Top to bottom, Thunder take apart Pistons

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Stan Van Gundy isn’t one to mince words. The Detroit has no problem giving honest appraisals about almost any topic that is put to him.

But Van Gundy saves some of his most biting and frank comments about his team whenever they play below his expectations. That was the case Saturday when the Pistons travels to Oklahoma City.

Behind Russell Westbrook’s seventh triple double of the season the Thunder defeated the Pistons 106-88 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Van Gundy didn’t hold back on his assessment of his team’s performance.

Our defense was pathetic,” Van Gundy said. “Pathetic. We didn’t compete. It’s mind boggling with how different we are home and on the road. We didn’t take care of any of the areas we were supposed to focus on. We made very little effort and Oklahoma City played a whole lot harder than us and deserved to win.”

Westbrook posted 17 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds to earn consecutive triple-doubles on back-to-back nights. It was also his 44th career triple-double, which ties him with Cleveland’s LeBron James. However, it took Westbrook 395 fewer games.

He’s a Hall of Fame player,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “I mean that’s really what he I. He’s a Hall of Fame player.”

The Thunder had five players score in double figures. Anthony Morrow came off the Thunder bench to lead the charge. He poured in a season-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Steven Adams added 16 points and nine rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 18 on only 10 shots as Oklahoma City improved to 10-8.

Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting. Ish Smith, who once played for the Thunder, posted 14 points and three assists. As a team, the Pistons collected only 11 assists, which was less than Westbrook by himself.

Detroit dropped to 8-10 overall. But what had the players and staff most perplexed is there 1-8 record on the road.

For everybody, including myself, that goes out there on the floor, we have a job to do,” Harris said. “It’s all about team winning. It comes down to all of us being more focused, more drive to grind it out and get a win. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve proven we can do it at home. So it’s going to take that attitude at home to take it on the road and get a win.”

It was the combination of Westbrook and Morrow who helped the Thunder get off to a fast start against the Pistons. While Westbrook attacked the basket and pulled down rebounds, Morrow finally started to find his shot. After shooting 40 percent on the season, Morrow came off the bench and hit 3 of his first 5 shots.

I love coming into the game and getting a layup or a free throw or a floater,” Morrow said. “It’s something I usually want to do before taking a 28-foot 3-pointer. Billy said he was going to use me on the some post ups so I was just ready for it before the game.”

But it was an entire team effort that allowed Oklahoma City to build its lead up to 18 points in the first half. Eight of the 10 players who touched the court scored.

However, the Pistons whittled away at the lead late in the second quarter. Morris, Harris and Aron Baynes led a charge to cut the deficit to 10 by halftime.

Oklahoma City didn’t help itself by barely shooting over 50 percent from the free throw line. This allowed the Pistons to get within four points in the third quarter.

But a late surge by Morrow pushed the Thunder advantage back to 77-68 heading into the fourth.

The Thunder didn’t allow the game to get any closer. The players took turns scoring at will against the Detroit defense.

At one point, Westbrook shook Caldwell-Pope on his way to a layup, and laughed as he ran back up court.

Oklahoma City outscored Detroit 29-20 in the fourth quarter to close out the game.

“”They are good, but we just didn’t do our jobs,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t make them make the plays we even wanted them to make. We didn’t do our jobs guys. Guys just did not do their jobs. We were bad, they were good. I thought it was actually worse than the final score indicated.”

Inconsistency plagues Thunder as they return home

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — The first part of the NBA season continues to be a roller coaster for the Oklahoma City Thunder. From winning six of their first seven games to dropping seven of their last 10, the revamped team has been anything but predictable.
Coming off Friday night’s overtime victory in Denver, the Thunder (9-8) completed a three-game road trip, their longest of the season so far. And they return home looking for answers for a variety of issues that seem to be hurting the team.
One of those is Oklahoma City’s inability to defend the 3-point line with any tenacity. In their last 10 games, they are allowing teams to shoot 42 percent from deep, which is the worst in the NBA during that span.
“That’s the next step that we have to take from a defensive perspective — the awareness, the understanding and the decision-making,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told “We’re doing a much better job of being in the right spots, but once we’re in that spot and have to get out to the 3-point line, there have been times we’ve been slow getting there or we’ve lost our man on the back side with exchanges. There have been times where we’ve given too much help.”
On Nov. 20, the Thunder allowed the Indiana Pacers to shoot 11 of 22 from 3-point range. Two nights later, the Los Angeles Lakers also knocked down 11 from behind the arc. Even in a win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Thunder allowed them to hit 11 3-pointers.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who has given up his share of uncontested 3-pointers, says it comes down to focus.
“It’s just being focused on when to help and when not to help,” Westbrook said, “having a real sense of urgency on that aspect to not give up so many threes.”
When Oklahoma City faced Detroit earlier in the month, 3-point shooting was not a problem. The Pistons won despite knocking down only 5-of-16.
In the Nov. 14 matchup, Detroit was also without the services of center Andre Drummond. When the Thunder and Pistons meet in Oklahoma City, Drummond will be in the lineup with his 14.9 points, 14 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals.
However, Detroit will not have guard Reggie Bullock after he suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee during Wednesday’s win over Miami.
“Reggie’s a pretty even-keel guy, so he’s fine outwardly,” coach Stan Van Gundy told “But I know he’s frustrated, because he wasn’t ready to go at the beginning of the year and that cost him some time. And then he had worked his way back in the rotation. It’s just really unfortunate for him.”
The Pistons have already been missing guard Reggie Jackson with a fracture in his foot. The loss of Bullock weakens an already depleted Detroit backcourt.
The one piece of good news is that the Pistons expect to get Jackson back in early December. However, that doesn’t help them when Van Gundy looks down the Detroit bench to find a defender to put in front of Westbrook, who had another triple-double Friday.
But Van Gundy wants to see what type of mindset his Pistons can take on the road as they face a new round of adversity.
“That’s the kind of resilience we had a year ago. We haven’t necessarily had that all the time this year,” Van Gundy said. “It was really good to see. Now the challenge is to bring that same mindset and effort on the road. We’ve got four in a row on the road, all against good teams, all of them .500 or better. It’s going to be a really tough week — four games in seven days — it’s going to be difficult, so we’ve got to bring the same mindset and energy on the road.”

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