As all should be informed, last week this young Thunder team could have been nicknamed the comeback kids with the way they came back from three large deficits, tying a Thunder record along the way.
Oklahoma City overcame a 24-point deficit against the Chicago Bulls, a 26-point deficit to the Memphis Grizzlies, and an 18-point deficit to the Los Angeles Clippers. This Thursday, OKC’s matchup against the Grizzlies was nearly identical to the game last week. The difference: The Thunder didn’t have the firepower to pull off their fourth massive comeback in 11 days.
That’s what’s alarming about the Thunder continuously digging these deep holes and there’s a bigger problem that lies ahead if they can’t get it figured out promptly. While I’m not on the court figuring things out, nor am I a coach getting paid millions to find a working formula for this problem, I’m going to provide what I think the biggest issue is.
Well, OKC’s offense is average at the absolute best. Some players can score in spurts (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schröder, Chris Paul, and Danilo Gallinari), but no guy gets buckets for the full 48 minutes. OKC ranks 21st in points per game, 28th in attempted field goals, 27th in field goals made, and 21st in 3-point percentage. One more thing that’s clear to the naked eye is OKC’s habit of starting slowly. Some teams are first-half teams, some are second-half teams. The Thunder tends to turn the jets on in the second half.
It was only a matter of time until OKC’s slow starts would come back to bite them. On Thursday night, Schröder and Paul weren’t hitting the same shots as they did in previous comebacks and Gilgeous-Alexander may have shot the Thunder out of the game. To make things worse, Gallinari wasn’t active. At least he was being aggressive, right?
Nevertheless, Thursday’s loss against Memphis snapped a 9-game home win streak that dates back to 2012. OKC is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most double-digit comebacks this season (4), but the difference between OKC and LA is the mere fact that LA has a ton of offensive firepower in Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and a few other role players. OKC’s biggest threat offensively is Shai (19.1 ppg), Dennis (18.2 ppg), and Gallinari (18.0 ppg) which is a balanced attack, but not explosive enough to maintain the ‘comeback kid’ moniker.
The fix to this is to consistently start quickly and to maintain those quick starts. Eliminating turnovers, where the Thunder rank 22nd, and defensive letdowns for large portions of the game.