Despite near-perfection, Thunder refuse to go to Adams late, why?

For the past six games, Steven Adams has returned to old form and has been more accurate than he’s been over his entire career. On Oct. 28 he was plagued with a knee contusion that kept his activeness at bay during that time.

Then came the matchup on Nov. 22 against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he appeared revitalized as he scored 22 points and corralled 6 rebounds against JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, two of the league’s most athletic big men. Since then, Adams has been a beast.

Over the last six games, including the matchup against Los Angeles, Adams has shot 38-45 (77.5 percent) from the field, and 15-18 from the free-throw line (83.3 percent). He’s also averaged 15.1 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. Note: Adams is still on a minutes restriction, only averaging 26 minutes per game. Another note: Adams has gone 8-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter during this stretch of games.

Adams had the best and most efficient game of the season on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers scoring 20 points on a perfect night. He went 8-8 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line, including two clutch free throws in the final 3 minutes of the game.

“I think he’s just feeling better,” Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari said. “He had a couple of problems and injuries in the beginning of the season, where he was fighting and playing through pain, but he’s feeling better now.”

Adams scored 10 points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game. It was evident that he’d be able to do what he wants offensively because he was scoring in a variety of ways: over smaller players like Jeremy Lamb, larger players like Domantis Sabonis and Myles Turner, and tossing up bank shots, hook shots and saving failed offensive possessions with timely buckets.

After Adams scored 12 points on 5-5 shooting in the first quarter, why did the Thunder stop going to him? Yes, Billy Donovan has him on a minute restriction but that has nothing to do with his productiveness when he’s in the game.

The Thunder not feeding Adams down the stretch was the reason why they didn’t pick up a quality win over a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.

Let’s fast forward to the final three minutes of the game when Sabonis checked out of the with 3:04 remaining.

The stage was set for OKC to close the game out with Adams. He was 7-7 at the time. Within 17 seconds, he got a tip-in after a missed Chris Paul shot. That would be his last field goal of the game. The final eight Thunder possessions resulted in a turnover by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, two missed triples by Terrance Ferguson, two missed jumpers by Chris Paul and a missed triple, a made floater by SGA, and two made free throws by Adams.

There have been so many opportunities for Steven Adams to have a more impressive stat-line throughout his seven-year NBA career, but he’s never had the luxury of being the number one option even in certain games where he should be.

Maybe another team will see his potential and take advantage of it?

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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