Thun­der weath­ers misses by Abrines

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - Mad­die Lee mlee@ ok­la­homan.com STAFF WRITER

When Paul Ge­orge tipped the ball away from Hous­ton’s Ger­ald Green in the first quar­ter Thurs­day night, a pass to a wideopen Alex Abrines at the top of the arc was an ob­vi­ous play.

The re­sult­ing 3-point at­tempt from Abrines, who is a ca­reer 37.5 per­cent 3-point shooter, was con­fus­ing. His shot missed so far wide that it clanged off the back­board without touch­ing the rim.

At the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, if Abrines’s shot was off — as it has been for the past two games — the Thun­der had few other play­ers who could stretch the floor. Ge­orge could knock down 3-point­ers, but his shoot­ing was streaky. Patrick Pat­ter­son and Ter­rance Fer­gu­son were in the midst of shoot­ing slumps. Jerami

Grant had yet to find an ef­fec­tive bal­ance be­tween heav­ing up 3-point shots and putting the ball on the floor. But in a 98-80 win over the Rock­ets on Thurs­day, Abrines’ 0-for-3 night from be­yond the arc went prac­ti­cally un­no­ticed.

“You have to look at a body of work over 82 games,” Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van has said re­peat­edly.

Abrines’s his­tory sug­gests that the past cou­ple nights aren’t part of a trend. His stats Wed­nes­day at Cleve­land and Thurs­day vs. Hous­ton didn’t look that bad on pa­per, ei­ther. Against the Cava­liers, Abrines was 3-of-10 from be­yond the arc and scored nine points. Against the Rock­ets he only took three shots.

His strug­gles more showed up in un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally bad misses. There was the wide bank-shot Thurs­day.

The night be­fore, Abrines air-balled a 3-point at­tempt straight into the hands of Cava­liers guard Jor­dan Clark­son.

Un­like the first five games of the Thun­der’s win­ning streak, the dif­fer­ence the past two games hasn’t been “the ball go­ing in the bas­ket more,” as Dono­van put it Mon­day. OKC played good de­fense and shared the load on of­fense — Den­nis Schroder put up 28 points in his first game back in a start­ing role, and six Thun­der play­ers scored in dou­ble dig­its Thurs­day. That com­bi­na­tion has al­lowed them to ex­tend their win­ning streak to seven games, even without their go-to 3-point shooter at his best.

Lineup flex­i­bil­ity

Schroder didn’t just have the ex­pe­ri­ence of start­ing in pre­sea­son and the first two games of reg­u­lar sea­son to lean on when Rus­sell

West­brook’s left an­kle sprain slid Schroder back into the start­ing lineup.

“I think ev­ery­one can play with ev­ery­one,” Schroder said Thurs­day. “That’s what we do, and that’s what we did in train­ing camp and prac­tice. We’re switch­ing it ev­ery time, and I think that’s so spe­cial about this group. Me and

(Ray­mond Fel­ton) can play be­cause we do it in prac­tice.”

The Thun­der has used 20 dif­fer­ent line­ups in three or more games.

Tip-ins

West­brook is listed as out for Satur­day’s game at Dal­las.

[PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Alex Abrines, a ca­reer 37.5 per­cent 3-point shooter, went a com­bined 3-of-13 from be­yond the arc in the Thun­der’s past two games.

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