Oklahoma City – The Thunder returned from the Allstar break to host the best team in basketball, the Phoenix Suns. It would have been the first time Chris Paul returned to OKC to play in front of the fans but he is dealing with a thumb injury that is going to keep him out for the next 6-8 weeks.
The Thunder did get their best player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back after he missed the last 10 games due to an ankle injury but they were missing the bulk of their contributors with Lu Dort, Kenrich Williams, Mike Muscala, and Ty Jerome all out nursing injuries.
The Suns are still the best team in the league though so most expected the Thunder to lose this game. It started off like the Thunder themselves also thought they should lose this game. They came out very flat on the offensive end and didn’t really play much defense and it looked like it was going to be a really bad loss only scoring 18 points in the first and allowing 31. Then getting down by as much as 19 in the 2nd quarter. Luckily, the short handed bench came in and settled things down for the Thunder on both ends.
Played much more disciplined on offense and made a concerted effort to get the ball inside because they couldn’t get any 3 point shots going. They only allowed 15 points in the 2nd quarter and it looked like the Thunder defense we were accustomed to seeing all year. It became a game and they got the Suns 19 point lead down to 3 going into half.
That defense didn’t really last.
When playing a team like the Suns, you have to be extremely disciplined and minimize your mistakes because they will surely take advantage of them. Although the Thunder offense looked a lot better in the 3rd, their defense was lacking. Allowing 37 points, in the quarter, it felt like the Suns had full control of this game. Which showed on the scoreboard.
The Thunder ended up taking a 20 point loss, 124-104, but it was against the Suns so it didn’t really seem like that bad of a 20 point loss.
Here are the 3 reasons the weren’t able to get the win.
1) Have To Value The Ball
The Thunder had 16 turnovers tonight which resulted in 23 Suns points. When they have 15 or more turnovers in a game, the Thunder are 7-15. They aren’t really a winning team but they are a lot better when they don’t turn the ball over that much. As mentioned above, when playing the Suns, you have to minimize your mistakes because they will definitely take advantage of them and that’s exactly what the Suns did. The Suns only average 12 fast break points per game and had 16 tonight because the Thunder turned it over too much. This isn’t to say if the Thunder turned the ball over less than 15 times they win this game but they at least give themselves a much better chance.
2) Was The 3 Point Shooting Still On Allstar Break?
6 3s is the least amount of 3s made in the game this season for the Thunder and 19.4 is the 3rd lowest 3 point percentage they’ve had in a game. They couldn’t hit anything from there at all. They defended the 3 pretty decently also. They for sure aren’t the best 3 point shooting team in the league but only 6 in a game won’t win you many. To their credit, it seems like they realized they couldn’t hit anything from 3 and started to make it a point to get into the paint where they had the most points in the paint they’ve had all season, 68. Having some kind of balance between getting into the paint and hitting some 3s would have been nice and would have given them a legit chance of winning this game.
3) More Passes, Please
Thunder had 22 assists tonight and I know you’re probably saying to yourself that 21 seems like a lot but for this Thunder team it isn’t and they don’t really win when they only have that many assists. They don’t have many wins to begin with but in the majority of their wins they share the ball a lot more. Only half of their shots were assisted which again, might seem good but it isn’t. Look at the Suns who had 32 assists on their 46 shots. That’s 70% of their shots being assisted on and that’s without Chris Paul who is leading the league in assists this season. The Thunder are a much better team when they’re not playing one on one because they don’t have the personnel to play that way. There needs to be more motion in their offense to open things up for guys and the biggest thing is they need to let Shai play off the ball more and put him in some kind of motion. Only 3 of his 13 shots were assisted which isn’t good at all. Especially considering they have a guy in Josh Giddey who most consider a top 5 passer in the NBA. Let him take over the playmaking duties and let Shai play off the ball more.
The Thunder were led by Shai who returned to action after missing the last 10 games due to injury and played like he didn’t miss any time at all with 32 points and 5 assists. Josh Giddey had his normal output with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Off the bench Aleksej Pokusevski played well with 13 points and 7 rebounds while Tre Mann added 11 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
The team will head to Indiana for the 2nd game of a back to back and look to get back in the win column.
Flip the page for highlights.