The Thunder fell at home to the previously 0-2 Sacramento Kings, 131-120. The game was marked by the return of Russell Westbrook, but the point guard’s energy could not overcome a myriad of mistakes, missed assignments, missed free throws, and horrible defense. The loss drops the Thunder to 0-3 on the season, a mark they have not seen since they were in Seattle. The Thunder were led by Westbrook, who finished with 32-8-12, a formidable stat line to be sure, but his rust was apparent as he committed 5 turnovers and his full speed coordination was sometimes off.
This tweet perhaps sums it up best:
Westbrook shooting 5-11 from the free throw line is somehow like the 18th most concerning thing about this Thunder team tonight— Jon Hamm (@JonMHamm) October 22, 2018
The Kings, who had previously been blown out by the Pelicans, looked at times like a younger version of the Warriors, with the way they were cutting up the Thunder defense. Slicing into the lane and finding open shooters with ease, OKC showed little resistance on the perimeter and failed to protect the paint. In fact, the Kings essentially played a full 48 minutes against the Thunder the way the Clips did during their 4th quarter rout over OKC on Friday night.
The other aspect of this game that ultimately decided the outcome was OKC’s inability to get a key stop — any key stop — after making a run. Multiple times in the 2nd half, after falling behind by 16, they closed the gap to 5-6 points, only to immediately give up open threes and layups. Case in point — Westbrook goes to the FT line with 2:35 remaining and the team down 7. He splits them, missing the second, and Buddy Hield is spotted by De’Aaron Fox for a wide open three. Paul George tries to answer but misses, and on the next trip down Fox finds Willie Cauley-Stein for a layup. Ball game.
I’m not sure there is a cohesive way to understand how sloppy OKC was, so here are some more quick hits.
- The Kings have somehow yielded 272 points through their first 2 games, yet held OKC to shooting under 40% for much of the game and an eye-covering 9-39 from 3-point range. Not to mention 19-30 from the charity stripe. (Food for thought — why do bad 3-point shooting teams take so many threes, thus highlighting their most glaring weakness?)
- Steven Adams was a non-factor on offense, largely due to a sudden dearth of high screen action by the Thunder. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but Adams is far too talented offensively to be ignored, even against a springy defender like Cauley-Stein. Furthermore, he was often left on an island defensively because OKC’s defensive rotations were so poor.
- Jerami Grant is still a mess. I mean, he’s playing really bad right now, lacking any sense of purpose or poise he showed in the playoffs last year. Yet he still played 28 minutes, shot 3-12, and 0-5 from three.
- And Terrance Ferguson was worse.
- But here’s a thing — Hamidou Diallo was a bright spot. In fact, he looks like everything we thought T-Ferg was supposed to be this year. He had a couple rookie cringe moments, but on the whole he’s been fantastic in the role the Thunder need for him, finishing with 11 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with 2 assists and 2 steals in 21 minutes.
- Nerlens Noel showed some mettle as well, as the Thunder bench does seem to have a bit more cohesion than the starters, even as Dennis Schroder struggles to convert open looks:
Dennis Schroder just blew a wide open breakaway layup because his shoe somehow came off.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) October 21, 2018
- Last but not least, we had a Deonte Burton sighting. He was a mixed bag — converted a tough layup, missed a dunk, airballed a three, but then knocked down his second 3-point attempt. That three helped keep OKC going mid-way through the 4th, but of course it was immediately followed by an open layup for the Kings.
The Thunder now can enjoy a few days off, but unfortunately a much better and smarter team will be showing up on Thursday. Time to do their homework. You too, Billy.
Next game: vs Boston Celtics on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7PM CST
Rittenhouse Rye, in case you were wondering