Tag - Warriors

For once, the comeback was on Oklahoma City’s side

There have been many meltdowns in Thunder history and some of the biggest ones were by the Thunder.

We all know of the Warriors meltdown in 2016. Oklahoma City led by as many as 13, but felt like 23. Klay Thompson went bananas and the Thunder were forced into a Game 6.

In many ways, last night was the opposite of that. Oklahoma City made the comeback and all seemed right. It was almost the monkey off the Thunder’s back.

Here are all of the greatest comebacks and collapses in the playoffs by 15 or more with the Thunder (because of the 15-point mark, the Warriors loss was not added).

Collapses

2017 first round, Game 2: Houston (15)

OKC 109
HOU 113
April 19, 2017

This collapse is one of those that’s not really a collapse but fits within the arbitrary parameters we’ve chosen. Oklahoma City went up 28-13 on the Rockets with 3:23 left in the first quarter. The Thunder held their own in double digits for a good portion of the game. The Thunder held a 12-point lead late into the third but the bench fell through and Houston had the lead less than four minutes into the fourth and the rest is history.

2012 NBA Finals, Game 4 – Miami (17)

OKC 99
MIA 104
June 19, 2012

This, like the previous meltdown, happened in the first quarter. This is the second real playoff meltdown. This one unfortunately came in the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City jumped up 27-12 with 2:28 on a Nick Collison bucket. Oklahoma City led 33-16 with about 20 seconds to go in the first but Miami went on a 15-0 run to pull within 33-32 with 8:30 left in the second. Oklahoma City was able to hold off the Heat until middle of the third. However, Miami took the lead and would never trail again.

2013 second round, Game 4 – Grizzlies (17)

OKC   97
MEM 103
OT – May 13, 2013

A Russell Westbrook-less Thunder team, trailed 2-1 in a Memphis showdown. They took a 43-26 lead mid-second quarter and it appeared the Thunder were on their way. However, the Grizzlies’ comeback was on the back on a 23-9 run. It wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that we saw Memphis come back and finally take the lead. No one led by more than three in the final 10 minutes of regulation, with the leads going back and forth. Oklahoma City never led in overtime.

2014 second round, Game 4 – Clippers (22)

OKC 99
LAC 101
May 11, 2014

This is the largest blown playoff lead in Thunder history. A 22-point loss to the Chris Paul and the LA Clippers. This was the first in three straight games with double-digit blown leads. Luckily, Oklahoma City was on the winning side on the other two. If you told me though, Oklahoma City was going to take a 29-7 lead in the playoffs, I would’ve guaranteed a Thunder victory. That wasn’t the case this night. Oklahoma City’s 16-point lead in the fourth quarter was evaporated

2011 Western Conference Finals, Game 4 – Dallas (15)

DAL  112
OKC 105
OT – May 23, 2011

This one… this one is one of the more painful. Kevin Durant hit a jumper and Oklahoma City went up by 15 with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. It seemed Oklahoma City was going to equalize the series. Oklahoma City went 1-of-9 down the stretch, letting Dallas outscore the Thunder 17-2 to force overtime. Durant missed a 30-footer to force overtime. I still have nightmares of this game.

Comebacks

2014 second round, Game 5 – Clippers (15)

LAC 104
OKC 105

May 13, 2014

Remember this photo? Yeah, from that game. Westbrook draining three free throws with 6.4 seconds left while Durant cannot stomach to watch them go through the net. Oklahoma City overcame a 15-point deficit, which was the patented first quarter deficit. What made this game so special was the Thunder’s ability to overcome a 101-94 deficit with 49 seconds remaining. Durant hit a three. Clippers missed a jumper. Westbrook stole a pass from Chris Paul. Then, Paul fouled Westbrook from three, hit hit all three with 6.4 seconds left to win the game. LA never got a shot off due to fantastic Thunder defense.

2014 second round, Game 6 – Clippers (16)

OKC 104
LAC   98
May 15, 2014

Durant was once a vital member of this team and showed out, scoring 39 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. LA grabbed a 16-point lead a couple of times in the first half with 7:28 left in the first half. The Thunder came back with a 13-2 run, pulling within five. Though, LA held a 7-point lead with 2:53 left in the third. Oklahoma City with the combination of Durant and Westbrook, fueled Oklahoma City’s comeback. A 13-4 that bled into the fourth quarter gave Oklahoma City lead for good. Oklahoma City pushed their lead to as many as 11 in the final minutes of the fourth.

2012 Western Conference Finals, Game 6 – Spurs (18)

SA     99
OKC 107
June 6, 2012

Westbrook and Durant combined for 33 second half points as Oklahoma City overcame an 18-point deficit. San Antonio led throughout the first half by double digits. San Antonio led by double digits for half of the game. Oklahoma City, powered by their two all-stars fueled a comeback and a march onto their first ever NBA Finals. San Antonio had no answer for either players shots. It was a nice change of pace with how the series started, the Thunder falling back 2-0.

