huestis baseline (albeit while stepping out of bounds). So our defense literally started to cave the instant he got hurt. And it has been garbage ever since. Tonight was just awful because Portland got whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted. Inside, outside, downtown, uptown, left, right, from Guthrie to Norman. Whatever. It’s fine if your defense takes a hit when you subtract your best defender. It’s expected actually. But the Thunder should have enough in the tank to not just get run over by the Suns and Blazers. Really pathetic. Roberson can’t get back fast enough. I hope everyone that trashes him has been enjoying the turnstile routine the last few games.

3. As always with Russ his weakness is the same as his greatness. And it’s often hard to figure out where one stops and the other starts. It was a Tuesday night the second week in January, game No. 40. To start the evening I thought nine of the 10 players on the court were fairy content to demonstrate that it was a Tuesday night the second week in January, game No. 40. Not necessarily a poor effort from anyone. But 90 percent of the guys out there seemed content to let the game slowly play out, figure out the pace, etc. But that 10%. Man, he just doesn’t do “pace.” Russ was a Tasmanian Devil from the opening tip. He was absolutely frantic. The reason Russ is Russ is because that’s what he does. No off nights. No going through motions. But tonight it manifested itself in some very sloppy play early. He’s going 110 MPH while his teammates are doing 75. That will cause some traffic issues. Moreover, it starts to force all 9 other guys to pick it up. It sort of lights a fire under the opponent as well. About midway tough the first quarter tonight, the intensity picked up. Both teams were responding to Russ. Sometimes going through the motions might be better. I’ll never rip Russ too much for this because you can’t pick and choose when to love it and when to hate it. But it would be beneficial if RUSS learned to pick and choose a bit more.

4. Bench is all kinds of messed up right now. It’s just terrible. Felton is the only guy playing at an acceptable NBA level. Grant has slowly dipped and is now looking like a borderline rotational guy. Just not a ton of options remaining unless Donovan wants to give Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, and Dakari Johnson longer looks— and I don’t think anyone views any of those guys as a long term solution to anything. It will help when Andre returns, but I’ll continue to bang that trade drum. Presti needs to be looking.

5. First half of the season is officially over. It wasn’t good. The second quarter was better than the first, so improvement is nice. But the second quarter ended with a thud, losing four out of six including three in a row at home. I’d grade the Thunder a C-minus for the first half of this year. The second quarter I would give them a B-minus so that tells you all you need to know about the first quarter. Their inability to beat middling to poor teams was exasperating. They would be right there with the Spurs, if not the Rockets, had they just taken care of half of those losses against bad teams. The upside to the first half would be that they flashed the potential to be great. They played far better against the better teams and their defense in particular against good competition was excellent. The offense looks more fluid than it did early as well. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony all seem to be far more settled now than they were at the start of December. I wanted 9-5 in January. 2-2 thus far, so still attainable. Speaking more specifically about the second half, I am not overly worried about the win total. I’d like for them to get to 50 wins. That would require a 28-13 record from here on out, or a six-game improvement in the second half over the first half. Seems like a long shot, but if they keep up their December pace that’s right about where they will wind up. Really hoping these last two miserable outings are random outliers and not a sign of things to come. Pretty massive game in Minnesota tomorrow. It’s a good way to get the second half started. Or, at least, it can be.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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!

Thunder Game Day No. 41: vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Oklahoma City Thunder (22-18, 14-6 home) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (21-18, 11-8 away)

Tuesday, Jan. 9 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27) | 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
Coverage: NBATV  (DirecTV 216, Cox 37/756, AT&T U-Verse 754/632, Dish 416/156 (9508 HD)
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 8-point favorite. The over/under is 204½.
Online Stream: Fox Sports Go | WWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Blazers: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • A disappointing loss to Phoenix sends the Oklahoma City Thunder home looking to right the ship against the Damian Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers for a short interruption of a road trip.
  • Oklahoma City is 3-6 in their last nine games against Portland. However, the Thunder are 4-1 when they’ve played Portland at home in their last five games.
  • The Thunder only sit a half-game ahead of Portland for fifth place in the Western Conference playoff race, winner will control fourth place.
  • The Trail Blazers, without Lillard, has won back-to-back games. That includes a win over the always tough San Antonio Spurs.

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).
  • If you’re not in the Oklahoma City market, tonight’s game is on NBA TV.

SCOUTING THE BLAZERS

  • The Portland Trail Blazers are 21-18 on the season, sixth in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Blazers are 5-5.
  • That said, Portland has won back-to-back games, including beating the San Antonio Spurs.
  • The Trail Blazers have spent a lot of time beating up on the bad teams, they’re only 9-15 against teams with winning records.
  • In their last meeting, Portland beat the Thunder 103-99 in Portland on Nov. 5.
  • Overall, the Thunder lead the head-to-head series with Portland 116-113.
  • Since moving from Seattle, Oklahoma City is 18-19 against Porltand, one of the few Western Conference teams with a winning record over the Thunder.
  • When games are played at the Peake, Oklahoma City is 11-7.
  • Injury Report:
    Damian Lillard (right calf strain) is OUT.
    C.J. Wilcox (knee) is a game-time decision.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Portland came on March 24, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 103-83 (20-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (35 points) vs. Portland occurred during a 107-72 loss on April 3, 2009.

WHAT’S IN THE SUNS NAME?

  • General manager Jerry Colangelo, only 28 at the time, settled on a name for his expansion franchise using a name-the-team contest in 1968.
  • Colangelo chose Suns over Scorpions, Rattlers, and Thunderbirds, among the other suggestions included in the 28,000 entries.
  • One lucky fan won $1,000 and season tickets as part of the contest, which included such obscure entries as White Wing Doves, Sun Lovers, Poobahs, Dudes, and Cactus Giants.

PDX -> OKC CONNECT

  • Assistant coach Maurice Cheeks was 162-139 in four seasons as Portland’s head coach from 2001-2005.
  • Kyle Singler was born in Medford, Oregon and attended South Medford High School.

INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson is OUT (left patellar tendonitis).

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City hits the road for a couple of games. They’ll finish a back-to-back tomorrow at Minnesota. Then, at Charlotte on Saturday to finish up the road trip.



Three Keys to the Game

Third quarter

Win the third quarter. When the Thunder win the third quarter, they’re 12-1. When they lose, they’re 10-17 on the year. So, win the third quarter and you win the game. It’s pretty simple as that. Especially as the quarter has been the thorn in the side of Oklahoma City all season long.

Defense

Holding a team to under 100 points is hard in today’s NBA. That’s why it’s really no surprise the Trail Blazers are only 5-10 in games where they score less than 100 points. Portland is 1-3 in their last four where they scored less than 100 points. On the other side of that, Oklahoma City is 14-5 when holding an opponent under 100 points. They’re 6-1 when holding opponents under 100 in their last seven games.

Rebound

The Oklahoma City Thunder have rebounded well lately but they’ll have to do it again tonight. Oklahoma City is 16-6 when they can grab more boards than their opponent.

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