In what was a great weekend for most sports teams in Oklahoma, it was the complete opposite for the Thunder.
After losing two games this weekend, one on Saturday night and one on Sunday night, the Thunder face some obvious questions heading into a game they are heavily favored in on Wednesday, at home against the Indiana Pacers.
The most glaring deficiencies have been ball movement, settling for too many threes, and low free throw shooting percentages.
Not only did the Thunder as a team shoot 62.5 percent from the free throw line on Sunday, they only shot 63.2 percent on Saturday against the Utah Jazz. More disturbingly, during that stretch, Russell Westbrook shot 3-of-8 from the line. An uncharacteristically low percentage for a guy that’s made the free throw line his home in past seasons.
Also, 22-of-64 from three isn’t a dreadful shooting percentage, but still, settling for long-range shots early in the shot clock with one of the biggest and most physical backcourts in the NBA won’t cut it. What makes the Thunder a dangerous offensive team is their ability to effectively hit from long range and penetrate to the basket. With Westbrook at 6-foot-3, Andre Roberson at 6-foot-7, Paul George at 6-foot-9 and Carmelo Anthony at 6-foot-9, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t bully most teams, using their size to their advantage. This weekend it appeared as if they were trying to resemble the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets offensively and that’s not quite what their game is.
Something everyone had in the back of their minds when reality set in that Melo and George were members of the Thunder was the word, isolation. Three superstars and two that are used to having all the pressure on them pretty much throughout their NBA career. Ball movement or the lack thereof has been a huge question mark and it still remains one after the first three games. So far, having three superstars translates into three possessions where each of the ‘big three’ takes turns trying to create their own shot with only one or two passes per possession. In a highly competitive Western Conference with two teams that know how to share the ball, and shoot the ball, that’s not going to fly. Melo, George, and Westbrook need to figure out how to use their strengths to their benefit instead of it working against them. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be at least three passes on average per possession.
With this being an 82-game season, the panic level isn’t high at all. The face of this team is completely different and each player on the roster is in uncharted territory. It’s going to take multiple games for them to learn how to play together, learn habits and how each other play.
The Thunder fell to (1-2) on the season and face a depleted Indiana Pacers team without their star, Paul George, who will be playing his former team for the first time since being traded to OKC. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis return to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since the trade as well.