Stop me if you've heard this before. The Oklahoma City Thunder found themselves in a closely-contested game through 3 quarters, and with some solid defensive effort in the 4th, actually were in a position to win the game. But in the final few minutes, they just couldn't make enough plays, while their opponent made just enough, and they ended up losing anyway.
The Thunder lost to the Rockets 69-65 on Sunday night, and that's exactly how it played out, just as it has so many times early on in this frustrating season. The loss drops the Thunder to 3-8 on the year.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The Thunder shot just 29.4 percent in the game, and still shot a better percentage than the Rockets - who shot just 28.8 percent. Normally, that number would be more than welcome, and holding the potent Rockets offense to just 69 points should almost always result in a win. Of course, that's going by traditional standards, and the Thunder continue to struggle to find offense in this Westbrook-and-Durant-less world.
In fact, it was so bad that Lance Thomas (!) tied Reggie Jackson for the team-high in points at just 15. That's really all there is to it at this point. The offense looks awful, and it's mostly a result of just not making shots.
Still, as mentioned, the Thunder had their chances, they just didn't capitalize. They committed costly offensive fouls in the game's final few possessions, and with the game on the line and down 68-65, Jackson took a terrible 3-point attempt from about 40 feet with Dwight Howard right on him.
That's far from the reason the Thunder lost the game, but it's poor decision-making like that, along with the careless mistakes, that continue to cost this team when it matters most.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Rockets recorded 22 offensive rebounds, which led to an 18-4 advantage in second-chance points. Again, the offense on both sides was terrible, and there were plenty of rebounds to be had, but the Thunder gave the Rockets just enough chances to pull out the win. The biggest one came with the game tied at 65-65, when an offensive rebound turned into a reset for the Rockets offense, and that's when Harden lulled Lamb to sleep at the perimeter and buried a 3-pointer to give the Rockets enough space to hold on.
The key to the Thunder wins has been dominating the glass, which is what they did against Denver, Sacramento and Boston. The Thunder are going to struggle to shoot and score, but if they can't even hold the physical edge, they're basically all out of weapons.
The game itself was pretty ugly, but there were some entertaining subplots from the sidelines. First:
Lakers fan six rows behind the scorer's table screams at Westbrook: "Russ, come to L.A.!!" Russ starts shaking his head no.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 17, 2014
Fan: "You can shoot all you want. Come to L.A. We got rings." Westbrook: "Get yo ass out of here and go back to L.A."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 17, 2014
Lotta chirping between Thunder and Rockets right now. Kevin Durant repeatedly to Dwight Howard: "You're a pussy"— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 17, 2014
The first one is fun just because, even though it in no way means anything about 2017, it's still fun when Lakers' fans get put in their place.
As for the altercation between KD and Dwight, it boiled over further when Patrick Beverley (SHOCKING!) got right into the official's face following a scuffle with Telfair. Scott Brooks came running onto the floor to object. It resulted in a lot of nothing, but the emotions always run high between these two teams, especially with Beverley involved.
As for Durant's comment to Dwight, well, you guys can expand on that. My guess is the rush to defend Howard won't come from many places other than Houston.
Thunder Wonder: Lance Thomas (I guess?): 15 points.
Thunder Down Under: Scott Brooks for this
So... that's Patrick Beverley in the official's face, and that's Scott Brooks coming in to boject to that. pic.twitter.com/JbR3pURaYO— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 17, 2014
Thunder Blunder: Everyone else.
Thunder Plunderer: Patrick Beverley, because no one had a great game but he continues to get under Thunder fans' skin.
Next game: at Utah Jazz on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 8PM CDT