The Thunder were on hand for Phoenix’s best three point shooting performance of the season last night, as the Suns went 17/39 from beyond the arc. They didn’t do much to counter the long-range blitz without defensive keystone Andre Roberson, but we’ll get to that later.
Dragan Bender had 20 points on 7/9 FG, 6 of which were threes. Devin Booker and TJ Warren did their thing per usual, finishing with 26 and 23, respectively. These are frustrating numbers to see for a team that prides themselves on defense.
But speaking of Dragan ... er dragons ... Magic mascot Stuff the Magic Dragon did a thing. It was once written that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, but apparently it’s also easier for a dragon to backflip off a ladder into a bounce house.
Stuff the Magic Dragon just shot up to the top of the mascot MVP rankings for nailing this stunt holy hell pic.twitter.com/d6SrG7VIdb— Pettywise (@World_Wide_Wob) January 7, 2018
Anyway, Westbrook gave his takeover motto a go during a 15-2 Thunder run in the third quarter, scoring or assisting on 10 of those 15 points. Phoenix would extend their lead shortly thereafter and ultimately pull away.
So what’s the main takeaway from a crappy night in the desert? The Thunder need Andre Roberson back STAT.
Yeah, Roberson is an offensive liability, but my god do the Thunder miss him on defense. He’s missed OKC’s last four games due to a left knee injury.
Sunday night was another example of his absence crippling the Thunder with Phoenix posting 114 points while excelling both on the perimeter and in the paint. For those of you who love ratings, here’s a look at Roberson’s impact:
Thunder have a 96.5 defensive rating with Roberson this year. They had a 108.0 defensive rating without him on the floor coming into tonight. https://t.co/3CkGbuL1h9— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 8, 2018
After last night’s loss, OKC’s points allowed per 100 possessions without Roberson is now up to 108.5. With Roberson on the floor the Thunder allow just 96.5. Yikes.
Alex Abrines played just two garbage minutes last night, but this is worth noting since he’s been a replacement for Roberson in the past. As said before, when Roberson starts the Thunder give up 96 points per 100 possessions. When Abrines replaces him? 116 points per 100 possessions. That’s a 20 point swing due to one swap. If that doesn’t show you his impact, I’m not sure what will.
Paul George mentioned it postgame:
Paul George on the Thunder missing Dre: “We miss Dre on the defensive end, but we also have guys that have stepped up” pic.twitter.com/zPwaDSROix— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 8, 2018
Sunday night was just another notch in the missing-Andre belt, but I’d be remiss if I highlighted anything else.
I’m sure plenty have already seen it, but for more Roberson insight, give Seerat Sohi’s Sunday morning piece from The Tip-Off a read. Very good stuff.
- Westbrook finished with 26-11-10 for his fourteenth triple-double of the season last night.
- More numbers: PG 19-5-8, Melo 18, Steven Adams, 18 (9/11 FG), Terrance Ferguson 2 (1-5 FG in 18 minutes)
- OKC was brutal on the offensive glass in Phoenix, allowing the Suns to score 23 points on 12 offensive rebounds.
- The Thunder were 8/27 from three compared to the Suns’ 17/39.
- The foul line was also an issue on Sunday. OKC was just 12/21 from the charity stripe.
- OKC lost, but Steven Adams can Kiwi fly now so that’s pretty cool:
Well now Steven Adams can fly pic.twitter.com/grLdWNu74T— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) January 8, 2018
Also, world famous Adams definitely wears this hat better than Rajon Rondo:
A Look Ahead
The Thunder now head home and pray for the return of Andre Roberson.
They face off against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at the ‘Peake.