The Weekly Critique: Painful Losing Streak Exposes OKC’s Weaknesses

This past week was definitely not the best the Thunder had this season. Oklahoma City played four games against teams with a record under .500 and they lost them all. This painful streak started last Thursday when the Thunder lost in Portland, for the 5th straight time. Oklahoma City had a seven point lead going into the last five minutes but allowed Portland to outscore them 16-0. From there on, it was too late to come back. The bleeding kept on going the night after, in Phoenix, against the 3rd worst team in the League. On Sunday the Thunder showed up in Dallas without any energy on both ends of the floor while Dallas fought hard and won. Last night, at home versus Portland again, the Thunder played a decent first quarter but then, somehow, they stopped to defend and relied only on Westbrook on offense. Not enough. Another loss in the books despite Westbrook finishing with a career-high 58 points.

The Games

Oklahoma City at Portland 109 – 114
Oklahoma City at Phoenix 111 – 118
Oklahoma City at Dallas 89 – 104
Oklahoma City vs Portland 121 – 126

Four Observations

One Man Show

Russell Westbrook is playing his heart out. He is trying to win in any possible way. This week, unfortunately, he could not find one. In the past four games, Westbrook averaged 45 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 2.3 steals and “only” 3.3 turnovers. These are unbelievable numbers but again, no wins. A stat that is important to analyze is the assists. The number incredibly dropped. The reason is not that Westbrook stopped to pass the ball, but that his teammates couldn’t hit shots. In the past four games, Russell averaged 16.3 potential assists (he is averaging 19.3 this season). This shows a big difference between converted assists (less than seven) to potential assists (more than 16). You know what Westbrook would give you, night in and night out, therefore the supporting cast needs to do a better job in order to win.

Defense Nowhere To Be Found

The Defense was the main reason for these four losses without any doubt. The Thunder allowed teams to score at will. From my point of view, it isn’t a matter of ability to defend, it felt more like an effort issue. They were not trying hard enough. Oklahoma City gave up an average of 115.5 points per game. This is far away from being good. Interior defense was especially painful to watch. In this four-games-stretch, the opposite teams scored an average of 50.5 points in the paint. Defense needs to be fixed, as Westbrook said last night, this team is not good enough to take days off on that end of the floor.

Steven Adams

I love Steven Adams. He is one of my favorite players but it’s impossible to look away when he plays so bad. In the past week, he averaged 8.5 points per game, 6 rebounds, 2.3 turnovers, and 4 fouls per game. His FT % drastically dropped from the beginning of the season, he is now shooting 64% (50% only this past week). The main issue with Adams is not on offense but on defense. I can’t tell if it’s an effort issue or if the big Kiwi is just having a bad period. One thing is certain, though: The Thunder need their defensive anchor back as soon as possible.

Road Sickness

The Thunder are 12-20 on the road this season. They lost their last seven games away from Oklahoma City. Somehow they are playing less confident and with less energy. I guess that the main reason for it is the age factor. Oklahoma City has one of the youngest rosters in the league and sometimes this might affect the mental approach to road games. Considering that it will be hard, most likely impossible, for Oklahoma City to have homecourt advantage in the playoff, they will need to figure it out in order to avoid a first-round exit.

Play of the Week

Usually, there are three plays in this segment, but it was hard to find something good in the past week. So I decided to put only this play in hope that the whole team will play with this fire.

Russell Westbrook won’t stop

Up Next

The upcoming week is not going to be easy. On Thursday evening, The Thunder will play at home against the San Antonio Spurs. Saturday night they will face, still at home, the Utah Jazz while on Tuesday they will travel East to play the Nets in Brooklyn.

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