Tag - stats

One year ago: Russ makes history with No. 42, then does the impossible

It is crazy to think it has already been a year since Russell Westbrook made history with 42 triple doubles in a season, but it is almost crazier to see how much the roster has changed since then. Out of the 13 guys that were on the active roster for that game at Denver on April 9, 2017, only six are on the current Oklahoma City Thunder roster.

It was a big game in few ways: Russ was looking to put his name in the history books, the Thunder were looking to gain some rhythm heading into the postseason all the while the Denver Nuggets had to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Pepsi Center was packed and electric. They wanted a win to maintain hope for a playoff spot, but they were also not so secretly hoping to witness Russ make history.

There were plenty of fans in the arena cheering for the road team, but they weren’t the only ones keeping count of Westbrook’s stats as the game went on. It seemed with each Russell bucket, assist, or rebound that the crowd grew with anticipation waiting for him to get that triple double.

For much of the game, it was an offensive battle as both teams were scoring at will. Each team was getting close to putting 30 points up for each quarter, at least for the first three quarters of the game. Denver even opened up the second half with a scorching 38-point third quarter performance.

The Nuggets obviously knew what was at stake; losing was not an option as they wanted to make the playoffs. They led for most of the game, and were even up comfortably by double digits for the majority of the second half.

Much like many times last season, the fourth quarter was Westbrook’s quarter. So many times last season he won games for Oklahoma City that they most certainly should have lost. Not only with big time game tying or winning shots, but with improbable comebacks when the Thunder were down late in games.

Oklahoma City found themselves down by as much as 14 points midway through the fourth quarter. Westbrook was just a couple rebounds and one assist away from his 42nd triple double, and the Nuggets crowd could feel it.

Just a couple possessions later, Westbrook had grabbed those rebounds he needed and all that was left to make history was one more assist. With just over four minutes left, Oklahoma City was down 13 with Westbrook driving to the lane. As Russ was doubled, he kicked it out to Semaj Christon in the corner, who was wide open. Christon, who shot 19 percent from three last season, hit the corner three to give Westbrook his tenth assist, and more importantly the 42nd triple double of the season.

The home crowd, feeling comfortable with the Nuggets still up 10, did not hold back as they cheered and acknowledged what Westbrook had just achieved. That should have been the story of the game for Nuggets fans: “Westbrook has historical moment, but Nuggets get win to keep playoff hopes alive.”

That isn’t what Russell had in mind, though.

With less than three minutes to go, Westbrook led the Thunder on another improbable comeback, this one maybe the most improbable of them all last season. Down double digits with three minutes left, and even down seven points with just 57 seconds left in the game, Russ was about to crush all the Nuggets fan’s hearts that had just once cheered for him moments ago.

As Oklahoma City got one more stop with just two seconds left in the game while down two, the Thunder were going to get one shot to either tie it or win it with a three. As Russ’ career shows us, we knew what shot he was looking for.

As Westbrook got the ball near half-court, he heaved it as the buzzer sounded and ultimately crushed 18,000 fans, making the most impossible shot go in, while simultaneously ending Denver’s playoff hopes.

It was a game that couldn’t have been better told if it was in a book. Not only did Russell get to make history, he also got to hit one of the craziest buzzer-beating game winners that happened in the 2017 NBA season. Westbrook finished the night with 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists.

It is a game, one year ago, that is still fun to look back on and hard to imagine how many things lined up perfectly to happen the way it did. It will definitely be one of the more memorable games Thunder fans will always remember.

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Death March has been tough on OKC

With the Oklahoma City Thunder dropping another game to the Golden State Warriors, they keep demonstrating how they can always play just good enough to lose.

With the last five games that the Thunder have played, all have come down to five points or less. All of these games are becoming crucial as the playoffs are just around the corner. To Thunder fans disappointment, this is not how we were expecting this team to play this late in the season.

In this latest game against the Warriors, the Thunder missed 56-of-93 shots taken. That means that besides three-pointers and free throws, the Thunder only made 37 shots. With that said, the Thunder went 9-of-35 from beyond the arch. Carmelo Anthony went 2-of-9 from three-point range. the Thunder would have won the game by one point.

