For the third straight time the Thunder played a poor second half, and once again, it cost them the game. The Twolves started the contest with a quick 12-2 run, but Oklahoma City was able to absorb the hit and push back to tie the score at the end of the first quarter. In the second twelve minutes, the game kept its balance, with both teams answering to each other’s runs. Then, the second half started, and with it, all the Thunder’s issues came back.
Despite a strong and intelligent game by Westbrook, the rest of the team didn’t play up to their skills, leaving the MVP alone in the battlefield. This translated into another disappointing loss for the Thunder.
The Timberwolves now hold the tiebreaker against the Thunder: if both teams end the season with the same record, then Minnesota will be in front.
In the past three games, during the second half, the Thunder gave up an average 57.3 points, and they have been outscored by 9.3 points. Opposing teams have shot lights out: 57.3% from the floor and 55.0% from behind the arc. This can’t be only because the team is missing Andre Roberson, but this has mostly to do with effort and willingness to stop the opponent.
In Roberson’s absence, the Thunder have been able to compensate the horrible defense with a solid offense. Last night, not even the offense worked. Besides Westbrook and Felton, who combined for 18-28, the rest of the team shot 14-51: an absurd 27%. It’s hard to compete when the ball doesn’t go in.
Russell Westbrook never gives up. Yesterday, it was another display of how good Westbrook is. He played a really efficient game and tried to put the team on his shoulders. Unfortunately, Minnesota is too good this year to be beaten by only one player. Westbrook’s final stat line: 38 points (15-23 FG, 1-2 3PT, 7-9 FT), 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 4 turnovers.
During this tough stretch, it’s becoming more and more clear that the bench is an issue. As I wrote yesterday, if we exclude Raymon Felton, then the rest of the second unit seems not good enough. Let’s rephrase it: the second unit is not solid and trustable as a contender’s bench should be. Some of the players might play a really good game here and there, but it’s not a full force on which the team can rely every night.
The Thunder will have now a couple of days without games. It could be a good opportunity to get Roberson back with the team, to watch films from the games, and to go back into December’s form. This team has the players and the skillset to beat anyone, they just need to put the effort in it.
- FG% 40.5, 3P% 24.0, FT% 75.0, ASSISTS 13, REBOUNDS 41, STEALS 9, TURNOVERS 20
- FG% 48.8, 3P% 35.0, FT% 70.4, ASSISTS 22, REBOUNDS 44, STEALS 12, TURNOVERS 16
The Thunder will play on Saturday night in Charlotte against the Hornets, tip-off 4 p.m. CT
Cover photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images