2011 second round, Game 4 – Memphis (18)

OKC 133
MEM 123
3OT – May 9, 2011

One of the greatest games in Thunder history. Oklahoma City overcame an 18-point deficit and avoided a 3-1 series hole. Memphis took an 18-point lead in the second quarter, OJ Mayo (!!) put them up by 18. The thunder had pulled with four by halftime. Oklahoma City took their first lead in the second half but Mike Conley hit a big three, sending the game into the first overtime. Oklahoma City blew multiple seven-point leads. In the first overtime, it was Greivis Vasquez who naield a three to tie it up. Durant bricked a chance on a game winner, sending it to a second overtime. Westbrook tied the game up with 30 seconds to go but both teams combined for four misses, sending it to a third overtime. That’s where Oklahoma City took over. Durant hit a jumper with 30 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up by eight. Dequan Cook sank free throws to give OKC a 10-point victory.

2018 first round, Game 5 – Utah (25)

Utah 99
OKC 107
April 25, 2018

You saw it. It was tied for the largest second half comeback in NBA playoff history. It was the fourth largest comeback in NBA playoff history. Oklahoma City only had one turnover once they started their comeback, having to be nearly perfect to get the victory and live to fight another day.

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Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

1. You know how in the movies there is sometimes a ridiculous scene where the protagonist narrowly escapes death by a matter of inches? You know, they untie themselves a half second before the train roars over them or they grasp on with their pinky to the ledge just before they fall 100 stories to their death? The kinds of scenes that can almost a ruin a movie because they are so absurd. You just don’t slip off the roof of the Sears Tower and save yourself by the narrow margin of a hangnail and then walk away clean ten seconds later. Yet, it DID happen for the Thunder this year. There were multiple occasions this year where the season was on the verge of tumbling over the cliff. Just five days ago, the Thunder were facing a road game at Houston with the VERY real possibility that they could miss the playoff altogether. Their last three road games they trailed in fourth quarter in all of them. They won them all. So here we are five days later… Not only did they make the playoffs, but they somehow managed to claim the 4 seed and home court advantage. And now they line up on the opposite side of the Warriors on the bracket. In a season full of tough luck and bad bounces, nearly everything went right for the Thunder over these final days. All the hand-wringing, all the frustration, all the worry about the colossal failure of potentially missing the playoffs…and here they are: home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs in a highly competitive conference.

2. No sense in diving too deep into the Memphis game. I am neither going to gush over how we manhandled them for the most part and I am not going to be concerned about sleepwalking for much of the second half. The Grizzlies didn’t put an NBA team on the floor tonight. Dillon Brooks is a good looking rookie, but that was a ragtag bunch for the most part. They had their bags packed and were ready to get to the beach after that one. Been a long year in Memphis. So the Thunder did what they were supposed to do and buried them early. Then, they jacked around the last quarter and a half and allowed the score to be more respectable. I didn’t care. It was meaningless in my eyes. What I liked was that PG seems to have found his stroke again and Adams looked much more spry tonight than he has recently. Schedule has been brutal lately— it was nice to end with a game where the opponent was almost literally physically incapable of being you on any night.

3. Loved that Russ went ahead and attacked the glass to secure the triple double average. I viewed it as a bit of a middle finger to his critics accusing him “stat chasing.” Personally, I would be happy to field a team of guys who all “chase stats” the way he does. No doubt Russ snatches rebounds from his teammates on occasion. But when he rebounds the ball, the offense also starts much, much faster. By allowing Russ to grab a rebound that would otherwise be easy for a big man, is that it jumpstarts the offense. He so damn fast that he’s often at the mid court line in what seems like one dribble after the rebound. Averaging a triple double is insanity. Doing it two years in a row is double insanity. There is nothing wrong with chasing an accomplishment simply for the gratification of accomplishing it. He is in the record books (again) and I would have been disappointed had he just let others do the glass work tonight. He is who is he. Glad to see he didn’t pretend to be someone else.

4. The Nick Collison tribute tonight was both heartfelt and awkward. I figured there would be some acknowledgement of this potentially being his last regular season home game. I just didn’t expect it would come from Russ holding a microphone before tip. That was a nice gesture from Russ even if it produced a bit of red-faced moment for Nick. It was clear Russ wanted to let everyone know how he feels about Nick and it was clearly an honest statement from the heart. It was cool. Then the “we want Nick” chants made things a little uneasy. They came too early in the game. The other thing is that he isn’t the team trainer or some Rudy-esque walk on. Collison was a star college player and a darn good NBA contributor for over a decade. He’s now been relegated to something of a team mascot— and while I am sure he appreciates the love from the fans and understands it is completely well intentioned— he is probably also a little embarrassed by it. Then, what are the odds that a guy gets hurt shooting a three and the OTHER team is the one who decides to put Nick into the game? That was an oddly tense moment. Poor Collison had legit pressure on him with the entire arena wanting to see him score. It was kind of painful to watch him miss all those free throws. Then a relief when he finally got one to go. In the end, he got his well deserved ovation and acknowledgement. It’s cool that both the player and organization have felt it important enough for him to remain here his entire career. And we can’t forget that by all accounts Russ is a someone who prefers the routine, the familiar. He also appreciates loyalty and toughness. It’s no surprise he respects Collison. And keeping Nick around these past couple of years likely hasn’t hurt. Very nice to see Mr. Thunder have a little moment— even if it was a clunky moment.

