After an encouraging win over the Northwest Division-leading Utah Jazz at home, the Thunder dropped three straight on the road to teams below .500, each in frustrating fashion. With this latest losing streak, the Thunder sit firmly in 7th place in the Western Conference, 4.5 games out of the fourth seed and 17 out of first.
SIX THINGS FROM THE WEEK
Norris Cole. After trading Cameron Payne to the Chicago Bulls, it was the league’s worst-kept secret that the Thunder were need of a backup point guard. With Derek Fisher unavailable, the Thunder inked a deal with Norris Cole, who had been playing in China, for the remainder of the season. In three appearances this week, Cole failed to live-up to the high billing of being better than Semaj Christon. Cole’s averages this week were 4 points (on 28% shooting), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover in 15 minutes per game. In other news, it seems somewhat notable that NBA.com shows Cole as a guard for the Miami Heat. Wishful thinking, I guess.
Taj Ma-Half-Court-Heave. I really felt like the Thunder were going to win after this dropped.
Thuner Efense. Each of the Thunder’s losses this week can be attributed in large part to a lack of D, as in defense. The Thunder’s defensive rating over the last three is 110, a mark that would rate as the 27th worst in the league overall this season. In these losses, the Thunder’s opponent scored above their average and shot at a higher percentage than their average. A lot of stems from a lack of discipline. To give an example of the issues, take this possession below.
A stop here and the Thunder have a chance, but two lapses occur on this possession. First, Andre Roberson over-closes out on Jared Dudley, allowing Dudley free reign to the hoop. Steven Adams is clearly in line to help, but Doug McDermott, in a lack of discipline, chases Dudley in the lane and leaves Leandro Barbosa wide open in the corner for three. McDermott has to trust Adams to provide help, and if he isn’t, he should at least sell out on the stop, rather than halfheartedly stepping into the lane.
Raining threes. Against the Jazz, the Thunder set a franchise record for most made threes in a row with 12 straight. It capped an epic shooting night for the Thunder, as the Thunder hit 68% of their threes. They followed up the performance with another solid shooting night against the Portland Trailblazers, nailing 38%. Regression is a jerk, though, as the team shot just 19% against the Suns and Mavs, respectively. Most of the misses came against the Mavs–Thunder missed 20 of 22 attempts.
Doug McMinutes. I must admit, I wasn’t sure how many minutes McDermott would get after joining the Thunder via trade. I guess Billy Donovan had grand plans for McDermott, as he has played McDermott heavy minutes. In fact, 3 of McDermott’s 4 highest-minute games have been since joining the Thunder (and the fourth, while with Chicago, was an overtime game). Against the Jazz, McDermott looked like the three-point savior the Thunder have longed for. The problem is, in McDermott’s 5 other games with the team, he’s made just one (yes, one) three on 15 attempts.
Victor Oladipo’s back, literally. Oladipo has missed the last six contests with back spasms. While Alex Abrines has filled in (somewhat) admirably for the team’s second leading scorer, Oladipo is a much more reliable scorer and defender, and clearly the Thunder have missed his presence the last three games. The good news is that Oladipo participated in shootaround yesterday, and the team is hopeful he’ll play tomorrow night against the Blazers. I’m hopeful, too.
AND ONE MORE MAKES SEVEN
Winner winner. How about this game-winning drive by Russell Westbrook against the Jazz?