The Oklahoma City Thunder gave up a season-high 136 points in their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, marking their fourth loss in the last five games.
At 6-11 this season, the Thunder are in a rebuild, but they have had some bright spots. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has shown promise as a second-year guard, averaging a career-high in points (18.8) and rebounds (5.1). Chris Paul has posted some of the best 3-point shooting numbers of his career.
The Thunder will play the New Orleans Pelicans at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday at 8 p.m. EST.
Each of the Trail Blazers’ starters scored in double figures Wednesday, with Damian Lillard scoring a team-high 27 points.
The Thunder didn’t defend the 3-point line well, as the Blazers shot 46.7% from deep. Paul spoke on how the Thunder’s defensive communication has to improve.
“We gotta be better, we gotta be better,” Paul said, per Fox Sports Oklahoma. “We gotta communicate better. I think early in the game, I was late on all my rotations, but we gotta be better. And if we get better defensively, I think we’ll start seeing different results.”
Friday’s game will mark the second meeting between the Thunder and the Pelicans. The Thunder won the first game 115-104 in the season series Nov. 2. That game was a quality one defensively for OKC, as it held New Orleans to 42.6% shooting from the field.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs a scoring boost
Gilgeous-Alexander started his second year with a jolt, as he averaged 21.0 points per game in the first 10 games of the season.
The past five games, though, Gilgeous-Alexander has been in a minor slump, averaging 14.8 points. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 3-point shooting numbers have been down as well. The first 10 games, he shot 40.9% from the 3-point line. In the previous five, he’s shot 35.7%.
With Gilgeous-Alexander still being a young player, he’s going to have slumps like the one he’s in now. Point guard is arguably the hardest position in the league to consistently perform at a high level on both ends of the floor.
For Gilgeous-Alexander, this game against the Pelicans might give him the scoring boost he needs. The first time these two teams played this season, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points and shot 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. The performance was one of nine times this season that he scored 20 or more points.
The Thunder need better 3-point shooting
The Thunder started the season shooting well, but in this recent stretch, they’ve struggled to make shots from behind the arc.
In their past five games, they’ve shot 35% or better from the 3-point line once. That was in a 130-127 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. During their most recent win, a victory over the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder shot 34.4% from the 3-point line.
Though the Thunder are below .500, they’ve been able to stay in games for the most part. Their largest loss was when the Indiana Pacers beat them 111-85. OKC also posted its third-lowest 3-point shooting numbers of the season during that game, shooting at a 24.0% clip from deep.
The Thunder have been able to compete in part because of their 3-point shooting. Paul is one of their best shooters, as he’s shooting 39.2% from the 3-point line. Danilo Gallinari leads the team in 3-point percentage, shooting 40.4%.
OKC had success shooting threes the first time it played the Pelicans this season.
The Thunder shot 40.5% from the 3-point line during that game, and it’s one of six times this season they’ve shot 40% or better from beyond the arc.