5. Now, it’s on to Utah and the postseason. What to expect? Honestly it’s almost midnight and I’m tired. I mean this both literally and figuratively. It’s been a long grind. Five Thoughts multiplied by 82 games is well, a lot of thoughts. Let’s call it a night and drop a playoff version before the games start this weekend.

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. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Oklahoma City Thunder Playoff Seeding Scenarios

So, step one is done. Oklahoma City is in the playoffs. Now, where will they be? That’s the big question.

On Wednesday night, Oklahoma City will play the Memphis Grizzlies, there are TONS of options going forward. We’re going to do our best to breakdown every Thunder scenario.

You want a real big cliff notes: If Utah splits and Oklahoma City beats Memphis, Oklahoma City is the four. If OKC loses, they’re most likely eighth. If the Thunder win against Memphis they’ll finish no lower than sixth.

However, there are a billion other breakdowns, so let’s just jump into it.

If you know of any scenarios I missed, please tweet us with scenarios, we’ll add it.

8th Seed

If Oklahoma City loses to Memphis, this is where they’re going. This is what they deserve for losing to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Minnesota (1-3) and Denver (1-2) both own the tiebreakers over Oklahoma City. So, the winner of their will jump Oklahoma City. It’s assuming Utah split, losing to Portland:

4. Utah
5. New Orleans/San Antonio winner
6. Denver/Minnesota winner
7. New Orleans/San Antonio loser
8. Oklahoma City

 

Even if Utah drops both games, here’s what it would look like and New Orleans won

4. New Orleans
5. Minnesota/Denver winner
6. Utah
7. San Antonio
8. Oklahoma City

7th seed

It’s really tough for Oklahoma City to get the seventh seed. One way has to happen exactly like this:

  • OKC loses to Memphis
  • NOLA loses to San Antonio
  • Utah beats Portland
  • Minnesota beats Denver

In this instance, the Standings would be like this

  1. Houston
  2. Golden State
  3. Utah
  4. Portland
  5. San Antonio
  6. Minnesota
  7. Oklahoma City
  8. New Orleans

This happens because in the three-way tie, the combined record of Minnesota, OKC and NOLA Head-to-head comes out like this:

  • Minnesota: 4-0 vs. NOLA | 3-1 vs. OKC = 7-1
  • Oklahoma City 1-3 vs. MIN | 1-2 vs. NOLA = 2-5 (Western Conference 27-25)
  • New Orleans 0-4 vs. MIN | 2-1 vs. OKC = 2-5 (Western Conference 26-26)

Oklahoma City sneaks to the seventh spot by their win over the Houston Rockets, essentially.

Another option is if Utah loses both games and the Thunder lose and San Antonio wins

4. San Antonio
5. Minnesota/Denver winner
6. Utah
7. Oklahoma City
8. New Orleans

6th seed

There are a couple of different scenarios for Oklahoma City end up sixth, even with wins.

Utah loses both and Oklahoma City beats Memphis, it’ll look like this

4. New Orleans/San Antonio
5. Minnesota/Denver
6. Oklahoma City
7. Utah
8. New Orleans

If Utah splits but beats Portland and OKC wins:

3. Utah
4. Portland
5. San Antonio/New Orleans
6. Oklahoma City

5th seed

If the Thunder beat the Grizzlies and the Jazz go 0-2, they creates a bit of a logjam in the middle again, obviously.

Here’s the first scenario with a Minnesota win:

4. San Antonio/New Orleans winner
5. Oklahoma City
6. Minnesota
7. Utah
8. San Antonio/New Orleans loser

With a Denver win:

4. San Antonio/New Orleans winner
5. Oklahoma City
6. Utah
7. Denver
8. San Antonio/New Orleans loser

4th seed

This one is a little bit clear cut as the Thunder need to win against Memphis and have the Jazz split beat either the Warriors or the Blazers, while losing the other one. Completely possible as the Warriors may be resting to get their guys ready for the playoffs. Portland may have more to play for as they lost to Denver on Monday night.

If OKC wins, San Antonio/New Orleans winner, and Utah beats Golden State but loses to Portland

4. Oklahoma City (5-3 vs. UT/SA; 4-3 vs. UT/NO)
5. Utah (4-4 vs. OKC/SA; 4-4 vs. OKC/NO)
6. San Antonio (3-5 vs. OKC/UT)/ New Orleans (3-4 vs. OKC/UT)

3rd seed

Oklahoma City cannot claim the third seed as Portland owns the 4-0 head-to-head tie-breaker with the Thunder.

2nd seed

Golden State has locked this up as they’re 11 games up in the standings on the Thunder.

1st seed

Houston has this locked up as they own a 17½-game advantage on the Thunder.

 

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Paul George feels the love in OKC

We’ve been down this road before. Kevin Durant said one thing and did another. Russell Westbrook said one thing and did that thing. So, who knows what to believe? Paul George on Friday after practice gave some insights to his potential future.

“As I told Rachel (Nichols), I can see myself being here. I’ve been happy here, I’ve been happy with the organization, happy with my teammates,” George said. “Our record is not what we want it to be, but I think I’ve enjoyed just learning and being around these guys. So, my answer is still the same.”

