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Oklahoma City Thunder: Five observations in loss vs. Phoenix Suns; OKC at a crossroads

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Chemistry issues have emerged of late for OKC. Can the Thunder resolve these issues as 20 games remain?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook's 48 point, 17 rebound, nine assist stat line proved a dual-edged sword opposite Phoenix's surreptitious snare of 19 wins and lottery-bound prospects.

Again, versus sub .500 competition, the Oklahoma City Thunder fell 118-111, as carefree Phoenix bounded with unyielding athleticism.

Misled by the lull of a measured start, Oklahoma City digressed during quarters two and three to suffer their second-consecutive setback.

While it is near banal to assert the pernicious effects of Oklahoma City’s recent wasted opportunities, this article will examine five reasons why the Thunder lost traction Friday night.

Lack of Ball Movement

In a frustrating display, Oklahoma City cast aside effective first-quarter offensive flow for detrimental isolation-heavy play.

Overall, the Thunder registered just 14 assists on 37 made baskets.

Outside of Westbrook —and his 30 FGA— OKC garnered just five assists. In comparison, 28 of Phoenix’ FGM’s resulted from a teammates’ attentive setup.

Carelessness With the Basketball

Disappointment generally abounds whenever a team’s turnovers outnumber its assists. And, as stated, vs. Phoenix OKC netted just 14 assists. Although, Billy Donovan’s crew also committed 17 turnovers in the Valley of the Sun.

Much of OKC’s sloppy execution coincides with a quick turnaround from Thursday’s contest against Portland. Though, this is no excuse, as a solid playoff team should never eschew fundamentals opposite lottery-bound competition.

However, Friday, nine Thunder committed at least one turnover. And while this disunion pervaded into an epidemic, OKC-leader Russell Westbrook (4 t.o.’s) shoulders much of the onus for not establishing confidence within his supporting core.

Again, trite, but so goes Russell, so go the Thunder.

Lack of Offensive Involvement From Steven Adams

Of late, a curious trend has developed in Oklahoma City’s offensive scheme. This, of course, is Steven Adams’ lack of shot attempts. Adams, (11.9 ppg, 8.6 fga, 56 fg%) has a meager 13 field-goal attempts in his past three outings.

While a slight FGA dropoff from Adams, as OKC incorporates new acquisitions, is understandable, his blatant lack of offensive inclusion is not.

Unfortunately, the seven-footer has become a rather conspicuous casualty of Oklahoma City’s roster reshuffle.

It is imperative Coach Donovan contrive and implement methods to utilize best his new talent while re-establishing Adams’ interior efficacy.

Too Many Three-Point Attempts

Granted, the Thunder has added Doug McDermott and starts sharp-shooter Alex Abrines as Victor Oladipo convalesces. Still, 35 three-point attempts are far too many for a team that ranks 29th in outside-shooting efficiency.

Last night, Oklahoma City’s erratic play extended to the arc, where nine makes couldn’t overcome poor strategy.

McDermott (0-4 3 PM), Jerami Grant (0-4), and Westbrook (3-12) created extra rebound and run-out opportunities for Phoenix to capitalize upon.

Defense and An Overall Mishap Filled Contest

To summarize Oklahoma City’s forgettable night, the Thunder turned the ball over 19 times, committed 30 fouls, shot 35 three’s (making only nine), assisted on just 14-of-37 FGA and essentially removed third-leading scorer Steven Adams from the team’s offense.

OKC’s defensive effort also ebbed against the Phoenix Suns —49% FGA, ten players with six-plus points.

To paraphrase J.A. Sherman, in losing these past two contests, Oklahoma City has squandered a pristine opportunity to run together a confidence-building string of victories.

And while most of these above-mentioned breakdowns are due to obvious chemistry issues, teams such as Portland and Phoenix are those in which chemistry issues should be resolved while wins still abound.

Ahead of the team’s playoff run, Oklahoma City has work to do, that much is certain. However, one gets the feeling that when these kinks are resolved, the Thunder will become a major post-season threat.

Oklahoma City (35-27) has a chance to salvage its ineffective road trip Sunday night vs. Dallas from the American Airlines Arena.