“It’s frustrating when we see that [Westbrook going off],” Paul George said. “When we notice that, and we can’t help him by making shots.”

And their missing isn’t all about bad shot selection. We saw all of Melo’s open looks throughout the game. We would have blamed him for not taking them if he hadn’t.

“Yeah, I don’t worry about that stuff, man, as far as missing or making shots,” Anthony said. “I’ve made a lot of shots in my career, and I’ve missed a lot of shots in my career. Those same shots, I’ll probably make tomorrow, and we won’t even be talking about that.”

Against the Warriors, he didn’t make those shots.

Going from one of the top defenses in the league to one that suffers from defensive breakdowns every game has been a hard pill to swallow. Losing Roberson has made it seem even harder for this team to hold a solid defense. To put it in stats, the Thunder were the fifth best defensive team in the league, and have now dropped to 23rd.

With all of these issues going on, the Thunder still seems to have a good head on their shoulders as the playoff continue to get closer.

“As long as we’re good in this locker room — regardless of what anybody says outside of this locker room — it really don’t matter,” Westbrook said. “As long as we’re good as a team, as a unit, as brothers, we have a great relationship on and off the floor.”

Let’s hope that this great relationship is enough to be able to pull through and start playing good enough to win.

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Steven Adams for Most Improved? Maybe.

There’s probably one player who’s running away with the Most Improved Player award this season. That’s former Thunder player Victor Oladipo. However, what discussion would be complete without adversaries for said award.

That’s where Steven Adams comes in.

In his fifth year with in the NBA, Adams has shined this season on the court, arguably becoming the second or third best player on the court this season. Many may see Adams’ large contract as a negative to his inclusion within this award race. A $100 million contract last season. Many detractors say Adams didn’t earn it last season. That’s large in part to the Thunder’s lack of offensive identity in a season where Russell Westbrook was really the only offense the Thunder had. They put it in the MVP’s hands and let him do work. Because of this, defenses sagged into the paint, causing a log jam and limiting the overall impact of Adams.

Enter Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The two acquisitions this summer for the Thunder have opened all of the space in the paint and Adams has thrived. His averaging a career high in points, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, blocks, steals and shooting percentages, The 2-man game with Westbrook and Adams pick-n-roll that is deadly for any opponent is complying an almost instant score when the two initiate it.

When you dive more into the advance stats, Adams is once again thriving. His win shares, measures the number of wins contributed by a player per 48, 9.3, is a career high by almost three full wins per 48. While PER is largely an offensive statistic, is a career high at 21.3 over a previous high of 16.5 according to Basketball-Reference.

Adams’ 16.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage, which measures the percentage of available offensive rebounds a player or team collects while on the floor, is the best in the NBA. It’s a drastic rise over his 12.7 percent last season. His rebounding rise is a large reason why the Thunder are one of the league’s best rebounding teams in the NBA.

Though, it also should be pointed out, Oklahoma City is 4-1 without Adams in the lineup this season. Their lone loss: a one-point win over Denver back in December.

Sure, Oladipo is going to run away with this award. His points per game are a third higher than they’ve been in his career. He’s taken the flailing Pacers, who missed the playoffs last season, to a potential home court advantage in the first round. The impact he’s made since his trading to Indiana.

However, it’s not without the discussion. Adams is there. He may not win it but the recognition should be warranted.

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Thunder continue to Brewer up some wins

Some may not have been found of the signing but with the Oklahoma City Thunder adding Corey Brewer, it may have just saved their season.

The entire season changed on Jan. 27. Oklahoma City was riding a six-game winning streak and then an ill-fated alley-oop sent Andre Roberson to the sidelines for the rest of the season and the Thunder with their hopes of taking down the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets were left blowing in the wind.

There have been some that’ve called it already.

“There’s a bounce to him all the time. He brings energy,” Billy Donovan said. “I’m not comparing him and Andre in any way personality-wise or player-wise, but the one thing I will compare them, they both have a pop and a bounce to them where they play the game where they find the ball. They find it and are able to make plays.”

