Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder won their third consecutive game in front of the hometown crowd, this time against the Atlanta Hawks, 120-117.
One more time this team showed its “two faces”. The Thunder went from playing like a well-oiled machine in the first half into a turnover and sloppy mess in the second one: Same players, same rotations, opposite results. The questions coming to my mind are simple:
- How is that ambivalence even possible?
- Why does this ambivalence happen so often?
Simple questions but nobody has the definitive answer, probably not even the coaching staff or the players themselves.
This is not the first time the Thunder played two different types of games within the same one. However, Oklahoma City is still able to win games. They were 1-9 in clutch situations to start the season and now they have reversed that same stat.
Russell Westbrook is getting back in his MVP form and it’s fun to watch. Last night, he did not only nail the game-winner but he also played a perfect game: 30 points (12-17 FG), 15 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers. Impressive. Westbrook started to hit his famous mid-range jump again, his free-throw shooting has improved. In his past four games you can see his development: 29.3 points per game on a 61.8 shooting percentage, 8.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.8 steals, 2.8 turnovers. The team record is 3-1 with the only loss to the Knicks after the three-overtime game in Philadelphia.
Carmelo Anthony seems to have found his role on the team and it’s working out pretty good. He is not anymore the to-go-guy but more a catch and shoot threat. Yesterday, he proved that he can be dangerous being in the place and taking advantage of his skills. He took twelve three-pointers and scored on seven occasions. This is the type of Melo the Thunder need.
While Westbrook and Anthony are finding their roles, Paul George still struggles to find his on the offensive side of the floor. PG is obviously great when he attacks the rim, he can get to the free throw line easily and he can hit threes at a high percentage (40.4 so far) but George can’t hit mid-range shots and that’s strange for a player like him. Defensively he is having an outstanding season: he is everywhere, he forces turnovers, and he is leading the league in steals and deflections.
The Thunder still can’t figure out their free throw shooting issue. Also last night, it almost cost them the game. If they were shooting an average percentage from the FT line last night, the game would have never been so close. The Thunder shot thirty-one free-throws attempts and scored only on nineteen occasions. That’s only 61.3% and that’s unacceptable for a team like this.
Billy Donovan keeps on changing his rotations and while it might be a good thing to keep adapting to the specific opponent it might also hurt the team. It makes it hard to create chemistry when you always play in a different lineup. It’s well known that Donovan likes to experiment in order to find the perfect rotation, but at some point, he should start to give some consistency to the players.
- FG% 53.7, 3P% 52.0, FT% 61.3, ASSISTS 24, REBOUNDS 40, STEALS 11, TURNOVERS 19
- FG% 51.8, 3P% 46.9, FT% 82.4, ASSISTS 28, REBOUNDS 27, STEALS 12, TURNOVERS 17
The Thunder will play tonight in Utah against the Jazz, tip-off 7 pm CT
Cover photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images