Week in Review: Homesick
So, let’s start with something positive: the Oklahoma City Thunder went unbeaten at home this week. Problem was, the Thunder played just a single home game and went 1-2 on the road. The two road losses included a frustrating loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. On the season, the Thunder now sit at 25-18, ranking sixth in the Western Conference.
SIX THINGS FROM THE WEEK
Russell Westbrook passes Magic Johnson. Despite an awful performance (by his standards) in a loss to the Timberwolves, Westbrook notched his 19th triple double of season, exceeding Magic Johnson’s modern standard of 18 in a single season. Westbrook added another against the Sacramento Kings, and now sits tied with Wilt Chamberlain for seventh all-time.
Russell Westbrook’s all-star campaign. Fan voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game concluded last night. Through January 12, however, Westbrook ranked sixth overall in fan voting, and third among “guards” in the Western Conference. It’s almost a travesty that Westbrook trailed Stephen Curry by nearly 100,000 votes when Westbrook is having a historic season (while Curry is having a “down” season). Fortunately, with media and NBA players making up 50% of the vote, Westbrook will assuredly be an All-Star, and potentially still a starter.
No Adams, big problems. In the third quarter of the Sunday’s game against the Kings, Steven Adams tumbled and knocked his head against the playing surface, suffering a concussion. As a result, Adams entered the league’s concussion protocol and missed Monday’s tilt against the Clippers. The Thunder sorely missed Adams. DeAndre Jordan, Marreese Speights (say what?) and the Clippers absolutely destroyed the Thunder inside, as OKC gave up 62 points in the paint, 10 offensive rebounds, and 14 second-chance points. For good measure, Jordan also swatted four shots as the Clippers took the Thunder behind the woodshed en route to a 22-point victory.
Domantas Sabonis reminds us he’s a rookie. As of December 24, 2016, rookie Domantas Sabonis was impressing Thunder fans with his three-point shooting, knocking down 44% of his attempts from deep. Since then, however, Sabonis has struggled to say the least, shooting just 17% from three. In fact, over the 13 games played since December 24, Sabonis has managed to make just 5 triples.
This is not how you close out a game. With 1:08 remaining against the Kings, the Thunder held a 114-102 advantage, and appeared ready to cruise to a double-digit road win. The Kings, however, had other plans, beginning with a Darren Collison three to cut the lead to 9. Over the final 49 seconds, the Thunder turned the ball over twice (which the Kings turned into five points), and allowed the Kings to score six more points with the clock stopped on free throws (including a three-shot foul committed by Victor Oladipo). In all, the Kings outscored the Thunder 16-4 in 57 seconds, before Victor Oladipo iced the game with two free throws with 11 seconds to go. Anytime you give up 16 points in less than a minute, that’s not very good. It’s doubly bad when you do so in the final minute of a game. Luckily, the Thunder held on for the win.
The Thunder’s MO. Over halfway through the season now, the Thunder’s offensive MO has taken shape. The Thunder rely heavily on interior scoring and free throws, ranking second in the NBA in points in the paint and sixth in free throw scoring. As a result, a whopping 69 points per game are scored by the Thunder in these two categories, most in the league. The Thunder need these points, as they are among the worst in outside shooting. The Thunder convert threes at a rate of just 32.5%, second worst in the NBA. Even more concerning, despite having one of the league’s most fearsome rim attackers in Westbrook, Westbrook kickouts to open shooters are a losing proposition. The Thunder struggle in catch and shoot situations, converting just 34% from three (second worst in the NBA), and 35% overall (worst in the NBA). Long story short, the Thunder desperately need outside shooting.
AND ONE MORE MAKES SEVEN
Jerami Grant belongs in the dunk contest. This happened. In a game.