In the aftermath of Tuesday’s season-opening eight-point loss at Golden State, the Thunder mostly talked about what they did well.
Though they could have rebounded much better on the defensive boards, it was still a strong defensive night, denoted by 21 Warrior turnovers and 26.9 percent 3-point shooting from a team that’s typically better at it than anybody else.
Also, tempo was good, as coach Billy Donovan told OKCThunder.com afterward.
“I felt like the whole game we pushed the ball up the floor,” he said. “The ball was coming up the floor. I thought we maintained the pace.”
Of course, Golden State’s version of that would be, on the heels of an emotional pregame ring ceremony, the Warriors were unusually sloppy and when will Klay Thompson next make just 5 of 20 attempts field attempts and just 1 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc?
Still, the numbers are the numbers and given Oklahoma City was without Russell Westbrook, which is a real double whammy because it keeps Dennis Schroder from bolstering the bench as he would otherwise, an eight-point loss to the defending world champions isn’t so bad.
On the other hand, just who can any team expect to beat on a day it makes barely more than a third of its shots — 36.1 percent; 33 of 91 — 27 percent of its 3-point tries (10 of 37) and only 24 of 37 free throws.
Had the Thunder made 32 of 37 from the foul line, they would have reached overtime. Had they hit free throws at the same clip as the Warriors — 94.4 percent; 17 of 18 — they would have won the game.
Hard to win when you can’t shoot.
Before training camp opened, OKC general manager Sam Presti made a point of explaining the Thunder needed to improve their shooting. Part of the play-faster identity the team has adopted is for the better more frequent looks it ought to create.
Still, the Thunder’s general weakness as shooters was on display.
Not that Westbrook is a tremendously accurate shooter, but his presence in that facet alone would have helped Tuesday.
Without him, Paul George was left to go ice cold before the half and catch fire after the half, leading OKC to it’s only brief lead 5 minutes into the third quarter.
George made 9 of 23 shots and Schroder canned 7 of 19. Yet, what the Thunder really couldn’t afford was the combined 5 of 21 accuracy of Patrick Patterson, Jeremy Grant and Raymond Felton.
Now Oklahoma City has a game it should win and needs to win to take advantage of a favorable early schedule.
At 9:30 p.m. Friday, the Thunder visit the Los Angeles Clippers (0-1) at Staples Center before returning home for four games against Sacramento, Boston, Phoenix and, yet again, the Clippers.
Of their next five, the only particularly strong opponent is Boston, thus there’s no reason, even still, to not to begin the season 4-2 or 5-1. On the other hand, if OKC can’t shoot 40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from 3-point range and 70 percent from foul line, winning any of those games will become a serious challenge.
Game 2: Oklahoma City at L.A. Clippers Time: 9:30 p.m. Place: Staples Center Records: Thunder 0-1, Clippers 0-1 TV: FSOK Radio: WWLS-AM 640 and FM 98.1