By Michael Doutey
The Thunder fall 116-98 to the Washington Wizards on Sunday night. Oklahoma City drops to 25-14 on the season. For the moment, OKC sits in third place in the West, trailing first place Denver by two games and the Warriors by a game-and-a-half. The Thunder holds a two game lead over the Clippers, who sit in fourth.
The Thunder followed up their best win of the season at the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, with their worst loss of the season tonight. The Thunder played an odd game. They came out focused and on fire only to fall asleep and allow the Wizards to control the game. The Thunder fell behind by 11 points, but roared back and were down just four points at the break. The Thunder came out of the half focused and ready, making a run and retaking the lead. And, like a case of deja vu, OKC fell asleep after taking the lead, allowing the Wizards to go on a run that ended up being the knockout punch. There haven’t been many games in Thunder history where OKC played so poorly and were beaten so badly by such a bad team. The Wizards are without John Wall, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris. But OKC didn’t have it tonight. I can’t quite put my finger on why OKC played like they did tonight. Maybe they had a lack of energy. Maybe their focus was on the rest of the week where they play much tougher opponents. Maybe they were still living high off their win in Portland. Whatever it was, this better not be a reoccurring theme from OKC.
Westbrook did not have a good game despite posting his 12th triple-double of the year. Russ lead OKC in scoring with 22 on 9-23 shooting. He grabbed 15 total rebounds, 13 assists and had eight of OKC’s 14 team turnovers. His turnovers were lazy. Many came from him trying to quarterback deep passes for easy scores. Several were for Steven Adams, but they just weren’t open but he still tried to force the passes in there. He was not locked in on defense, to compound his issues tonight. He was guarding Tomas Satoransky, who scored 15 points on 5-10 shooting and went 2-5 from three. Russ continued his play well one game and play poor the next game. A lot of that has been due to his sooting, which also was poor again tonight. He also went a putrid 2-6 from the free throw line. I guess he was due for a bad game since he played so well in Portland.
This would have been more of a talking point if not for Westbrook’s shooting woes lately, but Dennis Schröder hasn’t played well recently and tonight may have been his worst night in Thunder Blue. He was a minus-32 in his time on the floor. He shot 3-10 from the field and 1-3 from three. His defense was even worse. He was creamed by a backcourt screen late in the third quarter. After that, he provided zero defense. That is when the Wizards went on a long run and essentially blew the game wide open, making the lead too great for a fourth quarter comeback. Schröder needs to be better. The whole bench unit scored a combined 22 points, most of which came in garbage time.
The Thunder are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Yet, without John Wall, the Wizards only turned the ball over nine time all game. The Thunder averages 10.4 steals a game. They didn’t do a good job in that department tonight, which gave the Wizards a big advantage. The Wiz also grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. OKC ranks second in rebounding as a team. OKC typically does an excellent job of rebounding the ball and not allowing second chance points. The Wizards outscored OKC 22-13 in second chance points. The Thunder’s script was flipped and they were bad at the things they are typically really good at.
Burn the tape from tonight’s game and move on. This was just one of those games. The Thunder rarely ever play like this and, for whatever reason, OKC was just bad tonight. Hopefully the Thunder bounce back in the big way on Tuesday night. OKC can’t afford to lose games at home. The West is too tight and bunched up for the Thunder to go on a losing streak.
The Thunder will be back in action on Tuesday hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves. It just so happens that tonight the T-Wolves fired their coach, Tom Thibodeau. Tip will be at 7 p.m. inside the Peake.