SIX THINGS FROM THE LAST WEEK OF THUNDER BASKETBALL
On October 31, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Milwaukee Bucks to move to 4-3 on the season. The Thunder lost its next four games, starting a run of 46 straight days at or below .500 — a run that finally ended on Wednesday night with a win over the Utah Jazz. Let’s hope this stint over .500 lasts longer than the last.
In quite possibly the game of the year, the Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers needed 63 minutes of basketball to declare a winner. The game was full of drama, from Joel Embiid’s incredible block of Russell Westbrook with less than eight seconds to go in the first overtime, to Andre Roberson getting hacked on a missed shot with two seconds to go in the second overtime, to Roberson’s redemptive game-winner with nine seconds left in the third overtime, to, finally, Patrick Patterson’s game-saving block of a J.J. Reddick three as the clock ran out on the game.
Oh, and then, after the game, Westbrook and Embiid exchanged some pleasantries, with Westbrook telling Embiid “bye bye” (in follow up to Embiid waving goodbye after Steven Adams fouled out in OT3), and Embiid barking back that he was, in fact, already home.
What a fun game.
How in the world does a guy who’s played 50 minutes of basketball pull off a dunk like this?
For years the Thunder was one of the league’s best at converting free throws, but this season the Thunder has been garbage from the line. The Thunder makes just 71 percent of its attempts, good enough for 29th in the league (out of thirty teams, for what it’s worth). It’s been a weird deal, with several quality free throw shooters finding themselves unable to make one of the easiest shots in basketball. Westbrook, a career 82 percent FT shooter, is making just 71 percent this season. Both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are shooting five percentage points below their career averages.
Though the Thunder has been winning lately (7-3 over the last 10), it hasn’t always been pretty, and those three losses were super ugly. But, in the Thunder’s first double-digit win since November 22 (against the Golden State Warriors), the team looked like it was finally having fun and playing with energy for a full 48 minutes. In addition to how much fun the team was having, the thing I liked most was the effort displayed on the defensive end. The Thunder wanted to stop the Jazz on every possession and let defensive energy light the fuse for the offense.
Boy did it light a fuse for the offense…