SIX THINGS FROM THE LAST WEEK OF THUNDER BASKETBALL
Throughout the season, Carmelo Anthony has been a constant source of consternation in the Week in Review. While undoubtedly talented, third fiddle is not a role Anthony has ever experienced, nor has he been quick to adapt. But maybe there is hope. In the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, he took a season-low seven shots, and took just 10 in the win over the San Antonio Spurs. In the Thunder victories, Anthony takes about four fewer shot attempts per game.
The key here is that while Anthony can and should be a key part of the team and the offense, he cannot and should not be a dominant part of the offense. When he is, like the debacle against the Brooklyn Nets last night, the Thunder is just plain worse.
One guy that has not received nearly enough praise in the Week in Review is Steven Adams. There was some disappointment with is play last season after signing a $100 million contract extension. And while Adams had a solid season last year, he fell short of the massive expectations conferred upon him. This year though, Adams is playing like one of the best two-way centers in the league. His season splits of 13.4 points, 64 percent shooting, 66 percent free throw shooting, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals are all career-bests. Really, he’s a less flashy, but more polished DeAndre Jordan. He is a beast in the middle, can flush down lobs, has great touch around the rim, clogs the paint, and provides excellent help defense. If the NBA All-Star voting still had a dedicated center spot, you can bet Adams would be in the mix — he’s off to an unbelievable start this season.
Steven Adams with the Euro-Step.
Speaking of Adams, last Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves he had probably the play of the year.
With Paul George out against the Nets, Billy Donovan turned to Josh Hue….wait…Kyle Singler to play an increased role. The 23 minutes played by Singler were his first “real” minutes all year. I’ll tell you what — he got up some shots. He went 3-9 shooting (but 2-4 from deep), and in the play of the night, converted an and-one which led Russell Westbrook to attempt to slap some style into Singler’s hair.
Hasta la vista.
The Nets, without Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, and the just-traded Trevor Booker, looked over-matched through the first 12 minutes in Mexico City. After the first quarter, the Thunder was shooting 48 percent from the field, holding the Nets to just 30 percent, and raced out to a 13 point lead.
After that, the Nets outscored the Thunder 80-62. But you know what? This is just the norm for the Thunder, who has now lost eight straight road games and has lost to sub-par teams like the Kings, Magic, and Mavericks. It was another loss with a double-digit lead blown, punctuated by a lack of defensive focus and utterly terrible shot selection.
It being the Nets, the Thunder was able to keep it close, but those possessions in the final two minutes were a joke — the punchline being the Thunder’s possession with just under a minute to go and down by five.
Westbrook gets the ball several feet from the three-point line, dribbles a bit, and then launches a contested off-balance three with ten seconds to go on the shot clock. Not only is that an awful shot, but Adams is well beyond the paint trying to set a screen and everyone else is behind the three-point line. So not only did Westbrook launch a prayer, not a single player is in position to get a rebound if the prayer went unanswered.
In a fact that may only interest me, the Thunder’s win over the San Antonio Spurs marked the first time all season the Thunder won a game with a negative net rating. There have been 16 such games in the NBA this season, involving 14 different teams.