Thunder Stories

The Weekly Critique: Thunder Peaking at The Right Time

The past week has been very positive for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Four wins and no losses. Considering the absence of Victor Oladipo, the second best scorer (probably player) on the team, this result is pretty good. The Thunder are now 5th in the Western Conference with a (20-12) record.

The Games:

Oklahoma City at New Orleans: 121-110
Oklahoma City at Boston: 117-112
Oklahoma City vs Minnesota: 112-100
Oklahoma City at Miami: 106-94

Four Observations:

Russell Westbrook.

He is playing the best basketball of his career. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double after 32 games, fifteen total already this season and his numbers are tremendously helping the Thunder winning. In the past four games, he averaged 36.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 11 assists. All of it while playing only 34.5 minutes per game. His shooting percentages were pretty high as well: 48% FG, 42.1% 3PT, 84.9% FT.

The bench.

This season, the Thunder’s bench was considered the weakest spot on this team. Lately, though, things changed: In the past four games, the bench averaged 46.3 points. This set it as the 4th best bench in the league in scoring in the last seven days. The bench not only scored at a high rate, it also shot very well. The Thunder’s bench is shooting 53% from the floor in the past four games, which makes them second best in the league. Remarkable players coming off the bench, besides Enes Kanter, are Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant who have been outstanding in my opinion. The Spanish rookie is showing us that he can be a trustworthy shooter from outside the arc: 13-26 from 3 in the past week. In addition, he is not only waiting in the corner but he can also create his own shot. Grant is an athletic player who can guard multiple positions, dunks, he is shooting well from three, and blocks shots.

Stache Brothers.

Steven Adams and Enes Kanter played very well in the last seven days. The Kiwi averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. However, it’s not only about stats. His contribution on the defensive end is big. Just think about the two big plays he had versus Boston last Friday in the last minutes. Yesterday he battled Whiteside and allowed him to grab only eight rebounds (he is the NBA leader with 14.7).
Enes Kanter is improving in front of our own eyes. His defense is not killing anymore the Thunder and he became the playmaker on offense when Russell Westbrook sits. Kanter receives the ball in the low post, reads the defense and either attacks the basket or if he is doubled up he passes it to the open man. A proof of his improvement: before this past week he was averaging 0.7 assists per game. In the past 4 games, he averaged 2.3 assists per game.

Injuries.

Victor Oladipo and Cameron Payne are still out. The Thunder are 5-3 without Oladpio, 5-1 in the last six games. Although both seem close to coming back, it is still uncertain exactly when. It will be also interesting to see how the rotations will change and how the bench will adapt. It might take a few games but adding two good players like Oladipo and Payne should make this team only better.

Top 3 plays of the week:

Russell Westbrook is clutch this season. This was huge to get the win in Boston:

Enes “Magic” Kanter vs the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Steven Adams all over Hassan Whiteside:

Up Next:

The next week is not going to be easy for the Thunder. Big games ahead starting in Memphis on Thursday, at home vs the Clippers on Saturday, and on the road again vs Milwaukee on Monday night.

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