George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on June 30. While the Thunder haven’t been the most successful in terms of what they want this season, they have been really good when healthy. They were on one of the hottest streaks over the last few seasons before the Andre Roberson injury.

“It was just an opportunity to see what it’s like being here and just to naturally fall in love with it,” George said of being traded to the Thunder. “And it’s been that. It’s been a lot of love here.”

Love is a strong word, even in the basketball community. Players like to remain even, so there isn’t too much read into their comments. Still, a strong comment from George.

 

“You’ve got to look at what we can be, imagine what we would be if Andre was here playing with now,” George said. “You’ve got to look at the team coming back, with free agency coming up with other guys who we could possibly go grab and who could we, myself, Melo, Russ, who can we recruit with us here.”

George has been largely inconsistent but really just a wholesome worker. He doesn’t make excuses and takes the blame when needed, such as after the bad egg he laid against the Warriors on April 3. He’s only the third person in Oklahoma City history to be named to the All-Star game.

“This is our first year together,” George said. “This is Year 1 for this group. We’ve got a chance to win it all, but realistically it takes time for things to build and chemistry to mesh. Just for everybody to be on the same page.”

With the loss of Roberson, the Thunder’s trajectory changed. They’ve largely struggled on the defensive side. George isn’t able to take as many gambles as the defense has to protect what little assets it has. While the trophy may not be 100 percent in the rear view mirror, their goal and hopefully George, a larger picture remains.

“This wasn’t a championship or bust coming into this for me,” George said. “There is just an opportunity to see what it’s like to be here and just to naturally fall in love with it and it’s been that. It’s been a lot of love here.”

Year 1 of how many? That’s the real factor here. Is it only one or will this be a multi-year relationship in which both could potentially help one another get to a championship?

That’s up to George.

 

 

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Five Thoughts 4-3-18 (Warriors 111, Thunder 107)

Five Thoughts 4-3-18 (Warriors 111, Thunder 107)

1. I’m not a huge scapegoat guy or a big finger-pointer. It’s a team game and when things go wrong there are normally layers to it and the answer is often more nuanced than it appears on the surface. But sometimes there is a scapegoat. Sometimes the finger should be pointed. The Thunder had a good plan tonight. They played hard. They moved the ball. They got good shots. They weren’t overly sloppy. They didn’t allow many easy shots for the Warriors. Russ was awesome. But they lost the game. And the reason they lost was because PG didn’t fill his role. Russ did all of the heavy lifting. He made the tough shots/plays. He teed the game up. He simply needed someone else to come in and swing and knock it out of the park. It was right there. But no one did. Felton didn’t shoot it well at all. Neither did Melo. Adams missed some free throws. But those guys aren’t tasked with being the #2. That is the job of Paul George. He just failed tonight. He didn’t need to be a star. He didn’t need to carry the load. He simply needed to fill in some gaps. He just needed to provide the proper support. Instead, he was Brick City. In addition, he was also tentative when driving and had some costly turnovers/missed opportunities. Russ can’t do much more. We saw that last year. This year PG was supposed to make life easier. For awhile, he did. But as this season has come down to the nitty-gritty, he has slowly seemed to get smaller and smaller. I will wait to pass final judgement on him or anyone else until the season is over. He still has three games and MAYBE the playoffs to make a mark. But right now, I feel it would be in the best interest of the Thunder if he were to walk in the off-season.

2. The plan overall was fine tonight. Team was prepared. Again, the shots were really good. The shots we took were generally better than the shots GS took. But the one head scratcher for me with Donovan tonight was why dust off Huestis? Why does he wind up with as many minutes as Patterson and Felton? I suppose Donovan liked his length and athleticism against Klay or KD, but I’m just not seeing what he brings to the table. Especially at this point in the season. He had his chances this year and he proved to me that he is not an NBA rotational player. It isn’t just that he is horrendous offensively (he is); it’s that he doesn’t really do any of those “little things” that those types of players normally do. He doesn’t get offensive rebounds. He doesn’t finish at the rim. He doesn’t get momentum-making steals. He doesn’t wind up with loose balls. He play adequate one on one defense. He is a good shot blocker for a wing player. That’s it. It’s just silly to sit him so many games in a row (which was the right call) and then bring him back in a game of this magnitude.

3. Adams looks completely worn out. This is the time of the year where you’d like to rest any player who might be ailing. Adams appears to be in desperate need of some time off. He is clearly playing through some pain. Over the past week to ten days he hasn’t been quite as effective. He played his guts out against Anthony Davis the other night, but he just looks a step slower than he’s been all year. These next three days might help, but he is probably at a stage where he could use a legitimate week off. Unfortunately, the Thunder clearly can’t afford to rest anyone right now.

