Thunder Scraps Back, but Falls to Wolves at the Buzzer
Coming off a sloppy loss to the Jazz on Saturday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder had opportunity to quickly right the ship at home on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota led throughout, but OKC used strong bench play and a furious fourth quarter from Russell Westbrook to scrap back into position. Carmelo Anthony hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining, and it appeared as though the Thunder would escape with the win.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, Andrew Wiggins had other plans.
Wiggins finished the game with 27 points — the last three coming on the Hail Mary that ended the game. As such, the Thunder fell to 1-2 for the season, and will now look to collect itself before Wednesday’s visit from the Indiana Pacers.
Let’s get into some thoughts.
Westbrook: 31 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 5/8 3P
Westbrook was the catalyst for the Thunder’s comeback attempt, scoring 15 of his 31 in the fourth quarter. He again appeared too passive in the early going, but with OKC trailing by 13 headed into the final frame, he went vintage 2K16 Westbrook en route to bringing the Thunder to the brink of victory.
As was seen in the first game of the season, the Thunder is infinitely better when Westbrook controls the pace. The loss is by no means on his shoulders, but the entire complexion of the contest changed when his level of aggression spiked in the fourth quarter. He will need to set the tone earlier for OKC moving forward.
Anthony: 23 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, 2/7 3P
Melo shot 9/19 for the evening, but his 2/7 from long range leaves a lot to be desired. Even still, he looked most comfortable of the Thunder big three in the early going, and again buoyed the offense while running with the second unit. A Melo-oriented lineup went on a 12-2 run early in the fourth quarter and staged the furious comeback attempt late. He also hit the almost-game-winner, but his rebounding is still a question mark.
George: 14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 1/8 3P
PG13 had a very quiet night in OKC, scoring 14 points on 6/20 from the field. The 1/8 from downtown was an atrocious effort from deep, and he’s now shooting an average of 10 three-pointers per game through the first three contests. Regardless, he pitched in 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and his overall knack for strong play defensively. He needs to find a better rhythm in the offense, and should probably look to get closer to the basket more frequently. Many of his shots didn’t have the legs behind them tonight.
“Who takes the final shot?”
Much has been made about the dilemma Oklahoma City may face in crunch time. With three players well-accustomed to getting the looks when they matter most, the potential for hiccups exists. There was an interesting look into this subplot tonight versus Minnesota.
The Thunder trailed by three with just 0:59 to play, and had three offensive possessions (all successful) that followed. Those possessions broke down as follows:
- Russell Westbrook drive-and-finish
- Westbrook three-pointer
- Carmelo Anthony three-pointer, assisted by Westbrook
Although the Thunder ultimately lost the game, there wasn’t a clear power struggle in the closing minutes, as Westbrook dominated the decision-making in crunch time. He appeared decisive with his shot selection, and found Melo for an open three-pointer on what was nearly the game-winner. It might not always come this natural, but for one night the offensive crunch time responsibilities weren’t an issue.
That near game-winner on the pass from Westbrook to Melo. Just like you draw them up.
What’s up with Dre?
Andre Roberson’s final stat line: 0 points, 0/4 shooting, 0/2 free throws, -21
Making matters worse, he airballed two free throw attempts in the third quarter, and was on the bench for much of the Thunder’s late bid for a comeback — losing time to Alex Abrines (+13) for all but a few seconds late in the contest. Roberson did receive more playing time on the night, 22 minutes to Abrines’ 14 minutes, but couldn’t get on the court even as Andrew Wiggins destroyed the Thunder in the final minutes.
It feels like we do this every year, but age-old question is now back in play: Is Andre Roberson too flawed offensively to be dependable in close games? As always, that’s not easy to answer — as you’ll see Billy Donovan try to communicate after some pushing from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
This will be interesting to watch develop as things progress, but it hasn’t been the strongest of starts from Roberson. As Billy D stated above, the spacing that Abrines provides is extremely important to what the Thunder is trying to do. The argument could also be made that Wiggins doesn’t score 27 points if Roberson guards him exclusively down the stretch.
I presume this Dre dilemma will continue far past tonight, but time is certainly a flat circle in regards to this topic.
It’s not a sexy topic to discuss, because very little of Steven Adams’ game is sexy, but again — Adams was very effective for the Thunder tonight. He finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks, and played physical defense all night. He shot 8/12, grabbed 8 offensive rebounds, and just looks like a guy that is revitalized in the new Thunder landscape.
As a lot of his looks are coming off offensive rebounds, it would be nice to see him involved more from an offensive flow standpoint. He’s averaging 10.5 points on 73 percent shooting early in this Thunder season, and is playing about as hard as one can possibly play. Another solid effort tonight.
This full-court bomb to Westbrook was easily Adams’ play of the night.
Not time to panic
The first game of the season saw good Thunder, the second saw bad Thunder, and tonight versus Minnesota there was a surprising amount of both. There’s nothing going on with this team that suggests it’s not on track to figure this out, and it’s too early to even begin to form a complete opinion. Deep breaths.
- Rookie Terrance Ferguson twisted his ankle in pregame warm-ups, but was available for the Thunder if needed. He did not see any action, which gave way to 14 scoreless minutes from Josh Huestis. He did add two blocks and four rebounds.
- Raymond Felton was the best point guard in a Thunder jersey for the entire first half tonight. He finished with 12 points on 5/7 shooting, and wrapped up the night with a +23 — highest on the team by a long shot.
- Jerami Grant was a +7 and scored 12 points on 4/5 shooting. He continues to fend off Patrick Patterson for minutes, who logged 5:50, missed both his shot attempts, and has yet to score a point for the Thunder.
- The Thunder was out-rebounded 45-36. Not good.
- Minnesota was 19/23 from the line (82.6 percent) while OKC was 10/16 (62.5 percent).
- The Thunder won the fast break battle by a score of 20-6.
- Minnesota turned the ball over 18 times to OKC’s 11, but scored 10 more points off their forced turnovers than did the Thunder (23-13).
Paul George on letting Westbrook set the pace, his shooting struggles, and more:
Carmelo Anthony discusses the fourth quarter, Raymond Felton, and facing Paul George’s former team on Wednesday: