Fifth appointment with Keeping Up With the Thunder, and my five takes about the past week of Thunder basketball.
The five games road trip ends for the Oklahoma City Thunder. This week, Oklahoma City finished with two losses and two wins. The two losses came both against the title contenders Los Angeles Clippers. In the first game, the Thunder struggled for forty-eight minutes without never being dangerous (120-106). However, on Sunday, it was a different story. The outcome didn’t change (108-100), but OKC looked more prepared for the difficult task and didn’t let the Clippers win without making them sweat. The first win came in Portland against the Trailblazers in a superb and exciting game. 125-122 the final score. The second win came against the Suns and CP3 in another close game, where the Thunder trailed even thirteen points in the first half before completing another comeback, 102-97.
TOO MANY SECOND CHANCE POINTS ALLOWED
It was in full display against the Portland Trailblazers. Oklahoma City has a hard time securing defensive rebounds. Last Monday, they allowed the Blazers to grab fifteen offensive rebounds, that’s fifteen extra possession. The Thunder rank 22nd in opponents’ offensive rebounds at 10.5 per game. A little more dramatic is the points allowed on second chances: Oklahoma City ranks 28th with 14.8 allowed per game. One of the main reasons it’s obvious: the Thunder play most of the time with a small line up, either Horford, Muscala, or Roby as a center. However, boxing out is a team task, and OKC needs to definitely get better at it.
SGA, ALL STAR PLAYER
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is, without a doubt, the best player on the Thunder right now. He improved everything compare to last year, and the results are there to show it. In the past four games, SGA averaged 24.5 points per game. His shooting splits are incredible: 50.0% from the floor, 42.1% from behind the arc (on four attempts per game), and 77.4% from the FT line. His improvements are not only about scoring. The third-year player is averaging a career-high in assists with 6.5 per game (almost doubling last year). This past week SGA averaged 7.3 assists per game. The future is bright for the young point guard.
MUSCALA, BIG TIME!
I really love what Mike brings to this young team. He is a spark from the bench and a constant offensive threat, some games more, some less but always impactful one way or the other. This week, against the Blazers, Muscala played probably his best game ever. He scored twenty-three points while hitting six threes out of ten attempts. Muscala is also averaging a career-high in points per game at 9.3, in three-points attempts at 5.6, and three points made at 2.1 (36.7 percentage so far this year).
FREE-THROWS NEED TO IMPROVE
It’s obviously a learning season for this young team, but one thing that needs fast improvement is the free throw percentage. At the moment, the Thunder rank 29th in the league in FT percentage at 70.6%. This is absolutely a low number, which translates into many points left at the free-throw line. Eight players shot so far at least fourteen free throws, and only two (Muscala and Hill) are shooting above 80%.
- Isaiah Roby recorded his first NBA double-double against the Los Angeles Clippers, ten points and ten rebounds for the young player.
- Except on Sunday against the Clippers, Lu Dort scored a three-pointer in every game. Amazing.
- Damian Lillard released a new shoe to celebrate his big shot against OKC in the playoffs two years ago. The release came the day before Portland faced the Thunder. Actually, before Portland lost once more time against the Thunder. You love to see it.
- Al Horford came back against the Suns, and what a game! The veteran finished with twenty-one points, eleven rebounds, two assists, three steals, and a perfect 5/5 from behind the arc.