Al’s Five Facts: Thunder fall in Houston

Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost in Houston, against Russell Westbrook and the Rockets, 112-116 the final score.

Despite a close to a perfect first half, Oklahoma City couldn’t contain the Rockets’ run in the third quarter. Houston outscored the Thunder 39-18 after the long break to take an eleven-points lead going into the last twelve minutes.

OKC fought, and thanks to a solid defensive effort put themselves in a position to steal the game. However, the Rockets, who lived mostly at the FT line (14 points out of 25 came from the free-throw line), were able to escape the Thunder’s comeback.

The Thunder are 1-3 after the first four games of the season.

Here are the five facts about last night’s loss in Houston:

FIGHT FEARLESS

One of the biggest takeaways from last night is that this team is made by fighters who are not afraid of any opponent and will compete night in and night out. This season, as said and wrote multiple times, the final score isn’t the main goal, but the young players’ grow is. Four games into the year, and we can see how hungry and fearless this team is, competing until the last second against contenders like Jazz and Rockets, and by smashing the Warriors two days ago. It will take time, but fun times are ahead for Thunder fans.

BENCH PUSH

It comes a bit as a surprise, but the Thunder’s bench played a solid game against the Rockets. Dennis Schröder scored twenty-two points, Noel added fifteen, Diallo nine, Bazley and Nader three each. However, it wasn’t just about the scoring, but about the attitude and the effort. The nicest surprise so far has been Hamidou Diallo. The second-year player is averaging 9.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game to start the season. He has still a long way to go, but he showed that he can be a good defensive option, and his athleticism can help him finish at the basket on offense.

ADAMS & NOEL

Steven Adams had another underperforming game. It’s not clear what the issue might be, but he isn’t used to be one of the main weapons on offense. He finished with only six points (2-7 FG, 2-4 FT), but added twelve rebounds and two blocks. Adams exited the game with little less than seven minutes left in the game and didn’t come back due to a knee injury (he went straight to the locker room). Despite Adams’ rough game, the Thunder could count on Nerlens Noel who instead had a strong performance on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma City is lucky to have Noel as a backup center because he can always come in and impact the game.

CHRIS PAUL STRUGGLES

Chris Paul is still not expressing his best basketball, or let’s say what is at least expected from him. Obviously, he needs to get used to play in a new system, and most probably, to play with two other point guards on the court at the same time (SGA and Dennis). CP3 seems out of place, not aggressive, and not involved in the offense. Last night, he had more turnovers than assists, while shooting only 6-14 from the floor. Chris Paul is averaging only 3.3 assists in the first four games and 3.0 turnovers. Not good. Also, he is shooting a miserable 61.5% from the free-throw line, which is 25% lower than his career percentage.

WESTBROOK IN RED

This will always feel different, and probably always weird. Russell Westbrook was the heart and soul of the Oklahoma City Thunder for eleven seasons, and now he is playing for another team. Last night, Westbrook wasn’t able to complete a triple-double but impacted the game in ways that only he can do with his energy and heart. He finished the game with twenty-one points, twelve rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and five turnovers. Still no triple-double against the Thunder for Westbrook. OKC is the only team left on his list.

Alberto Bodei

Twitter: @euro_thunder

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