Pre-Andre Roberson Oct. 19-Jan. 27 (49 games) (NBA Rank)

OKC 106.0 (13th) ORTG 106.9 (10th)

OPP 101.8 (4th) DRTG 103.1 (5th)

Scoring Differential: 4.2 (5th)

Rating Differential: 3.9 (5th)

During the 15 games without Roberson and before Brewer, Oklahoma City ran really three different starting lineups on the floor (We’re ignoring three games where Oklahoma City had other starters out).

The first one was the addition of Terrance Ferguson. The rookie’s ability has been questionable at best this season. He’s had some moments where you really like what he has to offer but there are other games where you question his ability as an NBA player. In 12 starts this season for Ferguson, the Thunder are only 5-7.

When Roberson went down, he got the nod over the next five games, Ferguson posted a minus-8.2 on the plus/minus scale. The worst on the the team during that span. In fact, over the span of those dates (Jan. 28-Feb. 4), Ferguson posted the 12th worst plus/minus in the NBA. It showed as the Thunder went 1-4 with Ferguson as the starter.

Post-AR Jan. 28-March 2 (15 games)

OKC 108.8 (12th) ORTG 107.5 (17th)

OPP 110.0 (19th) DRTG 108.4 (18th)

Scoring Differential: -1.2 (20th)

Rating Differential: -0.9 (19th)

The next option was Alex Abrines, the second year Spaniard. While the Thunder ended their losing streak, it’s still not the same. In eight games, the Thunder are only 4-4. Abrines started two games with the full starting line up, one without. In those two games, Oklahoma City gave up 120 and 114 points.

Next, it’s Josh Huestis, who many feel is under-utilized on the roster. He’s started 10 games this season, like Abrines only going .500 in his time in the lineup (5-5). While Hustis provides some length, it’s his inexperience at times.

In walks Brewer.

Corey Brewer Era March 3-Present (10 games)

OKC 111.3 (11th) ORTG 109.4 (13th)

OPP 105.6 (11th) ORTG 104.5 (9th)

Scoring Differential: 5.7 (7th)

Rating Differential: 4.9 (9th)

In seven games as the starter in Oklahoma City, Brewer has inserted a renewed energy and vigor. Oklahoma City is 7-1 over that span and the stats are sporting more than only wins. Over those eight games, the Thunder are sporting an offensive rating of 111.5, compared to a defensive rating of 101.9. Only the Jazz and 76ers sport a better differential over the same span.

“It’s great, man, to be able to get a guy moving around, cutting,” Russell Westbrook said. “Kind of fits right back in because Dre was really good at that as well, moving around, cutting, and he did a good job of that tonight.”

 

Corey Brewer Starting March 8-Present (8 games)

OKC 112.6 (7th) ORTG 111.5 (7th)

OPP 103.3 (6th) ORTG 101.9 (6th)

Scoring Differential: 9.4 (2nd)

Rating Differential: 9.6 (3rd)

Brewer is the real deal. While he may not be Roberson. He may not be the Defensive Player of the Year. What he Brewer is, is a player who’s bought in and has something to prove. He’s only 32. While he may be on the back end of things, he’s showing he can still be a valuable player to a playoff team. He’s everything the Thunder wanted out of other buyout players such as Derek Fisher and Caron Butler.

Before Brewer, Oklahoma City had a realistic chance at making the playoffs. Now that Brewer has arrived in Bricktown, the Thunder are right in the middle of getting home court in the first round of the playoffs.

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Raymond Felton shining in back up role

Besides the Thunder’s lifelong search for a serviceable 3-and-D wing player, the backup point guard position for the team has also been a wasteland. That’s where Raymond Felton comes in.

Since Eric Maynor, bet you weren’t expecting to hear him, the Thunder has seen the likes of Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Cameron Payne, and *shudders* Derek Fisher running Westbrook’s backup.

While Payne excelled at running the pregame dance routine with Westbrook, Jackson saved the Thunder’s season against the Grizzlies and Fisher did Fisher things, none of these players did what a backup point guard is supposed to do: make the game easier for his team.

Now enter “Treymond” Felton, the backup point guard of your dreams. While Felton’s body does not scream NBA point guard, Felton has done everything the Thunder have desired from its backup point guard. Felton can actually run the offense, whether he is with the starters or with the bench.

As most experts observed during Westbrook’s One-Man Band Triple Double Tour and especially during the first round matchup with the Rockets, once Westbrook hit the bench, the Thunder went from outscoring opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions to being outscored by 51.3 points per 100 possessions. It does not take a math genius to know figure it out.

“That’s what he does,” Russell Westbrook said. “It’s what he’s been doing all season long, just being solid.”

The main reason for this drastic drop off was the Thunder’s bench could not run an offense to get any quality looks at the basket and it certainly did not help having Semaj Christon piloting that unit. Although Felton’s stats: 7.0 points; 2.7 assists; and 2.1 rebounds per game are not eye popping, they do not reflect Felton’s real value to the team.

“His greatest strength is how cerebral he is, how smart he is,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “That to me is the biggest thing, that he’s a very smart, experienced player who’s got a calmness and a disposition when he’s out there.”

With Felton—an experienced 12-year NBA veteran—Donovan has felt comfortable allowing Felton to run pick and roll with Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson. Whether it leads to a Grant drive or dunk, or a Patterson three-pointer, Felton makes the game easier for his teammates.

Sometimes the best way to judge a player is to use the eye-test. Despite only shooting 34 percent from three and 40 percent from the field this season, and averaging 32.7 percent from three over his career, you’ll notice Felton’s uncanny ability to hit key threes in succession to hold of an opponent’s run or take the lead. Felton’s impact is being felt by the opposing teams, because Felton has demonstrated an ability to hit an open three, so the opposing teams have to respect that threat.

Felton’s underrated ability to control the pace can go unnoticed.

“Really good feel how to play,” Donovan said. “Great tempo. Reads defense. Understands matchups.”

Even when Felton is playing alongside Westbrook and the starters, Felton helps make the game easier for the team than Payne or Christon could. If Donovan chooses to keep Felton in with Westbrook, then both players can take turns bringing the ball up court and initiating the offense, which allows the other to conserve energy. If Donovan plays Felton with either Carmelo Anthony or Paul George, Felton can either initiate a pick and roll, or play off the ball Anthony and George can draw attention looking for their shot, which leads to either an open three for Felton or another Thunder player.

“A lot of guys I play with demand a lot of double-teams and a lot of attention, so it’s giving me chances to have a lot of open shots,” Felton said. “And I just got to take advantage of it.”

While this season the bench is scoring 25.1 points compared to last season’s 36.1 points, there are reasons to explain the drop: this season’s starting unit is vastly stronger. You can account that to Donovan staggering his lineups to usually have one starter with the bench, and the Thunder shortening its bench in the two 2-for-1 player trades it made for Anthony and George.

Say what you want about the Felton’s numbers and his body, the guy has been the backup point guard the Thunder have needed for years.

“Whatever it is this team needs me to do, whatever coach needs me to do to help this team out, to help us get a win that night,” Felton said, “I’m gonna do.”

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Paul George selected as All-Star replacement

With DeMarcus Cousins hurting his Achille’s in New Orleans’ win over Houston on Friday, Jan. 26., the NBA had to find a replacement for the 2018 NBA All-Star game in February.

George is slated to make his fifth All-Star appearance, joining teammate Russell Westbrook on Team LeBron, replacing New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins.

George was considered the biggest snub in the Western Conference. One of the best defenders in the league, George had started to find his groove, averaging almost 22 points per game since Dec. 1. His defensive stats are second to none this season.

Cousins sustained a season-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 26.  An All-Star selection for the fourth consecutive season, Cousins was voted to start and drafted to Team LeBron by captain LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When an All-Star is unable to participate, Silver will choose a replacement from the same conference as the player who is being replaced.  Cousins and George both represent the Western Conference. George received the most voting points from NBA head coaches among Western Conference players who were not selected as reserves.

George is currently averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.17 steals (ranks 2nd). In 46 games this season, he is averaging a career-best 42.0 percent from 3-point range on a career-high 7.3 3-point attempts per game. He ranks first in deflections (4.4) and third in loose balls recovered (1.7).

George is currently on pace to become the fifth player in NBA history to average 20.0 or more points on .420 percent 3-point shooting to go along with 2.00 or more steals per game (Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, Hersey Hawkins and Larry Bird).

This season, George has helped Oklahoma City to a 29-20 record and the league’s longest active win streak at seven games.

