The Oklahoma City Thunder have not had a .500 record since the beginning of November. This week, they had a prime opportunity to change their record and build some momentum heading into the new year.
Oklahoma City were 11-13 and had played with great positivity during their three game winning streak. However inconsistency, which has plagued them all season, showed itself again during this recent road trip.
After starting the road trip with wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks. The Thunder proceeded to finish with losses against the Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks.
“I think our competitive level minute for minute in these games has been pretty good and we want to be a team that constantly competes and see where that takes us,” head coach Mark Daigneault said.
Of those losses, the worse was a 123-102 defeat against Memphis. The Thunder shot 37% from the field, along with having 18 turnovers. Meanwhile, they allowed Memphis to shoot over 50% from the field.
Let’s take a closer look at how defense was the Thunder’s number one problem over the past week.
A true turn of events
While it’s one thing to be a bad team, it’s another thing to be boring and that’s what the Thunder were last year. They were the league’s worst offense and barely scored over 100 points on most nights.
That has changed drastically this season as they’re currently ranked seventh in points per game. Although, they have taken a leap offensively, the defense has fallen apart.
While the Thunder were not an elite defense last year, they were at least middle of the pack. This season, they allow 117 points per game which ranks 29th in the NBA.
It was mentioned earlier how efficient Memphis was against the Thunder, but the other teams had success too. All of Cleveland’s starters scored in double figures in Saturday’s matchup.
Then, in Monday’s game against Dallas, the Mavericks scored 43 second quarter points. Not to mention, the Thunder allowed a season high 54 three point attempts and three Dallas starters to score 20+ points.
Currently, Oklahoma City’s defense has been reactive and opportunistic rather than being consistently stout, as they rank sixth in both steals and blocks per game.
In order to change their inconsistent ways, they will need to return to at least the caliber of defense they had in years past. The Thunder need the defense to be an adequate in the very least to be able to grind out wins against more skilled opponents.