Kiwi Steve in the NBA #18: Slumping


BOX SCORES

at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (L 114-109):

24 MINS | 2 PTS (1/3 FG) | 6 REB | 1 STL | 3 TO | 5 PF

at PHOENIX SUNS (L 118-111):

30 MINS | 9 PTS (3/4 FG, 3/6 FT) | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PF

at DALLAS MAVERICKS (L 104-89):

25 MINS | 19 PTS (8/10 FG, 3/5 FT) | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 2 PF

vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (L 126-121):

29 MINS | 4 PTS (1/1 FG, 2/5 FT) | 3 REB | 3 PF


NEXT WEEK

vs SAN ANTONIO SPURS, Friday 2.00pm (NZT)

vs UTAH JAZZ, Sunday 9.00am (NZT)

at BROOKLYN NETS, Wednesday 12.30pm (NZT)


at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (L 114-109)

It’s probably safe to say that Adams had a bit of a mid-season slump here.

Usually the Thunder look to set things up inside as a statement nice and early. A few post-ups for Steven Adams, maybe a drive at the hoop from Russ and a kickout or whatever. Well first after Domantas Sabonis missed a three, Adams turned the ball over against Josef Nurkic. He got back with a steal against C.J. McCollum and a nice hook shot from ten feet to get OKC on the board but despite that all happening inside the first two minutes of the game, he wouldn’t score another point (or get another steal).

He probably wouldn’t have got a hand on this beauty even if he’d known where it was going but the stunned look on his face tells a tale of just how good this Dame Lillard pass was.

Instead the Trail Blazers got out to a solid lead. Taj Gibson came in to try shore things up but it didn’t help. Adams was replaced by Kanter with 5:41 left in the first and the score at 20-8. Gibson and Kanter did a bit of work at chipping away at that lead and after the first it was a 26-24 game and a Norris Cole three to kick off the second gave OKC their first lead.

Quality work from the bench to get them back into this, when Adams re-entered proceedings McCollum had re-established Portland’s advantage but only just. But whatever it was about the starters on this day, something simply wasn’t working. Allen Crabbe drilled a triple and soon enough Stevie was getting slapped with a techie.

To be fair, there was nothing in it. In fact you can make a strong argument that Meyers Leonard took a good old fashioned flop there but so it goes.

It was the same dramas as the first quarter. The Blazers’ starters were too fast and too sharp to be stopped and after a McCollum running three made it 57-48 with a little over a minute to play in the second, Adams sat for Kanter again. Next thing Russ scores nine points in 92 seconds and right on the verge of half-time, Gibson went on ahead and did this:

Yeah… wow. That was for the lead as well, stunningly the Thunder had themselves on top despite getting next to nothing from anyone other than Russ and a few buckets from Gibson and Kanter. At half-time, Adams had only 2 points and 2 rebounds and a -19 +/- in his court allotment.

Stevie then missed one from ten feet early in the third and that was it for his shot attempts. It’s always frustrating when he doesn’t get the touches he should, though he wasn’t all that great this game anyway. Mo Harkless hit a treble for the lead on the next play and Adams soon picked up two quick personals. Not helping yourself there, son. He’s sit the rest of 3Q and the first half of the fourth too. This… is not the best recipe for success right here.

A fourth quarter in which Westbrook continued on the borderline psychopathic scoring streak he’d been on. A layup soon after Adams returned made it 101-94 and OKC were in a powerful position. But the night Adams was having on the scoreboard only continued as he fouled Nurkic for a three-point play then picked up his fourth with a foul on Allen Crabbe (non-shooting). When he gave up #5 on Al-Farouq Aminu it was for the chance to take the lead for the Nigerian. Aminu missed but Nurkic put it in on the rebound. Adams sat down for Gibson but came back a minute or two later with McCollum making a second FT for 108-101 – yeah, 14 points in a row and that number soon hit 16 with a pair of McCollum FTs. Stunningly OKC came almost all the way back… but not quite.

ESPN: “Lillard's 3-pointer extended it to 106-101 before Westbrook's driving layup and free throw pulled Oklahoma City to 110-106. Abrines' 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left narrowed it to 110-109. After the timeout, Lillard was fouled twice in the final seconds and made all four free throws before Westbrook and Doug McDermott missed 3-pointers at the end.”