The 67th NBA All-Star Game will air on TNT and ESPN Radio. Featuring a new format in which team rosters were drafted by James and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, the All-Star Game will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

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Thunder Game Day No. 36: vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-15, 14-4 home) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (18-15, 6-9 away)

Friday, Dec. 29 :: 7 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
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 7½-point favorite. The over/under is 207.
Online Stream: Fox Sports GoWWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Bucks: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder put their six-game winning streak on the line against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in Bricktown.
  • They’ll have to do it without Paul George, who’s missing tonight’s game with knee soreness.
  • Oklahoma City has a four-game home winning streak against the Bucks and have not lost at home to them since April 2013.
  • The Thunder and Milwaukee met earlier this year, with Oklahoma City prevailing 110-91 on Oct. 31, 2017.
  • With only 15 away games played for Milwaukee it’s the third lowest amount for any NBA team.

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).

SCOUTING THE BUCKS

  • The Milwaukee Bucks are 18-15 on the season, fifth in the Eastern Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Bucks are 5-5.
  • Milwaukee is coming off a 102-96 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night.
  • Overall, against Milwaukee the Thunder are 70-68.
  • Since moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder own a slight 11-7 advantage against the Bucks.
  • When the Games are played at the Peake, Oklahoma City is 5-3.
  • Since 2014, Oklahoma City is 4-0 at home vs. Milwaukee.
  • Oklahoma City beat the Bucks 110-91 on Oct. 31, 2017 for the first win of the regular season series.
  • Injury Report:
    Jabari Parker (knee) is out.
    Mirza Teletovic (illness) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Milwaukee came on April 4, 2017, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 110-79 (31-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (17 points) vs. Milwaukee occurred during a 98-115 loss on April 11, 2009.

FINDING THE BUCK

  • Despite Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, the most popular entry in the contest to name Milwaukee’s NBA franchise wasn’t Bucks. It was Robins.
  • The judges overruled the public and decided on a more indigenous (and much stronger) name.
  • The choice could have been much worse: Skunks was among the other entries.

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 Knickerbockers 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.

INJURY REPORT

  • Paul George (knee soreness) is OUT.

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City finishes out their four-game home stand with a Sunday night with the Mavs in town.
  • The Thunder then go on a West Coast swing playing the Clippers, Lakers and the Suns in 2018.



Three Keys to the Game

Win the first half

Milwaukee doesn’t really have the firepower to come from behind and it’s showing in their stats. The Bucks are 4-10 when trailing at halftime. However, you’d think Oklahoma City did. Look at theirs. They’re 2-7 when trailing at the half. The Thunder are only 1-1 when trailing after halftime since the start of December.

Defend the three

With no Paul George, the Thunder are down a player to help defend the perimeter. Oklahoma City cannot let the Bucks get hot from deep. If Milwaukee is draining threes, this could be a long night for the Thunder. Oklahoma City has to keep the Bucks under eight threes and 35 percent.

Make your Free throws

Easier said than done for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City is the second worst free throw shooting team in the NBA. However, Milwaukee gives up the second most free throw shots per game in the NBA. So, if and when the Thunder get to the line, they’ll have to make their shots.

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Dennis Smith Jr. has shades of Westbrook

Tonight the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Dallas Mavericks. This match up in the past has been about Mark Cuban saying in the media that Russell Westbrook is not a superstar and Westbrook going out against the Maverick’s and unleashing hell.

This season there is a whole new reason to watch, and it has me salivating. In the first round of the 2017 NBA draft Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks drafted rookie from North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas has been in search of a franchise point guard for a long time, and hopes Smith will be that. He’s an explosive athlete and talented scorer who can make plays off the dribble and comes with a ton of upside. This is great value for the Mavericks, who gain a legitimate long-term asset as they continue to prepare for the post-Dirk era. In a weaker draft, Smith might have been a top-five talent.

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated

 

Watching Smith Jr.’s college highlights, who does he remind you of? I’ll give you a couple of seconds. Would it maybe be Oklahoma City Thunder point guard from UCLA one Russell Westbrook.

Almost a mirror image. Two amazingly explosive point guards with so much athleticism it leaves you in shock and awe like nothing you have ever seen before.

