OKC Thunder nail biter in Chicago – 3 takeaways

Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Nerlens Noel #9 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Coby White #0 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Nerlens Noel #9 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder escaped Chicago with the victory but learned valuable lessons to apply down the stretch. Three takeaways serve up the details.

The last time the OKC Thunder played Chicago, they hit half time trailing by 26 points. One Chris Paul inspirational locker room speech later led to a major comeback effort.

As he is wont to do the Point God also took the leadership reigns on the hardwood in that win. In the fourth quarter, he was perfect from the perimeter drilling five 3-pointers and when the buzzer sounded the Thunder were the team collecting the “W”.

Entering that match the Thunder held an 11-14 record. That was December 16th and since then the Thunder have collected 24 additional wins. The last “W” arguably the hardest and undoubtedly one that shouldn’t have taken so much effort.

Leading by 24 points the Thunder allowed the Bulls to stampede back in the match and required a patented clutch time OKC Thunder effort to steal the win in Chicago.

The takeaways serve up some lessons learned in the victory.

Third quarter defensive lapse:

This isn’t something new and while the Thunder just dispensed of this bad habit in the game prior it was back to rear that ugly head. You know what I’m referring to — those third quarters. Specifically not defending up to the level they’re capable of. The same defensive effort that witnessed the team’s rise into the top 10 (9th) defensively this past week was missing in Chicago.

Without prejudice, the way the OKC Thunder play defense in the third quarter is their worst feature and a bad habit they need to fix. Understandably with so many youngsters, it will show up more on the road where things aren’t quite as comfortable.

It’s a work in progress to change bad habits and we’ll hope down the stretch the one major tweak the team learns how to vanquish permanently.

Record Making:

In the first quarter, Danilo Gallinari showcased why many in Thunder Nation were thrilled the big man isn’t in South Beach tanning.  He couldn’t miss from behind the arc hitting five out of five 3-point attempts to tie a franchise record for deep balls made in a quarter.

Clearly the book is out of the Bulls perimeter defense because when the team played in OKC it was Chris Paul who scored five 3-pointers in that comeback effort in the fourth quarter.

This win also marked the Thunder ninth consecutive win on the road – another franchise record.

Something that is baffling to me is the numerous franchise records this iteration of the OKC Thunder is amassing. The previous 11 seasons featured superstar players Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Think about that! These guys were all on the same team at one point and yet this 2019-20 team is the one setting more records than those clubs.

Crazy Stats:

There are palpable lessons each game offers that can be utilized moving forward and this one was no different. If you hadn’t watched this game, didn’t know the score and only read the box score it would even be reasonable to think the Bulls had won.

For example:

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The Bulls took 21 additional shots to the Thunder (97-76). That’s a ton of extra attempts which makes it seem like the Bulls were dictating the pace. Yet, outside of the second half of the third quarter, that’s not the case. Knowing the score you’d also assume the Bulls weren’t shooting effectively – again not true as Chicago registered 53.6 percent efficiency from the field.

Then you discover why the above didn’t play as big of a factor in the final score… 3-point efficiency and free throws. The Thunder shot a gaudy 46.7 percent from deep (Bulls shot 38.7 percent) with 30 and 31 attempts respectively.

As for the charity stripe – well the Thunder definitely got the big advantage with 35 trips to the line whereas the Bulls were only given nine. That’s a huge disparity and one that would suggest the Thunder was driving the ball more than the Bulls. Again — not true.

In fact, the Bulls won the paint battle by TWENTY points (58-38). This is one of those oddities in the sport where the reality is the Thunder did drive more than the box score indicates with many of those 35 free throws coming from the drives whereas the Bulls were scoring on theirs.

This game offers a great example of why watching the game offers the real picture. Plus, there are valuable lessons to learn from this match including perhaps increasing pace and shot attempts coming out of the break.

Most importantly, this crew needs to focus on breaking that bad habit of poor third quarter defense. If they ever master that this team becomes even more difficult to beat.

Next. NBA 2020 Mock Draft 1.0 – Options abound for Thunder. dark

Ultimately, it’s far easier to look back on this game without angst because the Thunder got the win.  Next up the team will play the Sacramento Kings who are playing much better of late and can’t be overlooked.