Déjà Vu struck again as the Oklahoma City Thunder fell 121-108 to the Orlando Magic in what now seems to be an average game for the Thunder. The team started out strong on the defensive end and with good flow offensively, but failed to capitalize on numerous easy looks. Down by two at halftime, OKC was poised to take a commanding lead once they started knocking down open opportunities. Alas, the scoring never lasted.
With the offense in chaos with midway through the third quarter, Billy Donovan pulled Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony to see if the bench unit, along with Paul George, could recreate the rhythm established earlier — but it never materialized. The Orlando lead ballooned in the fourth quarter as Carmelo Anthony and Westbrook sat, and with eight and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Donovan put Raymond Felton, Russ, Andre Roberson, Melo, and Steven Adams in the game to try and spur a comeback down 22.
Russ tried to reproduce his magic — no pun intended — from last year’s bout in Orlando which featured one of Russ’ quintessential MVP moments. It was a valiant effort late but in the end the lead Orlando was insurmountable.
Now with the Thunder sitting at 8-12, the organization is faced with some pretty daunting questions, and Russell Westbrook knows it. This was the scene after the game:
Billy Donovan hasn’t figured out his rotation and seems to be almost picking names at random rather than finding the perfect matchups. The Thunder saw the most offensive success against the Magic with stretch bigs who could bring the slow Orlando big men out from under the rim, and played the best defense when utilizing heavy switching and size.
Instead of utilizing the players that succeed at attacking those weaknesses, Donovan went the exact opposite. Terrance Ferguson played the sixth man role tonight, and while he flashed some nice IQ in the first half, his size ultimately countered him. Donovan never reacted, instead giving Ferguson 19 minutes. Meanwhile, Aaron Gordon went off for 40 points and Josh Huestis remained in his warmups all game.
Donovan may love to experiment with rotations during the season, but at some point you can’t keep sacrificing wins for the sake of experimentation
Andre Roberson played one of his best games of the season. He seems to have learned Melo’s timing because not only did he get a nice feed from Melo for an easy bucket, he also collected six offensive rebounds in part because of the space given to him.
His final stat line:
Roberson: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, +1
It’s pretty clear that when the Thunder is passing the ball, Roberson can be the fifth man. But when the ball movement stops, he becomes very hard to play at the same time as Steven Adams.
P.S. — Interesting to note that Roberson was the only starter with a positive plus-minus.
While Russ finished with a line of 37 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, his 20 points in the fourth quarter altered the appearance of what was mostly a disappointing night. He made some good choices in the first half, but was often rushing his passes — leading to his 7 turnovers.
Too often Bad Russ takes over when Good Russ gets frustrated, but that has been the career long struggle for him. It just so happens that this season, more often than not, Bad Russ has taken over in the latter half of games.
Paul George was up and down. He was elite in the first half with 15 points, but failed to keep a rhythm (see a trend here?) and scored only 7 points in the second half. He did have 5 rebounds and 5 assists, but led the team in minutes (40) while having the second lowest plus-minus at -12.
Carmelo Anthony had an off shooting night like most of his team, going 5/16 for 16 points. He started out strong from the 3-point line at 3/6 until the 3rd quarter struck. He had one of his better rebounding games with seven and had the second highest plus-minus of the starters at -3.
The entire team struggled to buy a bucket, shooting only 39.6 percent from the field on 96 attempted shots. On the flip side, Orlando shot a blistering 59.2 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from deep.
- Paul George scored 7 of his first 12 points on drives to the rim. The best version of PG is when he is attacking the cup consistently. The problem is that he doesn’t keep at it in the third and fourth quarter when he’s the only star on the floor.
- OKC won the rebounding battle 48-37 with a 21-2 edge on the offensive glass.
- Oklahoma City had just three assists in the second half compared to 14 in the first, marking a major tonal difference in style.
- The Magic shot 81.8 percent at the rim in what was possibly Steven Adams worst defensive game of his career.
- OKC only managed a poultry 84.8 points/per 100 plays in the half-court compared to Orlando’s 121.6. While the Thunder stayed deadly in transition, the team could not sustain anything in the half-court.
- Aaron Gordon finished with 40 points and 15 rebounds for Orlando, absolutely decimating the Thunder every time he touched the ball.
- Worth monitoring:
Antonio Daniels preaching after the game: