Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost one more time (0-4 this season) against the Denver Nuggets, 115-105 the final score.
After a convincing second half against the Indiana Pacers, the Thunder weren’t able to keep the same energy on both ends of the floor against the Nuggets. Indeed Denver seems to be a bad matchup for Oklahoma City, they swept the Thunder during this regular season and won the past six games against the Thunder.
Despite trailing since the first quarter, OKC tried its best to compete against the Nuggets. However, every time the Thunder tried to close the gap (or actually did in the third quarter 68-68), Denver never panic and answered every single time.
Oklahoma City is now the 8th seed in the Western Conference, and a first-round matchup with either the Warriors or the Nuggets is less than optimal.
- Rotations, risk more
I thought Billy Donovan should have taken more risks against the Nuggets. The standard substitution pattern didn’t work in the first half, and with a weak bench, playing the starters more minutes might have been the best solution. Adams is the only one who can try to slow down Jokic, so he should play every time Jokic is on the floor. When Jokic and Plumbee are both on the court, the Thunder should answer with Noel and Adams. Obviously, on offense, the spacing would be bad, but on the other end, you could have a better defense, better rebounding, and better rim protection. This could translate in transition points, an aspect where the Thunder thrive.
- Paul George, inconsistent
Since All-Star break Paul George is struggling with his shooting. Against the Nuggets it was no different. George is pretty “banged up” by the long season and by the excellent first part of the year, probably his shoulders aren’t right, but without him shooting his usual averages the Thunder are in trouble. Yesterday, George finished with twenty-five points (10-22 FG, 2-7 3PT, 3-5 FT), nine rebounds, four assists, and four turnovers. One positive thing about PG is that it doesn’t matter how bad he is on offense, he will always play hard on defense. That’s always encouraging.
- Second Unit, not enough
Unfortunately, for the Thunder, the second unit is not good enough. Outside of Schröder and a little bit of Noel, also yesterday Oklahoma City didn’t receive any real help from the bench. Morris is slow, still inconsistent with his shooting, and still can’t defend. Nader is playing below average, can’t expect much, but still, he has to play due to the lack of wing players on the roster. Patterson, Burton, and Diallo are simply warming up the bench. Obviously, the rotations will shrink when playoff time comes, but this is something that needs to be addressed next summer.
- Russell Westbrook, attack the rim
This is when Russell Westbrook is at his best. He is big for a point guard so he can take anyone in the post. Also, if during pick and roll he is switched with a big man, then he can beat him with his speed ten times out of ten. Last night, Westbrook shot 10-17 in the painted area and only 1-5 from behind the arc. He needs to stay aggressive.
- Terrence Ferguson, not enough shots
Terrence Ferguson played thirty-one minutes against the Nuggets. He shot the ball only once, from behind the arc and he missed it. This is indeed not enough. Ferguson is not shooting the ball particularly well lately (37.5 FG% and 31.3 3PT% since All-Star break), but he needs to be more involved on offense. The lack of shooting options is obvious on this team, and that’s why I think is important to let Ferguson shoot the ball. Not only it might help him to get out of this slump, but also it will keep his defender honest without leaving Ferguson alone to overhelp.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play on Sunday afternoon, at home, against the Dallas Mavericks. Tip-off 2.30 pm CT
Cover Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder