OKC Thunder: Recent loss offers cautionary tale on how to finish season

OKC Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are in a precarious position following the loss in Memphis. Flaws were illuminated and the team’s issue put into context.

Lack of objectivity is a symptom of fandom is the sports world, but in this highly opinionated post, I will be leveling some pretty hefty criticisms on the OKC Thunder. The goal isn’t to attack the team with ad hominems, but instead to give fans some insight on what needs to change in order to secure a playoff berth.

OKC Thunder outrebounded

In Memphis, the OKC Thunder was handily outrebounded. This could be an aberration considering the team ranks second in rebounding (behind the Bucks). The next few opponents on tap are very efficient rebounding teams, so the OKC Thunder cannot afford for this effort to be replicated.

OKC Thunder abysmal 3-point shooting

As a team, OKC shot merely 33 percent from beyond the yard last night. This won’t breed positive results in regular season games, or in the playoffs. In order to be able to balance out the team’s tremendous paint penetration, they need to be able to keep defenders honest by shooting well consistently from deep.

The OKC Thunder are a miserable perimeter shooting team percentage wise, and the percentages come down exclusively to shot selection. Out of the 30 NBA teams, the OKC Thunder rank 23rd in three-point shooting percentage. The silver lining is OKC has numerous talented shooters that can heat up at a moments notice.

I expect them to find their stroke and begin to heat up during this final stretch.

Hit ‘Free’ throws

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To this day I can still hear the words of my junior basketball coach exclaiming, “hit your bloody-freaking’ free-throws!” It’s honestly not as easy as the casual spectator would have you think. The OKC Thunder team struggles from the free-throw line is a pernicious conundrum. Although they didn’t particularly have a bad free-throw shooting night, they certainly shot a worse percentage than the Grizzlies.

The OKC Thunder are top five in drawing fouls and getting to the line. The issue is that benefit gets lost because they have one of the lowest conversion percentages in the league.

There is a reason these shots are called “free”, but the Thunder need to take that message to heart. Leaving this many points left at the free-throw line adds up and becomes particularly detrimental in close games.

Although this is an ongoing area of concern for OKC and may need longer than the few games they have left to correct the squad needs (at a minimum) to practice their shooting from the charity stripe.

Too many games are being lost by a few points and simply hitting these shots could be the difference in the Thunder winning those close matches.

Final Thoughts

I have an issue with some of my fellow OKC Thunder fan’s lackadaisical attitude in this final stretch. This is no time to have a nonchalant disposition rather your a fan or player. As many know the west is one the most competitive conference, and obviously, nobody is guaranteed a playoff spot.

The remainder of the Thunder schedule is increasingly difficult. In order to salvage their season and begin the road to their storybook conclusion to the top of the basketball world, they need to start winning games.

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The only way I see them doing so is by addressing these issues, and capitalizing on their opportunities. If they are able to do so we may be able to witness the upset of the century that everyone has been hoping for since the beginning of the season.