Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder cough up another close game

The Thunder were up 23 points on the Spurs. Instead of celebrating a big win, they dropped below .500 and added another close loss to their tally.

This is not where the Thunder were supposed to be. After a summer when everything appeared to go right — coming out of nowhere to land Paul George, signing Patrick Patterson to a steal of a contract, adding Carmelo Anthony, getting Russell Westbrook to sign an extension — the sky was support to be the limit for Oklahoma City.

Instead, crunch time appears to be the limit.

The Thunder are now 1-7 in games that have been within five points at any point in the final five minutes. Coming into this game they had been outscored by 49.8 points per 100 possessions in clutch situations. It likely won’t look much better when the numbers for tonight’s game are added. A graph of the live win probability for the game, courtesy of Inpredictable, shows just how far the Thunder fell.

There were plenty of big problems for the Thunder and Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 10-of-38. But it was also, as you’d expect in a close loss, the little things.

Down one with under 30 seconds left, Russell Westbrook got caught ball-watching, giving up a wide-open 3-pointer to Danny Green. It missed but LaMarcus Aldridge was able to get the rebound and putback.

On the next possession, what appeared to be a game-tying 3-pointer for Carmelo Anthony was changed to a 2-pointer because his toe was ever so-slightly nudging the line.

You’d like to think that, at some point, a few of these breaks will start going Oklahoma City’s way but if they want to climb out of this hole, they’re going to have to start doing some of the work themselves. Trusting it to fate won’t do the job.

As Jeff Siegel pointed out last week, adding some complexity to their go-to sets will help. In addition, there are some rotations issues to sort out around Andre Roberson’s offensive/defensive trade-offs in close games. There is a lot of time left in the season but if the Thunder wait too long there are plenty of other hungry Western Conference teams who will be happy to try and push them out of the playoffs entirely.

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