Second Half Shooting Woes Ends with a Miss at the Buzzer – OKC 98, DET 99

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

In the final seconds, the side out of bounds play that gets drawn up is as much about getting the ball inbounds as it is about finding the perfect shot. Defenses are cued up, and the optimal defender is guarding each offensive player. So when the Thunder got the ball in to Russell Westbrook with five seconds remaining and Detroit’s Avery Bradley on him, that was half the battle. From there it was up to Westbrook, the league’s best clutch-time performers last season to get a shot off.

Eliminating a possible turnover or loose ball situation on a pass or drive, Westbrook put up a 27-foot three-pointer, and it was halfway down before rattling out, leaving another second half possession empty and the Thunder with a 99-98 loss to the Pistons.

“In and out,” Westbrook said. “It happens like that sometimes. We put ourselves in position to win the game, but sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the basket.”

“Especially when you have their best defender on you, you have to take what’s available,” forward Paul George commented. “Russ is a shot maker. He’s going to make difficult shots. He got to a sweet spot where he could pull up. In our eyes, that’s a good look for us. He just missed it.”

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In was a tale of two halves once again for the Thunder, and in part Head Coach Billy Donovan’s team didn’t do some things well in the second half that it did in the first. But this wasn’t a loss akin to the ones against Boston, San Antonio or New Orleans. The differences in the second half were less controllable. There were only three free throw attempts for the Thunder in the third and fourth quarters combined, and where the team shot 52.1 percent in the first half, it made just 34.0 percent of its second half shots.

The offense moved just fine, and there were good looks across the board, including 41 for Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony out of the Thunder’s 50 shots after halftime. That trio made just 13 of those 41 attempts, and the Thunder scored just 39 points after the break after racking up 59 in the first half. Sometimes shots just don’t fall.

“We did a good job of sticking to what we were doing all game,” Westbrook explained. “We just weren’t, obviously, putting the ball in the basket.”

“That’s part of the game,” Westbrook continued. “You have to play through everything and find a way to try to come away with a win.”

The other end of the court was where the Thunder had some lapses in the second half, as the Pistons knocked down 7 of their 14 total three-pointers in the game. The Thunder had trouble tracking shooters in transition, and dealing with Andre Drummond’s ability to pass out of the pick and roll. Detroit ended up winning 19-7 in fast break points as the Thunder shot just 3-of-13 in transition, and Drummond had three assists to go with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

“There are a couple plays that we could have made on our end, defensive breakdowns and communication, talking, on our switches,” said guard Andre Roberson. “There were a couple missteps down towards the end of the game we didn’t come up with. I look at those as things that we messed up on.”

“Andre Drummond causes a lot of attention on the pick and rolls,” Roberson added. “Guys on the weakside put us in a tough bind tonight. They spread us out and pick and rolled it the whole time.”

The Thunder led by as many as 15 in the first half thanks to an absolutely dominant effort in the paint and on the glass. Over the opening 24 minutes, the Thunder out-rebounded Detroit by 13, outscored them in second chance points 14-0 and in the paint 32-16. In the second half the Pistons were able to close the gap in all of those categories, including the rebounding battle that ended up just plus-2 for the Thunder on the night. Those extra opportunities gave the Pistons more life on offense too.

“We didn’t do a good enough job of communicating on some plays, some in transition, a couple guys got free looks,” George noted. “They made some and missed some, but those are possessions we could have cut out. Then on some possessions switching, something we’ve been so good at, we had a lack of communication there as well. That’s just what it comes down to. We weren’t tied in.”

Highlights: Russell Westbrook

Westbrook finished with a 27-point, 11 rebound, 11 assist triple-double to go with three steals, and he was really working with Anthony on pick-and-pop jumpers at the free throw line area in the first half. It reminded of the way Westbrook hit Serge Ibaka on those type of jumpers in years past, and Anthony scored 15 of his 20 points before halftime. The Thunder point guard also got downhill to make plays for Steven Adams, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the opening two periods.

Those extra offensive opportunities were available because Paul George was forced to sit with three fouls after playing just nine minutes. For a game that featured just 17 total free throw attempts, it was some tough touch fouls that sidelined the Thunder’s two-way star for much of the opening half. He stayed with it mentally and was able to score 14 points of his 16 points in the second half, in addition to snatching five steals.

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By the Numbers

4-for-5 – Shooting numbers for Andre Roberson, who hit a massive three-pointer with 47.7 seconds left to pull the Thunder to within one

21 – Turnovers forced by the Thunder, making it 10 straight games where an opponent has turned the ball over more than the Thunder

35-13 – The Pistons’ advantage in bench points on the night, as the reserves shot 14-for-27 from the field

The Last Word

“We had a lot of opportunities. The last four minutes, I thought we had really good ball movement. We really generated some good looks. The ball just didn’t go in the basket for us… The difference in the game was really the three-point line… We needed to score more points. We scored 39 points in the second half. We’re a better team than that. I was very encouraged because we gave incredible effort tonight.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

Final from OKC.

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