Thunder staying optimistic about slow start

 

By Michael Kinney

The first full week of the NBA season has been a frustrating one for the Oklahoma City Thunder. As they head into Saturday’s afternoon title with New Orleans, they have amassed a 1-4 record.

But what has been confounding is that the Thunder have played well in parts of each game. However, getting a full four quarters of strong basketball has been an issue.

“Obviously we loss against Utah. It was a close game,” guard Dennis Schroder said. “We didn’t finish it out very well. Second game against Washington, they got that win. But I think against Golden State and Houston we did a great job just playing together, being aggressive, everybody just playing with confidence. I think that was a big change. On the defensive end, we’re doing a great job. We just have to do it for 48 minutes.”

Many knew Oklahoma City would struggle with the loss of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant, but a quick glance at the numbers through five games showing that it has been a collapse. They are currently fifth in the league in points allowed at 101.4 ppg. They are also second in rebounds at 50.8.

“It just speaks for what kind of team we are,” Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo said. “We are a team that is going to fight, we’re never going to stop fighting and no matter what the scoreboard says we’re going to come out there and we’re going to keep pushing and keep pushing.”

However, it has been on the offensive end, where they have had their struggles. They are 26th in scoring (102.2), 21st shooting (43.4%) and 26th in three-pointers made per game.

All this adds up to is some very close games for Oklahoma City. Their point differential is 0.7, which means every missed shot, turnover can be the difference between winning and losing.

Yet, veteran guard Chris Paul said now isn’t the time to get frustrated or lose faith in the system. He sees positives in how the team has played.

“I want to win, all the time. I don’t care what the situation is. You know what I mean? But we’re getting better,” Paul said. “I’m working to. It’s never about how I feel personally. It’s how we are as a team. As long as we’re making strides to get better, we know in our locker room that we’re getting better. That’s all that matters.”

At 1-4, the Thunder have the same record after five games as they did to start last season. So they know a turnaround is possible.

Oklahoma City’s struggles have been most glaring when it comes to the fourth quarter. They are averaging 22.6 points a night in fourth, which ranks 26th in the league.

However, Paul says that will turn around. But he wants to make sure they don’t give it up on the other end.

“I‘ve been around long enough to know that I am capable of (closing games out),” Paul said. “But with the depth that we have, I think game in and game out it might be a number of guys. For us, we have to be able to do it defensively. It’s cool to be able to make shots, but when you can make stops defensively, that really gives you an opportunity.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

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