Just a little over a week ago the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared ready to finally make a push towards the top of the Western Conference standings. They were winners of eight in a row, but now they are riding a losing streak of four games. They have struggled to adjust to life without lockdown defender Andre Roberson, and it doesn’t get any easier as they head into Golden State to take on the Warriors tonight, but going forward here’s what they need to do to get back on track:

1) Start Alex Abrines in place of rookie Terrance Ferguson. Last season Abrines was an effective player off the bench for the Thunder, but head coach Billy Donovan refused to devote any valuable playing time to him before Roberson’s injury this year. Abrines has allegedly been battling some injuries, but he has been available off the bench for most of this season’s campaign.

Coming into the NBA, Ferguson was known to be a sharpshooter, but the accuracy has not been there for most of this season. Abrines on the other hand is lethal from deep, and although his defense is troubling, there is not much of a gap between his and Ferguson’s defensive effectiveness.

This could end up being good for Ferguson as well. During his time starting the last four games, he has only amassed two points and has looked uncomfortable in the process. Making this switch to the starting lineup allows Ferguson to become more comfortable and keeps the normal second unit together, while bringing some fire power into the starting five.

2) Limit Russell Westbrook’s three-point attempts. When Oklahoma City was rolling on their eight-game winning streak, it was because of their offensive efficiency. While Westbrook is a capable three-point shooter, him hoisting up long range attempts is definitely not efficient.

The three-point shot is one of the best aspects of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony’s games, but not Westbrook’s. Westbrook on the other hand has risen to stardom in this league because of his driving ability and athleticism. When he does not drive and collapse the defense forcing them to leave his teammates open, he is simply bailing out the opposing team.

He should not be taking four three pointers like he did against the Los Angeles Lakers, and he should not by any means be taking seven three pointers like he did against the New Orleans Pelicans.

3) Continue to feed George. This falls primarily on the shoulders of Donovan and Westbrook. George’s lack of inclusion in the second half of the game that began this skid against the Washington Wizards was downright pitiful. George was the best player on the court for most of this game, but barely got any touches down the stretch.

Donovan must at some point step in and call a play for him, or Westbrook needs to say that enough is enough and feed the hot hand that was George.

Often times the Thunder lack creativity on offense, and fall into nothing but isolation and pick and roll basketball, but that cannot be the case with this team. George has been one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA this year, so do not just give him the ball and ask him to do something with it, instead position him to succeed with screening. The San Antonio Spurs offense thrives off ball movement and mismatches. Ball movement will probably never be a huge factor of this Oklahoma City team, but more designed plays will create better matchups for their superstars, more open looks, and therefore more victories.



This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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