One step forward — another step back.
After dismantling the defending champion Golden State Warriors by 17 on Wednesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder entered Friday’s contest against Detroit with renewed optimism. The Thunder had a characteristic strong start — taking a 10 point lead into halftime and building a 15 point advantage early in the third quarter.
Familiar issues arose from the there, as the Oklahoma City offense stalled out and only scored 39 points in the second half. The Pistons took advantage, outscoring OKC by 11 in quarters two and three — eventually edging the Thunder by a score of 99-98 after Russell Westbrook’s potential buzzer-beater came up empty.
The Thunder falls to 8-10 on the season but returns to action quickly tonight on the road in Dallas. Let’s discuss last night’s letdown.
Same old song and dance
The game was a real bummer for anyone expecting the Thunder to build on its most impressive win of the season. OKC scored 59 points in the first half and looked well on its way to bringing the record back to .500 after shooting 51 percent in the first two quarters. The second half brought about tougher sledding, as OKC shot 31 percent after halftime and had its offense grind to a screeching halt.
In a fourth quarter that saw the Thunder shoot 8/30, there were plenty of opportunities to come away with the win. The OK3 combined to go 5/23 from the field in the last 12 minutes, routinely missing open looks that could have tilted the game toward a different outcome. The ugly offense came to a head on the final play of the game, as Russell Westbrook took a three as time expired despite the Thunder only needing a two.
In a way it was the perfect ending to the game, if only because everyone in the arena knew what would happen. The play was prime Westbrook and defeats the purpose of having Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder has now blown a double-digit lead in eight of its 10 losses.
Good Russ/Bad Russ
In a tale as old as time, we got a lot of Good Russ and Bad Russ last night against the Pistons. He blazed through the first quarter, putting up 14 points and controlling the tempo of the game. He was leading the charge, directing his teammates and all seemed right in the world.
Then the wheels came off.
Westbrook shot 3/13 in the second half, finishing the game with 27 points on 10/29 shooting — including 1/10 from downtown. He recorded a 27-11-11 triple-double, but turned the ball over five times and was very ineffective in the game’s most important moments. All would have been forgiven had the final shot gone down, but it ends up being the final derogatory mark on another inconsistent effort from the reigning MVP.
Paul George. Paul George wrapped up the night with 16 points on 7/17 shooting. He again packed the stat sheet full of steals — snagging five more — but grabbed only two rebounds and went 2/8 from deep. He looked to have it going in the third quarter, but failed to make any noise offensively with the game on the line.
Carmelo. Really ugly night for Carmelo Anthony. The 10x All-Star contributed 20 points, but shot just 9/24 from the field and 2/6 from downtown. He was 8/14 in the first half, but shot 1/10 from the field after halftime and sucked the life out of too many Thunder possessions.
Outside the OK3. The two starters outside of the OK3 were actually pretty good. Steven Adams recorded his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds — finishing with a +5. Andre Roberson scored 10 points and hit a massive three-pointer late. He shot 4/5 from the field, 2/3 from deep and wrapped up as a team-high +11.
Poor bench play. The Thunder bench combined for 12 points on Wednesday against the Warriors, but it was overlooked due to the surprising win. The reserves were bad again on Friday against Detroit, contributing 13 total points and providing virtually no backup on a night the starters were bad.
Rebounds/Paint. The Pistons out-rebounded OKC 56-49 but the Thunder scored 50 points in the paint to Detroit’s 38.
On the run. OKC blitzed the Warriors in transition but could not get it going against the Pistons. Detroit won the fast break battle by a score of 19-7.