Just when you start to think the Thunder had turned the corner, it was another disappointing loss to an inferior Portland team that was without its leading scorer in Damian Lillard. What’s more, Oklahoma City showed a total lack of effort on their home floor against an opponent directly below them in the standings.
The Thunder’s offense started the game looking just as it had early on the in the season: a lot of isolation, difficult shots, and no fast breaks. While Russell Westbrook and Paul George were able to keep the team afloat for the first half with stellar individual play, Portland built up a 20 point lead early in the fourth quarter and coasted to the finish line.
What makes this loss so frustrating is that the Blazers have now overtaken the Thunder in the western conference standings for fifth place. At 22-19, there’s a possibility of the Thunder dropping all the way to seventh place tomorrow night if they lose to the Timberwolves and Denver beats lowly Atlanta. It’s not an inspiring start to the 15-game stretch that I called the most important of the season.
63: The number of combined points by Oklahoma City’s three stars. However, Westbrook and George combined for just 14 points in the second half on 5 of 16 from the floor.
16: The number of points scored by Steven Adams, who did his thing offensively but managed only 6 rebounds and looked lethargic on the defensive end.
27: The number of combined points by everyone else. Yikes. Outside of Raymond Felton’s 13 points, none of the role players were even involved in the offense, or ever threatened the opposing defenders.
8: Outside of Russell Westbrook’s 12 dimes, the rest of the Thunder roster only recorded 8 assists. It’s really hard to figure out anyone else who can create shots for other people.
1: The Brodie was one rebound shy of his 15th triple double of the season. Between you and I, he didn’t deserve it.
46: Portland scored 46 points in the paint, with most of that damage coming in the second half. Not exactly inspired defense being played out there.
2: How many fastbreak points did the Thunder have in the first half? Yep, just 2. The faster this team plays the better, but in the first half they were content to just walk up and down the floor.
Even more encouraging than the wins and losses, the Thunder team looked like it was having fun again during the successful December. The fun and the wins were hand in hand. But the last two games? There was no fun to be found.
More than nonchalance, the team looked flat out disengaged for most of Tuesday night’s game. It’s a roster that’s not exactly full of high-energy players, and when Westbrook plays with more annoyance than passion, there isn’t a lot of positive energy going around. At one point in the second half, the Blazers were 13 of 15 in the paint, which can really only happen due to lack of energy rather than lack of defensive talent.
It’s surprising to see after Sunday’s game, in which the team had the same energy issues. Returning home against a team you’re battling with for playoff position, I’m not sure how that happened once again.
Alright guys, let’s agree to never question Andre Roberson’s value again, okay? In the four games that Dre has been out, the Thunder’s defense has struggled mightily. In his place Terrance Ferguson has looked very much like the rookie that he is since his huge debut against the Lakers, and Josh Huestis went scoreless in 15 minutes of play against the Blazers.
At the moment, it’s hard to point to any one role player who can be counted on consistently. Raymond Felton sure likes to get shots up, and he’s made more than anyone could have expected so far this season, but I’m not sure Thunder fans are breathing easy because he checks into a game. Every great team gets those random awesome games from role players, such as Portland’s 21 points from Shabazz Napier on Tuesday (not to say Portland is a great team). Those instances come exceedingly rarely for the Thunder right now.
One Happy Note
Hey guys, at least one cool thing happened!
Abrines. After a healthy scratch on Sunday night, his fourth consecutive game without seeing playing time after a groin injury, Abrines returned to the floor on Tuesday night. His second possession on the floor, he nailed a corner three. On his third possession, he clanged one from the same spot on the floor. He finished with 7 points, though the other four were a pair of free throws and a layup in garbage time. Meh.
Melo. During one of Nick Gallo’s sideline reports, he talked about Anthony’s signature side-swipe motion that he uses to block (or attempt to block) shots. Gallo said that Melo told him he studies opposing players’ shooting motions, so that he knows the correct angle to swipe at. Which is hilarious, and also not true.
Fouls. The Thunder let the Blazers have 19 free throws in the first half. Tough defense is one thing, but it’s impossible to have an efficient defense when you’re giving away that many freebies.
Russ. Obviously the team wasn’t too happy with the loss, but this isn’t exactly a great sign.