After a disappointing loss to the Toronto Raptors, the OKC Thunder are back in action as they continue their five-game home stand against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The OKC Thunder got off to a pretty good start on Wednesday night, but were unable to sustain it throughout the ballgame. The Raptors, led by Demar Derozan’s 37 points and Kyle Lowry’s double-double, simply outplayed the Thunder.
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Friday night’s game will be a tough contest, as the Thunder are matched up against the only team in the Western Conference with less wins.
Nov 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates with guard Victor Oladipo (5) after making a basket during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 85-83. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
The Clippers are riding a four-game winning streak, and are coming off a dominating 111-80 victory over the Portland Trailblazers. Los Angeles looks for revenge against Oklahoma City, who handed them their only loss so far this season.
The first battle between the two teams occurred a little over a week ago. Both teams struggled mightily offensively, as only three players in total scored in double figures.
However, it shouldn’t be a shock that offense production was limited in the first matchup between the two teams. Currently, the Clippers lead the NBA in opponents points per game (88.3), while the Thunder (99.6) are ranked ninth in the category.
Turnovers have been an issue for the Thunder. Coming into tonight’s contest, OKC is averaging 16.9 turnover per game, which tied for fifth-worst in the NBA.
The Clippers are averaging 10.1 steals per game through their first eight games. They could give the Thunder problems, especially if they commit some sloppy mistakes. Coming off a 19 turnover performance against the Raptors, Oklahoma City must make better decisions to help protect the basketball.
Speaking of protecting the basketball… one player who has struggled with turnovers is none other than Russell Westbrook. Over his NBA career, Westbrook has been no stranger to the turnover. He must try to do a better job at limiting his amount of turnovers. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done with regards to his style of play.
Nov 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives the ball defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute (12) during the first quarter at Staples Center. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Although his stat line from the other night is very deceiving, Westbrook really struggled shooting the basketball. The All Star shot just 9-26 from the floor, include a horrific 3-12 from three point range. There were plenty of times throughout the ballgame where Russ was forcing up ill-advised shots, and that’s definitely not a good thing for the Thunder.
We all know how good Westbrook is (and can be), but he must pick and choose his spots better. Westbrook playing reckless does no favors for the Oklahoma City offense, and although he is clearly the team’s main offensive option, he must pick and choose his spots to make the most of each opportunity.
The recent three point shooting of Victor Oladipo has given the Thunder offense a huge boost. Over Oklahoma City’s last four contest, Oladipo is shooting 11-19 from behind-the-arc, as he has been a key to helping the Thunder offense spread the floor more.
Enes Kanter could have a huge impact in this game if the Thunder find ways to get him involved. After posting two straight double-doubles, Kanter’s opportunities were limited against the Raptors, as he was virtually invisible for most of his 19 minutes played.
This season, the Thunder offense has struggled when Kanter hasn’t been involved, and could be a cause for concern if this trend continues. When Westbrook isn’t on the floor, Kanter could serve as the team’s scoring threat, but the big man needs more opportunities to be successful.
Billy Donovan and crew must find ways to get him consistent scoring opportunities. The Thunder’s bench could use a legitimate scoring option, and Kanter could play a big role in helping the second unit’s offensive production.