Thunder Melts Down, Drops Game in Sacramento
The Thunder dropped its third straight tonight in Sacramento, falling to a Kings team that entered losers of seven straight. Though the game got off to a promising start for Oklahoma City, familiar issues arose and brought the team’s effectiveness to a screeching halt. Poor spacing, no consistency, a lack of chemistry, and more — it was an ugly effort all around.
OKC falls to 4-6 on the season, with the Kings moving to 2-8. The Thunder will be back in action on Thursday night in Denver, and then heading to Los Angeles for a Friday night showdown with the Clippers.
Let’s dive into it.
The First Half
In order to understand the absurdity that was the first half, let’s break it down by quarter.
The Thunder led 25-10 after the first quarter — a 15 point lead that wasn’t nearly enough. The Kings started the game 0/11 and didn’t score until the 6:20 mark, but OKC failed to capitalize in every way. When Sacramento got its first bucket after being scoreless for half the quarter, the Thunder lead was just 10-3.
Oklahoma City started 4/5 from the field, but then went ice cold — shooting 4/16 from that point forward. The Thunder lead reached as much as 17 in the first, but the offense was sloppy, the players looked frustrated, and the wheels started loosening. Didn’t feel right, despite the double-digit difference.
Roles reversed in the second quarter, as the Kings scored with ease while the Thunder went frigid. Buddy Hield lit up for 11 points in the first five minutes, with the Sacramento bench scoring the team’s first 29 points of the game. The OKC offense was out of control, the Kings got hot from beyond the arc, and it just didn’t look like the Thunder would recover. There was a lot of game left, but the guys clearly didn’t have it.
The Kings led 41-40 at the break, but the tone was set with the early Thunder collapse. Sacramento outscored OKC 32-16 in the second quarter — completely erasing that 0/11 start and double-digit deficit. The Thunder had plenty of opportunities to win it later, but it felt like the game was lost in the final 20 minutes of the first half.
OK3 Struggles Continue
It was a really ugly night for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Their stats:
Westbrook: 20 pts, 12 reb, 6 ast, 7 TO, 7/21 FG, 2/8 3P, +2
George: 12 pts, 6 reb, 3 stl, 4/16 FG, 3/9 3P, -2
Anthony: 16 pts, 7 reb, 4/17 FG, 3/9 3P, -21
For those not counting at home, that’s a combined 48 points on 15/54 shooting — or 27 percent. You don’t come back from that.
For Westbrook, he was again cantankerous and moody — playing out of control and with careless abandon. George again settled for jumpers instead of forcing the action. Melo shot too much and contributed virtually nothing. Hardly what was expected against a Kings team that has struggled to stop anyone thus far.
I’m still confident they figure it out, but it would be a stretch to say that it’s improved much at all through ten games. The roles aren’t clearly defined yet, and the team is sputtering for it.
What is Going On?
The Kings were 1-8 and had lost seven straight coming into the game, so clearly something went terribly awry for the Thunder. Some of the issues are easy to pinpoint, while others feel deeper rooted. Either way, it’s a team still searching for an identity, and appearing frustrated when coming up empty.
From an x’s-and-o’s standpoint, the Thunder lacks anything remotely close to a plan on offense. The spacing is non-existent, the system hasn’t matched the personnel, and no one looks comfortable executing a set. There has been incredible amounts of iso-ball, followed by stretches of insane over-passing. For a team that should be eating open looks for breakfast, most of the attempts are anything but.
On the flip side, the overall attitude needs to improve. Body language is bad and tempers have been flaring. As bad as the referees have been at times, there’s been too much barking about that. The growing pains on this roster are very real, and the Thunder doesn’t look to be having much fun on the basketball court. It’s obvious.
At the end of the day, there is a difference between being talented and being good. The Thunder is a very talented team, but just not a very good one right now. That should and will change — but the current approach isn’t going to get it done. Should look better than this through ten games.
- OKC shot 33 percent on the night, compared to 47 percent for the Kings.
- After trailing 25-10 after one quarter, Sacramento outscored the Thunder 57-32 through quarters two and three.
- The Thunder bench was outscored 53-20, and the Kings’ reserves can be attributed with this win. They scored the first 29 points of the game for Sacramento, and sparked the team when it looked dead out of the gate.
- Oklahoma City was 10/17 from the paint in the first half, and just 3/13 from the rest of the floor. As fate would have it, the team completely abandoned the interior approach in the second half. Steven Adams — who had 10 points in the first quarter — finished with 14 in the game.
- The Thunder was again beaten on the boards, with the Kings taking a 47-44 advantage.
- OKC took 37 three-pointers, making just 10 of them. The team is rich with capable shooters, but it’s not as if the Thunder is Golden State or Houston. Far too many bad looks from downtown.
- Zach Randolph rose from the dead and scored 18 points in the second half for Sacramento. His ability to put points on the board down the stretch made a big difference.
- De’Aaron Fox played 24 minutes, scoring 10 points and dishing out 8 assists. He’s going to be a problem.
- Russell Westbrook was hit with a Flagrant 1 on another very questionable call from the officials. Carmelo Anthony was hit with a technical in this one, as well.
Back in action Thursday at Denver. 9:30 PM CT tip on TNT and Fox Sports Oklahoma.