Thunder weathers misses by Abrines
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.
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.
Westbrook is listed as out for Saturday’s game at Dallas.
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.