So far in Smith Jr.’s first 11 games, Smith Jr. is averaging 28.5 minutes per game scoring 14.8 points shooting 5.8-of-14.3 at 40.8 percent 1.4-of-4.6 at 29.4 percent from three, 3.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.3 blocks.

Russell Westbrook in his first 18 games in his rookie season back in 2008-09 season was averaging.

Russell Westbrook in his first rookie season back in 2008-09 season averaged 32.5 minutes scoring 15.3 points shooting 5.3-of-13.4 at 39.8 percent and 0.4-of-1.6 at 27.1 percent from three, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.2 blocks. Westbrook stats obviously are over the length of the entire season.

Sunday’s game between the Thunder and Mavericks will be a fascinating game to watch, how do these two explosive point guards look when they come together. This is a matchup of the present in Russell Westbrook and the future in Dennis Smith Jr. In Smith Jr., we could be seeing the next line of lineage in the genes of Michael Jordan.

First was Jordan, then came Kobe Bryant, and right now we are living in the Westbrook era. (Just an expression, not saying Dennis Smith or Westbrook is as good as Jordan)  We could be about to see the man who is next to take the throne in Dennis Smith Jr. Don’t know about you, but the first three men in this lineage have been phenomenal to watch, and we should be glued to the TV to see how the next one does.

I just hope the crown isn’t too daunting for him to wear and live up to.

 

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Real Plus/Minus in win over L.A. Clippers

The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to snap their four-game losing streak with a strong win at home over the Los Angeles Clippers, with a final score of 120-111. It was a big night for Thunder’s big three, especially Paul George. Oklahoma City also got nice contributions from a number of different role players in different areas of the game.

PLUS

Westbrook setting the tone

Russell Westbrook set the tone early for the Thunder. When this team needed a leader to step up, Westbrook stood up again as he has since he arrived. It wasn’t just the organization that needed Westbrook to step up it was the fans that also needed their man to stand up, and Westbrook knew it. Thunder fans put up the bat signal, and Batman answered.

Westbrook exploded early in the first quarter and told the fans to get loud on two consecutive, and one plays Westbrook got straight up and interacted with the crowd to get them on their feet and scream, and they did. Westbrook finished with 22 points three rebounds and eight assists shooting 8-of-16 at 50 percent. Westbrook was also impactful on defense with three steals.

Dakari Johnson

Steven Adams missed Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers which opened up a starting job. Everyone thought it would either be Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson. Coach Billy Donovan threw a curveball and gave rookie Dakari Johnson the starting job, and he repaid the favor in spades. Johnson played 23:13 minutes scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shots at 60 percent he was able to get to the free throw line shooting 3-of-6 at 50 percent Johnson also was able to get one block and one steal.

If you’re a lover of stats, you didn’t get to see how good Johnson was against the Clippers. Johnson was fantastic against the Clippers all-star big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Johnson’s size, and athleticism was massive for the Thunder on defense and offense.

Jordan only managed nine points on 4-of-8 shooting at 50 percent. Jordan was still impactful on the boards recording 12 rebounds, but he was a minus 18 player for the Clippers when on the floor. This was a fantastic game for Johnson and may have earned himself some playing time going forward.

Finding the hot hand

When this new big three were put together, there was this constant discussion of will these three iso players be able to sacrifice and play as a team. There have been signs of them being able to work together look at their first game against the New York Knicks. There have also been signs of them not being able to play together, look at the game against the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings. For me this game put that question to bed, against the Clippers Paul George was red hot, in the past, Westbrook would have still tried to get his 20-25 shots and the same for Carmelo Anthony but not tonight. Westbrook knew it was George’s night and both he and Anthony got the ball to George every chance possible.

Westbrook shot the ball 16 times and Anthony 12, George finished the game scoring 42 points on 13-of-22 shots at 59.1 percent and 4-of-7 from three at 57.1 percent. This game was a perfect example of Westbrook sacrificing to make this teamwork. This was the first time we got a strong message from Anthony that he wants this to work as well and it leads to a Thunder 120 – 111 win over the Clippers.