4. The volume of close games this team is playing is absurd. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It barely makes sense. The simple law of averages dictates that just randomly you will have one night where you lay an egg, or the other guys lay an egg, or you just can’t be stopped, or they just can’t be stopped. March 10th was the last time OKC played a game that wasn’t tense in the final minute or two. They beat the Spurs that night by ten; it was a much wider margin for much of the second half before a little flurry got it closer for SA. Since then the Thunder have played eleven games. All ten have been tight in the final minutes. The win at Atlanta was the only that wasn’t in doubt in the final SECONDS. OKC is 6-5 in those games. So they’ve actually improved their record over that stretch, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. They have currently lost 5 out of 7. All five were just brutal. The wins were also very tight. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. In a way it provides some hope because if you keep games THAT close in the playoffs then anything can happen. But it also means ANYTHING can happen. Like not making the playoffs at all. It’s just really remarkable how these games have gone. And honestly, it is absolutely exhausting.

5. Thunder didn’t get any help tonight either. The only two games I really cared about were Utah and Denver. They both won. I kind of like the fact that the Thunder don’t play again until Saturday night. Between now and then there are a number of games that could positively or negatively have an effect on OKC. One thing is for sure– the Thunder will at the very least take the court on Saturday in Houston with their destiny in their own hands. Even if every single other thing goes against them (it won’t), the Thunder will make the playoffs if they finish 3-0. Looking at the schedule, I would be SHOCKED if 2-1 doesn’t get them in. Now, it is entirely possible the Thunder could lose both games in Houston and Miami. That certainly isn’t far-fetched at all. It’s also possible they’d stay above the cut off line even if they lose both if other things fall their way. We will know a whole lot more by the time the game tips off on Saturday. I am certainly hoping they enter that game with a little wiggle room. Because even though my confidence has dipped to a very low level, I really don’t want to face the humiliation and disappointment of missing the playoffs altogether. Right now, that possibility is still very much in play.

 

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. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Russ does his thing, but OKC falls 111-107 to GSW

In a game that the Oklahoma City Thunder desperately needed in order to further secure a playoff spot, Russell Westbrook did all that he could in order to help the cause.

Sadly for the Thunder as Oklahoma City lost 111-107. There was little efficiency from the other two stars, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony — who combined to shoot 9-of-35 and score 32 points. You add the minimal production from the bench — 14 points — and you find yourself seeing the Thunder drop another pivotal game.

“Those are shots we want,” Anthony said in the postgame. “We want those opportunities, they just haven’t been falling. We need to do a better job.”

Don’t ask Westbrook if there are things that still need to be tinkered or figured out however.

“We figured it out,” Westbrook said in the locker room afterwards. “We’re good. As long as we’re good in this locker room, it really don’t matter.”

Westbrook was sensation throughout but achieved MVP form in the third quarter, where he scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He finished with 44 points, six assists and 16 rebounds.

Oklahoma City needed every bit during the third quarter too.

The Thunder came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter until Durant got the ball rolling with eight straight points to close out the first. From there the Warriors ran their offense beautifully and stretched their lead to 10, a lead they carried into the third until Westbrook came alive.

The Golden State Warriors were already shorthanded coming into tonight with the injury to Steph Curry. They only went 10 deep and forced Steve Kerr to reach into the bench and use Damian Jones to counter the physicality of Steven Adams (seven points and 13 rebounds).

“We knew we were shorthanded coming into tonight,” Kerr said after the game. “But I thought we played well against a great team. It’s certainly tough going against guys like Russ and Adams even at full strength.”

The Thunder and Warriors traded buckets in the final quarter but some untimely misses from George and Anthony ultimately doomed any chance for Oklahoma City to secure a win. Durant, who was abysmal from beyond the arc (2-of-9), did most of his damage from the free throw line, where he sank all 14 shots. In the end, the Thunder could not get over the hump.

The loss moves to the sixth seed where they only hold a half-game lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves. For Oklahoma City, they must win two more games to reach the postseason.

Oklahoma City now takes their journey on the road to play the Houston Rockets on Saturday night on ABC. This will be the 10th of 11 straight games against teams .500 or better. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Three Keys to the Game

Force turnovers: D

In the two wins over the Warriors, the Thunder forced 22 and 25 turnovers respectively. Tonight they only forced 13. Against an injured Warriors team playing with 10 guys is more than disappointing.

Make your free throws: C

OKC sank 28 of their 37 free throws. Not bad considering the season, but not well when you lose a game decided by a few possessions. Adams and Corey Brewer combined to go 2-of-8 in a game the Thunder lost by four.

OK3: C

Westbrook alone keeps this from being an F. His 44 points gave the Thunder a chance, but George’s and Anthony’s lack of shooting continues to haunt Oklahoma City in tight ball games.

 

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Thunder Game Day No. 79: vs. Golden State Warriors

Oklahoma City Thunder (45-33, 26-13 home)

vs

Golden State Warriors (56-21, 27-10 away)

Tuesday, April 3 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: TNT (245 DirecTV, 31 Cox, 730 HD 108 AT&T U-Verse, 138 Dish)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 4.5-point favorites. The over/under is 221½.
Online Stream: TNT | WWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Warriors: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are going for their first season series win over the Golden State Warriors since the 2013-14 season.
  • A huge game for the Thunder tonight, as they’re a half-game behind the San Antonio Spurs for fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race.
  • The Thunder lost to the Warriors 112-80 the last time these two teams met. It was a rough night for the Thunder as they couldn’t hit water from a boat in the ocean.
  • Oklahoma City ended a three-game losing streak with a 109-104 win over the Pelicans on Sunday night.
  • Golden State has won back-to-back games but are only 5-5 in their last 10 games.

