When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets and Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, sitting four games over .500 in early January was not expected by many preseason predictions.
Heading into Tuesday’s visit to the struggling Brooklyn Nets, the Thunder are amongst the hottest teams in the NBA of late.
Oklahoma City’s last visit to Brooklyn was Dec. 5, 2018, when George scored 47 and hit the game-winner while Westbrook notched a triple-double in a 114-112 win. That was part of a season in which the Thunder won 49 games but lost to Portland in the first round.
Shortly after the frenetic offseason began, the Thunder acquired a combined seven first-round picks in the deals that sent George and Westbrook elsewhere. They also acquired Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from the Clippers and Chris Paul from the Rockets.
All three have contributed to Oklahoma City being 20-16 and 9-2 in 11 games since Dec. 14.
Gallinari is averaging 18.0 points despite missing four games during the hot streak with a sprained ankle. Paul is averaging 16.3 points and 6.6 assists while not missing a game this season, and Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a team-high 19.8 points after averaging 10.8 points as a rookie last season.
Oklahoma City heads to Brooklyn looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since Dec. 11-14. Oklahoma City saw a season-high five-game winning streak stopped when it absorbed a 120-113 loss at Philadelphia on Monday in a game where they were unable to overcome a 14-point deficit.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, and we’ve had that happen before where we’ve gotten down, but these guys always fight back,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said after his team allowed 51.1 percent shooting.”I thought we fought and played pretty hard and pretty well in the second half. I thought the things that hurt us in the second half was, one, I thought we gave up some timely offensive rebounds, and we just didn’t shoot the ball great from the free-throw line.”
The Nets enter Tuesday at 16-19 and tied a season-worst by going three games under .500 for the third time this season. They are 12-12 in the 24 games Kyrie Irving has missed with right shoulder impingement since Nov. 14, and their six-game losing streak is their longest since dropping eight straight games Nov. 21-Dec. 5, 2018.
During the current skid, the Nets have lost by double digits four times with an average margin of defeat of 12 points. During this skid, the Nets are averaging 99.5 points and are especially struggling in the fourth quarter.
On Monday, the Nets were held to their third-lowest point total of the season when they scored 18 points in the final 12 minutes of a 101-89 loss at Orlando. During the fourth quarter in their skid, the Nets are getting outscored by a margin of 158-121, shooting 32.2 percent (39-of-121) and 22 percent (13-of-59) on 3-pointers.
“Sure, I think there’s a little bit of crisis of confidence, there’s no doubt about it.,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said after his team shot 33 percent and missed 37 of 47 3-point tries. “But that just happens during an NBA season. We’re just in a rut. We shot the ball real well early in the season, where we’re not shooting it well now. It’ll come back. I have confidence in these guys.”
–Field Level Media