MINUS

Letting teams back into games

The Thunder were up by 20 points in the last quarter but let the Clippers comeback to within single digits. It’s been a common theme for this team; it seems to be a lack of concentration and taking an unnecessary risk on the part of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook often leaves his opponent to try and anticipate a pass or gambles on a steal which in turn leave’s his opponent wide open and in the first 10 games the opposition has made Westbrook and the Thunder pay.

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Thunder blow it in second half

The second half wasn’t pretty nor was it fun to watch. The Oklahoma City Thunder (4-4) blew an 18-point halftime lead and eventually fell to the Boston Celtics (7-2) on Saturday night 101-94.

This was a bad loss.

It’s hard to pin point what went wrong for the Thunder. Was it their lackadaisical defense or the fact they couldn’t hit a shot? It could be both. However, credit the Boston Cetlics for coming out and hitting shots. They could’ve rolled over but didn’t. They fought hard.

Oklahoma City led 55-37 at halftime after a massive end of the half highlight which saw Andre Roberson block a Celtic’s shot. Westbrook rushed down the floor, nailing the three. Everyone was on cloud nine as the Thunder were beating the socks off the hottest team in the NBA. The Thunder were shooting 48 percent, holding the Celtics to 31 percent.

“Who we can be was out in front of us the first 24 minutes,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “And what we can be on the other end of it, the second 24 minutes.”

The shots stopped falling for Oklahoma City and they started falling for Boston. The script flipped in the second half as Boston outscored Oklahoma City 64-39 in the second half, nearly doubling their first half total. The Celtics also shot 55 percent in the second half.

Shots didn’t fall for the Thunder as Al Horford and Kyrie Irving lit up the Oklahoma City sky like it was the Edmond Fourth of July parade. They created great mismatches through screens and ball movement. Three times in the final two minutes, Boston was able to switch Steven Adams on Irving. All Irving did was blow past Adams for the easy bucket.

“That’s who we are, that first 24 minutes,” Anthony said. “That first half is who we are, that’s what we established ourselves to be. In the second half, coming out in that third quarter, it was just too many mental lapses. That’s not who we are. We know what type of team we are, and that first half we showed that.”

The Big Three combined to shoot 19-of-57 for the game (33.3 percent) and 9-of-32 in the second half. Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony struggled in the second half, with Anthony struggling for the game. Anthony finished 3-of-17 on the night. While he rebounded well, that’s about the only thing well he did. Actually, all of the Big Three had a double-double in some fashion.

“It’s good to struggle now, this is our first year together,” Paul George said.

When the Big Three struggle like this, you’re probably going to lose more games. You can have one struggle, maybe even two, but in reality when all three struggle, we’re going to see glimpses and more of these. We need at least one of them to be one. Tonight, they all struggled.

I’m sure there were some positives but frankly, this is a bad loss. When you blow an 18-point lead at home, you get a bad loss sticker. It’s like a frowny face but with all the contempt on it from what should’ve happened and not what happened.

“We’ll be totally fine,” George said.

Oklahoma City will now try and regroup quickly as they head back on the road for another road trip. It doesn’t get any easier as they go to Portland on Sunday. That’s an 8 p.m. tip-off at the Moda Center. They’ll travel to Sacramento and Denver to cap off their road trip. The’ll be home on Friday night against the L.A. Clippers.

Keys to the Game

Rebound: D

If I wanted, I couldn’t made this strictly about the second half stats but I didn’t. Though, Boston outrebounded Oklahoma City 26-22 in the second half and by one overall. Oklahoma City drops to 0-4 when they’re outrebounded by their opponent. Credit Boston for really limiting Oklahoma City one-and-done.

Share the Ball: B

Westbrook had 11 assists but can you imagine if more shots fell in the second half? The man might’ve had 20 assists. This wasn’t on the lack of sharing tonight, that’s for sure. Oklahoma City has to find a way to get shots to fall.

Get to the foul line: F

14 attempts. Four. Teen. An Absoultely travesty of a number. There are multiple factors going into this. The officiating, not calling it. That’s going to happen. Being aggressive. The Thunder settled for a LOT of mid-range jumpers. This is what Boston wanted. Care. I don’t think Oklahoma City cares enough this season about it. However, they’re not called free throws for any reason. Westbrook needs more than two attempts.

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