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.
  • Tonight’s broadcast is on TNT. It’s good for those who are outside of the Oklahoma market, they’ll get to see this budding rivalry.

SCOUTING THE WARRIORS

  • The Golden State Warriors are 56-21 on the season, second in the Western Conference.
  • Over their last 10 games, the Warriors are 5-5.
  • Golden State is only 2-3 in their last five road games.
  • Overall, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 137-109 against the Warriors.
  • When the games are played in Oklahoma City, the Thunder are 12-5.
  • Golden State beat Oklahoma City 112-80 on Feb. 24
  • The Thunder beat the Warriors 125-105 earlier this month and then beat them 108-91 in November.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder are going for their first season series win over the Golden State Warriors since the 2013-14 season.
  • Oklahoma City hasn’t won two games in Oklahoma City since that series win year of 2013-14.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Stephen Curry (knee) is out.
    Patrick McCaw (back) is out.
    Andre Iguoudala (knee) is out.
    Shaun LIvingston (personal) is out.
    Kevin Looney (illness) is out.
    Omri Casspi (ankle) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Golden State came on Feb. 17, 2012, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 110-87 (23-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (26 points) happened twice with the most recent occurrence coming earlier this season on Nov. 3, 2016 (122-92 defeat).

INJURY REPORT

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

NEXT UP

  • Oklahoma City will play the Houston Rockets on Saturday, April 7 on ABC.
  • Then, Oklahoma City will travel to Miami for the a showdown with the Heat on Monday, April 9.

WHAT’S IN A DUB’S NAME

  • The Philadelphia Warriors, named after the 1920s team that played in the American Basketball League.
  • They won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 season of the Basketball Association of America.
  • The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco after the 1961-62 season and retained their nickname.
  • When the team relocated across the Bay to Oakland in 1971, they were renamed the Golden State Warriors.



Three Keys to the Game

Force turnovers

When you’re No. 1 in points off turnovers and the Warriors are one of the worst teams in turning the ball over, this is something where Oklahoma City has to capitalize. If the Thunder come out and their defense is spectacular, they’ll run away with it again.

Make your free throws

Oklahoma City missed 12 free throws in the loss to Denver last week. Oklahoma City ranks 29 of 30 NBA teams in free throw shooting. Russell Westbrook is shooting a career low from the line. Oklahoma City is shooting only 71.1 percent from the free throw line. Since the all-star break, the Thunder are making 72.4 percent of their free throws.

OK3

Oklahoma City needs the Big Three to show up more than ever before. Westbrook needs to be efficient and slicing like a hot knife through butter. Paul George needs to be exceptional on both sides. Carmelo Anthony needs to hit his open shots and be smart. If they do this, the Thunder will win.

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Five Thoughts 3-29-18 (Spurs 103, Thunder 99)

Five Thoughts 3-29-18 (Spurs 103, Thunder 99)

1. The rollercoaster can be really fun. It’s exhilarating and can get your heart pumping. The adrenaline rush is amazing the first time you make that turn or go through the loop. And the rollercoaster can also make you want to puke. It can make you wish it would just stop and you could get your feet back on the ground. This Thunder season has been all of the above. It is absolutely maddening that every time they’ve appeared to turn the corner or elevate their play they follow it up with a slump or curious effort that makes you wonder if they will even make the damn playoffs. Then, right when you are ready to bail on them and just accept it as a failed experiment they go out and destroy the Warriors at Oracle or win a thriller in Toronto or rattle off seven in a row, six in a row…The inconsistency is incredible. It isn’t even that it’s a consistent inconsistency. It isn’t like when they are bad it’s because they struggle offensively or defensively. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other. Then they will randomly take a major strength (rebounding) and for one or two nights they get beat on the boards and it costs them a game. The thing that probably keeps the glimmer alive for me is that you don’t have to be consistent in the playoffs. You can lose three times in seven games and still win a series. Thunder could essentially keep doing what they do and if things hit in the right places at the right times, they can still be very dangerous. Scott Van Pelt always asks the question “how good is your good?” For the Thunder, their good is REALLY good. Like, REALLY good. But it’s also fleeting. Very hard to guess or gauge what things will look like in a couple of weeks when everything changes— assuming of course that they make it there in the first place.

2. Continuing on the maddening theme, Russ and Adams have been out of this world lately. Dominating. Tonight, they were terrible. Both of them. This may have been the worst game Adams has played all year. Very rare to be able to say this, but he got his arse handed to him by Aldridge tonight. Not only was Aldridge scoring on him early, Adams also appeared to be a step slow and little tentative. And he couldn’t finish near the rim worth a damn at all. With 1:00 to go and down by one, Adams allowed LMA to slip right by him for an easy drive and dunk. Just a really terrible night for a guy who has been a rock for the Thunder all year. And Russ? My God he was dreadful in the fourth quarter. WTF was that? One thing he has really cleaned up this year is the RDS— Really Dumb Shot. At the end of the game tonight he went bonkers with the RDS; maybe getting them all out of his system at once perhaps? He was also sloppy with the ball, struggling to make simple passes and driving the ball wildly with nowhere to go. He has been brilliant in the fourth quarter lately, and really for two years now. He and Adams both get a pass for a bad night given how well they’ve played, but SOB it’s the story of the season that they pick the same night to crap themselves.

