Wednesday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings capped a three-game losing streak and left the Thunder an underwhelming 8-8, and an even more unimpressive 2-7 after the 6-1 start. Thankfully, the Thunder rallied to win the final three games of the week to push back above .500.
THREE GOOD THINGS
Microwave Morrow. After struggling in limited action through the first 16 games of the year, Billy Donovan decided to unhinge Anthony Morrow and give him the most consistent minutes he’s received all season. Morrow rewarded Donovan’s confidence by averaging 15 points per game with shooting splits of 63/62/75 during the Thunder’s current three-game winning streak. The biggest benefit is that Morrow has given the bench a first-option scoring threat, as Morrow has settled into a role as a creator rather than just parking beyond the arc.
Bench Scoring. Through the first 16 games of the year, the Thunder managed decent production from the bench (32.9 points per game). During the latest 3-game winning streak, however, the Thunder’s bench production has shot up to 46 points per game. Not only has the bench produced, but it has produced efficiently over that span, with an offensive rating of 115 and a collective true shooting % of 61.3. Microwave Morrow certainly contributed mightily to this effort, but Enes Kanter (16.7 points per game) and Joffrey Lauvergne (9 points per game) also provided significant contributions.
Stealing a Win. With 3:07 left to go in Friday night’s game against the Nuggets, the Thunder trailed by 10. After clawing back into the game, a Jameer Nelson 3-pointer stretched the lead back up to 5 with just 1:36 remaining. After hitting an 18-footer to bring the Thunder within 3, Victor Oladipo makes the play of the week by darting in front of a Nikola Jokic pass and taking it all the way to the hoop to pull the Thunder within one. The Thunder would go on to win in overtime.
THREE BAD THINGS
Semaj Christon. After returning from a concussion and a displaced left facial fracture suffered in the November 18 win against the Brooklyn Nets, Donovan admitted that Christon seemed “uncomfortable” wearing the mask protecting his injured face. I would have to agree. In limited minutes this week, Christon failed to convert any of his 6 shots and managed just 6 assists and 1 rebound in 28 minutes of action. In fairness, Christon looked more “comfortable” in last night’s win over the Knicks, logging 4 assists and 1 rebound in 12 minutes of play, but Christon as the back-up PG has not been promising. When Christon is on the court, the Thunder post a net rating of -9 per nbawowy.com. When he’s off the court, the Thunder post a net rating of +7–a 16 point swing.
Back to Backs. To date, the Thunder have played four back to backs, going just 3-5. Until Saturday night’s win over the Pistons, the Thunder had yet to win on the second night of a back to back. What’s most frustrating is that 4 of the 5 losses came against teams at or below .500 (Pistons, Magic, Lakers). When the scheduling gods look kindly upon you, you should make the most of your blessings.
Nick Young. Just when it looked like the Thunder may survive on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers–thanks to Steven Adams’s putback with 13 seconds remaining–a series of unfortunate events ultimately led to a “L.” With both the Laker-offense and Thunder-defense scrambling, Nick Young intercepts a pass intended for Lou Williams, then travels (as admitted by the NBA the following day), before launching a 27 footer that falls to give the Lakers a 2-point advantage and, ultimately, the win.
ONE MORE THING
35. While this number may bring up painful thoughts for Thunder fans, Westbrook is on pace to put a more positive spin on the digits. Through 19 games, Westbrook has 8 triple doubles, which puts him on pace for nearly 35 this season. Oh by the way, 35 would be second-most all time in a single season, behind Oscar Robertson’s unthinkable 41 in 1961-62. Second place is currently held by Wilt Chamberlain, who notched 31 in 1973-74. Westbrook is also averaging a triple-double this season: 30.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 11.3 assists per game.