Thunder Stories

The Weekly Critique: Thunder Split The Difference In Four Games

The Thunder played four games in the past week and they split the outcome: two wins and two losses. They won both home games against Memphis on Friday and Portland on Sunday. These games were decided in the last minutes of the fourth quarter, and in both occasions, Russell Westbrook had a huge role in carrying the Thunder to the win. However, the number zero wasn’t able to save them against the Chicago Bulls (probably the ugliest loss of the season so far) and against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. The Thunder record is now 30-23, good for the 7th seed in the Western Conference.

The games

Oklahoma City vs Chicago 100-128
Oklahoma City vs Memphis 114-102
Oklahoma City vs Portland 105-99
Oklahoma City at Indiana 90-93

Four observations

Russell Westbrook

I could write or talk for hours about number zero. He does so many amazing things for the Thunder this season. This week is not about triple-doubles. This week is about his scoring efficiency in the 4th quarter. In the last three games (let’s exclude the blowout lost against Chicago where he played less than a minute in the 4th quarter) he is averaging 16.3 points, 58.3% FG, 54.5% 3PT, 88.2% FT. With these insane numbers, he helped the Thunder to win two out of three games. Oklahoma City was trailing in all games going into the fourth quarter. Westbrook’s numbers in the 4th quarter have been crazy all season long. He is averaging in the last 12 minutes 9.5 points (2nd), 2.6 rebounds (4th), 2 assists (1st), 0.5 steals (1st), 2.3 plus/minus (1st). His shooting percentage are very high as well: 44.7 FG, 40% 3PT, 79% FT.

Third Quarters Are a Nightmare

This season, Oklahoma City struggles in the 3rd quarters. They rank 17th in the league per points scored in that period with 25.1. Further, they average a plus/minus of -1.2 points in every third quarter (ranked 22nd, tied with the Lakers), that would mean that they got outscored for 66 points only in the third quarter so far this season. These numbers are even worse in the past four games. Starting February in fact, the Thunder are 28th in points scored in the 3rd quarter (average 22.8), and they are 29th in plus/minus with a -8.8 (outscored by a total of 35 points). (per NBA.com/stats)

The Thunder need Oladipo

Victor Oladipo is a very inconstant player, at least he has been this season. There are nights when he is locked in on both ends of the floor and nights when he can’t buy a basket. His defense his good most of the times but the Thunder need him especially on offense. Since Kanter’s injury, when the Thunder needed him the most, his numbers went drastically down. In the past six games, Oladipo shot 33.7% from the floor and only 17.9% from behind the arc. An example of his inconsistency: in November Oladipo shot 49.6% from the floor and 44.2% from 3 while in December he shot 38.9% from the floor and 25% from 3. In January his percentages went up again (44.8% FG – 35.8% 3PT) before going down again this month (32.2% FG – 14.3% 3PT). To help the team, Oladipo will need to stabilize his numbers. Obviously on high percentages.

What Is Going On With Payne?

If anyone has seen “2015-16 Cameron Payne” please bring him back to the Thunder. It’s true that he missed 37 games to start the season due to a foot injury, but the second-year point guard looks lost most of the time on the court. His decision making has been also questionable lately. In addition to all of this, his shooting percentages are down compared to last year (-9.3% FG, – 4.9% 3PT). He played only sixteen games so far, he still has time to play better, but the Thunder really need all the help possible they can get from the second unit, especially now that Kanter is out.

Top 3 Plays Of The Week

  • Westbrook with the dagger: “where is he going?”

  • Roberson attacks the rim

  • Grant with the volleyball block

Up Next

The Thunder have a tough week in front of them. They will play against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Thursday, then against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, and on Monday they will play in Washington against the Wizards.

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