3. Donovan is going to put me on blood pressure meds with his silly usage of TFerg and Abrines. I don’t care if I make it one of my thoughts after every game, it’s driving me crazy. TFerg is NOT READY FOR A REAL ROLE ON A CONTENDING TEAM. Abrines may not be either, but now is the time to find out about him once and for all. He’s shown signs lately of being a contributor. But his minutes are so limited that there is no chance for him to get anything going. Keeping him cold on the bench until the fourth quarter is just stupid. It puts an awful lot of pressure on him. I’m glad Donovan has cut Huestis out and gone to a 10 man rotation. That’s smart. But it really needs to be more a 9 man at this point and Abrines should be ahead of TFerg. Then you can insert the rookie if someone gets hurt or there is foul trouble or the score dictates extending the bench. Right now neither player is being put in a great position to succeed.

4. I wanted two out of three during this stretch of games between tonight and Sunday night. I would have preferred this be one of the two for tie-breaker purposes but it really doesn’t matter. The pressure is on now to win tomorrow against Denver and in NOLA on Sunday evening. Thunder were rolling at six in a row. Then, the Boston choke seems to have derailed them. They must get back on track immediately. Beyond the obvious playoff implications, there are only six games left to get the mojo right— although with this team maybe that doesn’t matter? Maybe the team is a lot like Russ: win or lose, good or bad, sink or swim, what happened yesterday simply doesn’t affect tomorrow. Every game, heck every possession is like a blank slate. In the short term though, a loss at home to Denver would put OKC back into “uh oh” territory. Right now they are still in pretty good shape. A lot of the other teams are shaky right now too. These next two games are legit important. If they win them, the last four games may not be all that tense depending on other results. If they split them they likely stay about where they are and the last four will dictate everything. If they lose them both, it’s absolutely red button time.

5. Thing is, while it makes you feel sick sometimes, riding the rollercoaster is still a lot more fun than just sitting on the bench. Ride is eventually gonna end. But I’m not ready for that yet.

 

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. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

What will playoff Melo look like?

For the last several seasons, Carmelo Anthony has had to sit back and watch the playoffs unfold from the comfort of his own home, but this year will most likely be a different story. The Oklahoma City Thunder is currently sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Barring any sort of situation where the Thunder just decide to lay down and take naps at half court in their nine remaining games, they look destined to be playing into the postseason. This would be Anthony’s first time to make the playoffs since 2013, and it would give him an opportunity to prove that he’s still got it at 33 years old.

The lore of Olympic Melo has been hanging over this team since the day Anthony was traded back in September. Everyone knew he would be most efficient alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George if he could resurrect his style of play from his time with Team USA, and that’s what they expected. When Oklahoma City struggled to capitalize on this new dynamic early in the season, we realized that was not going to happen anytime soon. That next-level Melo expectation quickly jumped up to the playoffs, and with that deadline approaching, we’re still wondering if he’ll be unleashed.

One of the most impressive basketball performances I’ve ever seen happened when Anthony scored 37 points in only 14 minutes in a 2012 Olympic game against Nigeria. He was absolutely unstoppable and shot 10-of-12 from beyond the arc. My extremely probable theory is that Nigeria somehow brought in Black Panther’s heart-shaped herb from Wakanda, and Anthony got a hold of it. The 2016 games in Rio were also a stage for Melo when a 31-point game on 52.4 percent shooting came at the expense of Australia.

Playing in the Olympics with a roster full of other superstars steered him away from his signature scoring form of holding the ball and staring into the defender’s soul before jab stepping him to death. He was able to do a lot less play making and a lot more play benefitting. Melo was on the receiving end of a good amount of drive and kick situations, which has now become his eventual place on the Thunder.

Melo has had to transition from being completely in control of the offense to being the third option for Oklahoma City. The man who once led the league in scoring currently averages 16.6 points per game, his lowest in his regular season career.

Another interesting factor of Melo’s new role is that he really doesn’t have any one aspect of his game that exclusively belongs to him. He could utilize various skills in his arsenal to get the job done in Denver and New York, but with the Thunder it seems like everyone else pretty much owns those skills.

Westbrook is in charge of the isolation game. Steven Adams handles business in the post. Even three-point shooting, which seems to be Melo’s most prevalent impact on this team, can often be taken over by George. This is why his part in the playoffs will probably be in the supporting cast rather than the main character.

He has proven to be a weapon from outside that can really add cushion to the score or keep the Thunder from being blown out. That will really come in handy against the Rockets or the Warriors and their high volume shooting. Oklahoma City has been picking up rhythm in the home stretch of the regular season, and Anthony has been shooting 45.5 percent from three over the last eight games ever since he sat out of the Portland game to rest on March 3rd.

“I feel really comfortable with him shooting the basketball from behind the line,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

Even if Melo was doing nothing but standing there, he would still provide the floor spacing that the Thunder have struggled with in the past. He’s taking shots further out than he ever has in previous years, shooting from an average distance of 17.1 feet. He can get really hot really fast, and no self-respecting defender would leave a shooter as dangerous as Anthony out on the perimeter, so driving lanes will open up for everyone else.

