Here we go with the eighth appointment with Keeping Up With the Thunder, and my five takes about the past week of Thunder basketball.
In the past seven days, the Oklahoma City Thunder played four games, ending up with a record of one win and three losses. It must be said that all of the four games were against top teams. However, the Thunder put up a fight each and every single time. Here are the details:
OKC lost against the Los Angles Lakers (113-114 after one OT), the Denver Nuggets (95-97), and the Portland Trailblazers (104-115), while the lone win came against the Milwaukee Bucks (114-109).
The Thunder now own the sixth-worst record in the Leauge (11-16). Not bad, considering the upcoming draft.
JUSTIN JACKSON, A NICE SURPRISE
Who would have thought that Justin Jackson would pick up such a role for this team? Well, I have to be honest, not me. But I am glad I was wrong. In the past four games, Jackson averaged 14.3 points while shooting 52.4% from the floor and 55.6% from behind the arc. Also, the fourth-year player dished out 3.8 assists per game. Stats look fantastic, but the highlight of Justin’s week is, without a doubt, the three-point-dagger in clutch time against the Bucks. It sealed the deal and probably gave the Thunder the biggest win of the season so far. Sensational.
DEFENSIVE MIND – FIGHTING TEAM
Another week and another time of me saying that this team is tanking in the best way possible. Fight in every game, keep the score close, and then just lose. Well, obviously not on purpose, like throwing the game away but mostly due to lack of experience. Every game this past week was competitive until the final minute. Sure OKC lost three out of four games, but the team never gave up, and this is the perfect attitude to live with the final score. Also, Oklahoma City did an outstanding job on the defensive end, lead by its best defender Lu Dort. In fact, the Thunder ranked 8th in defensive rating at 107.7. Impressive.
THE RIGHT COACH FOR THE JOB
Alright, I think it’s time to give Mark Daigneault some credit. Mark is part of the Thunder family for a long time now, he is a young and knowledgeable coach, and the results speak for him. Obviously, if you just look at the team wins-losses, you would not understand. The praise for Daigneault goes behind the final score or the team’s record. If you watch every game, you could see that he built the perfect mindset for this squad. It does not matter who’s on the floor: every player knows what to do and how to do it. Next man-up mentality. No lazy and/or selfish players. There is a system in place which makes the Thunder compete against anyone, and a big part of it is thanks to coach Mark.
AL HORFORD, VETERAN LEADERSHIP
Last year was Chris Paul, this year is Al Horford. The veteran leader role is in good hands again for the Thunder. Horford did really buy-in into this team (he didn’t have to). As always, when a good veteran is on a rebuilding team, the chances that he finishes the season with that team are slim, but until that trade happens, Horford is giving everything he has to the Thunder. Al really stood out in the past week. Horford averaged 18.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 turnovers per game. He shot 50.0% from the floor on 15.0 attempts per game.
- Oklahoma City played three of the four past games without a real point guard and was still able to average 28.3 assists per game, 5th in the league.
- In the past week, the Thunder ranked 7th in plus/minus in the first quarter at plus 3.3.
- Wednesday, 17th Feb: Thunder at Grizzlies
- Friday, 19th Feb: Thunder at Bucks
- Sunday, 21st Feb: Thunder at Cavs
- Monday, 22nd Feb: Thunder versus Heat