“This is why we wanted to join forces and come together for these type of moments and to gear up for the postseason,” Anthony said last week.

If Melo does decide to turn it up a notch in the playoffs and spend more time with the ball, he could seriously benefit from Oklahoma City’s screen-heavy style of play. Switches will give him the mismatch advantage almost every time where he would have a relatively easy way to score or make opportunities for assists.

After 15 seasons in the league playing for three different teams, Anthony’s game has certainly evolved over time. He’s in a completely different situation now than he was the last time he went to the playoffs, but his goal remains the same. The guy wants to win and will do whatever he can to help this team make it far.

Will we get to see Olympic Melo this year? I doubt it. He’s probably fresh out of heart-shaped herbs, but he will definitely provide the supplemental components the Thunder need to make a serious run in the playoffs. No matter what that ends up looking like, he will surely be a key ingredient in Oklahoma City’s success.

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Five Thoughts 3-12-18 (Thunder 106, Kings 101)

Five Thoughts 3-12-18 (Thunder 106, Kings 101)

1. Weird night. Thunder were all over the place. Defense in first half was a B+. Defense in third quarter was an F. Defense in fourth quarter was an A-. Offense was kind of herky jerky all night, but they hit three’s at an efficient rate (and it’s a good thing they did). I’ll give the Kings credit too— I didn’t think we tried to coast so much tonight as much as they just played pretty well. At the very least they played hard start to finish and didn’t wilt the handful of times it looked like we might pull away. Played them four times and had to scrape to go 3-1 against them. Our defense was atrocious in the third quarter when Sacramento racked up 39 points, but it was pretty darn good the rest of the night-they barely averaged 20 in the other three quarters.

2. Not sure what Donovan is doing with Abrines and TFerg. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Brewer is obviously the starter now. Huestis is being relegated to the very back of the rotation (I would remove him completely). Abrines had a nice game against San Antonio on Saturday. Tonight, TFerg is first off the bench and Abrines doesn’t get into the game until the fourth quarter. He subsequently hits two three’s that help the Thunder gain some distance. I don’t think either TFerg or Abrines is a particularly strong option off the bench, but at this point it’s likely made worse with the inconsistency of minutes. I’d just let Abrines be the first shooting guard off the bench—use TFerg if you need some extra relief. At this point I don’t see TFerg factoring into a playoff rotation, so I’d save his minutes for low stress stuff the rest of the regular season. Brewer’s emergence is allowing the rest of the rotation to settle in— Donovan needs to allow that to happen.

3. Speaking of rotations, Donovan has experimented with a subtle change in recent games that I think might work. Rather than stating the second and fourth quarter with Adams, Russ, PG, and Melo all on the bench, he has kept PG out there for the first 90 seconds or so to start each quarter. He then returns with Russ at his normal time. This bridges the gap a bit and limits the number of possessions the Thunder go all-bench on the floor. In the playoffs he may need to take this a step further and virtually eliminate the all-bench minutes. But by doing this now he’s allowing for a change to not be a cold turkey type of deal down the road. The offense is a wing and a prayer when Russ, Melo, and PG all sit together. Those minutes need to be mitigated.

4. I would like to freeze the standings tonight and keep it exactly the way it is until the end of the season. As good as Houston has been this year, come playoff time I still think any team would be better facing them than Golden State. Given a choice, I’ll choose to avoid the team with the better top line talent. Doesn’t mean I would be confident at all against the Rockets; just my preference if I had to choose. So I want to line up in the bracket with them. It looks like they will be the #1 seed. I also want home court in the first round. So the spot that accomplishes those two things is the 4 seed. That’s where we are today. This changes every hour or so it seems and we could still go anywhere from third to out of the playoffs, but we see a glimpse right now of what would be the ideal scenario for me— especially if we matched up with New Orleans in round one. As long as Houston stays at one, I don’t really care about getting the three seed— Portland is on fire so it may be moot anyway, but it’s not something I’m overly focused on. Stay in the top four, line up on opposite side from Warriors. That’s the aim.

5. Thunder have won 8 of 11 to go eleven games over .500 for the first time this year. It hasn’t exactly been a scintillating streak; at times it’s been shaky as hell, but it certainly beats the early season trend of losing to teams they should beat. And I like the defense lately. The Brewer addition has clearly been a positive as well. Tomorrow night in Atlanta is their last chance until the final game of the year to potentially take advantage of a bad team. After the Hawks, they will play 11 games in a row against teams either currently in the playoffs or within one game. This includes games against the top four teams in the league, three of which are on the road. Making sure they escape Atlanta with a win will provide them a little margin. It’s a big game. Hawks aren’t good and their roster is far worse from just the last time we saw them— they’ve unloaded some vets since then and have shelved Kent Bazemore for the season with an injury. That said, it’s a road game on a back to back in the NBA— those are always scary. Also seems like a good chance they will be without Adams. Thunder need to suck it up and find a way to get out with a W by any means necessary. Pretty, ugly, disgusting, beautiful. Who cares. Just don’t lose.

 

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. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!