That +/- in the end for Stevie? Not usually a stat that needs highlighting for him but here it was a -23 which is outrageous for a starter like him (meaning he plays mostly alongside Russ) especially in a game that was hardly a blowout either. While he had 2 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist, his opposite man Nurkic (a recent trade acquisition) went on ahead with 18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists (a career high) and five blocks.

Westbrook scored 45 points but his TD streak came to an end with only 8 rebounds and 4 assists – plus he shot 12/36 from the field which doesn’t exactly justify that many shots. 6/16 from deep, which is a better percentage but still ten missed threes. Those pull-ups in the middle were damaging, not enough layups and dunks for Russ on this day. The rest of the starters combined for 12 points which is horrific but at least Enes Kanter’s 18 points and Taj Gibson’s 15 meant the bench did its bit.

On the other side Dame Lillard’s 33 points were crucial with Nurkic and McCollum each adding 18. Al-Farouq Aminu had 14 off the bench on 6/9 shooting.

Daily Thunder: “Maybe Steven Adams’ worst game of the season. He just looked… off. He played only 24 minutes and Jusuf Nurkic just beat him up. Adams committed bad fouls, wasn’t a factor on the glass and made some defensive mistakes.”


at PHOENIX SUNS (L 118-111):

For the fifth game in a row, Victor Oladipo was unavailable with his back spasms. Also for the third game in a row Adams was kept under ten points – something that he hadn’t done since around the time he got concussed in that Sacramento game, which barely even counts. The entire month of February he never had consecutive games under ten points.

Things started off well, Adams got the first bucket of the game. Hell, the Thunder were 11-2 up before half the crowd had even taken their seats. But from a solid lead against what’ll definitely be a lottery team, OKC just looked off somehow. Dunno what it was, perhaps playing on the wrong side of a back to back had them tired. From that early lead they were only up 27-23 after the end of the first quarter and by the time Adams whipped off the trackies for another run they were losing 39-36. A little mental, that.

Stevie got hustling in the third. He was hauling in boards and getting to the free throw line. He’d go 2/4 from the stripe and 2/3 from the field for 6 points in the frame as well as grabbing 8 rebounds. He did his part there and yet the lead for Phoenix only got larger. Last time the starters failed and the bench stood up (albeit they still lost). This time Enes Kanter’s 11 points were the best the bench could offer and although Abrines had 13 and Sabonis 11, it all fell on Westbrook’s shoulders again.

Daily Thunder: “The one bright spot of the quarter though was Steven Adams, who finally seemed to show up for this road trip.  He and Russ ran their pick-and-roll which led to a dunk for the Big Kiwi, and that seemed to get him going.”

Russ was fire but his 48 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists didn’t quite make up for a team that phoned in too many defensive plays and relied lazily on three pointers when they weren’t shooting them well at all. Russ was 3/12 from deep, the whole team combined was 9/35. That ain’t good, friend.

And as such OKC were always a few plays away from making this a contest despite getting in range for a comeback more than once. The Suns kept on doing just enough, with six different players in double figures for scoring, and they made their free throws down the stretch. Steven Adams meanwhile, he drew a couple late fouls to take his tally to six. Fouled out with 28 seconds remaining.

With this defeat the Thunder matched their loss total for the entire previous season (27).

Welcome to Loud City: “Of late, a curious trend has developed in Oklahoma City’s offensive scheme. This, of course, is Steven Adams’ lack of shot attempts. Adams, (11.9 ppg, 8.6 fga, 56 fg%) has a meager 13 field-goal attempts in his past three outings. While a slight FGA dropoff from Adams, as OKC incorporates new acquisitions, is understandable, his blatant lack of offensive inclusion is not. Unfortunately, the seven-footer has become a rather conspicuous casualty of Oklahoma City’s roster reshuffle. It is imperative Coach Donovan contrive and implement methods to utilize best his new talent while re-establishing Adams’ interior efficacy.”

WTLC: “Of course the Thunder are still missing Victor Oladipo, but that isn’t really the problem. Rather, the Westbrook-Adams chemistry appears to be off much of the time, with Adams struggling to help create and finish plays he routinely was completing earlier this season. And I think he knows he’s struggling too, as his frustration is mounting toward his performance and how the referees are calling him.”


at DALLAS MAVERICKS (L 104-89)

Let us indeed. This was an interesting one from the start, not only because Mark Cuban continues to troll the media and OKC fans with his ‘superstar’ theory. Also because coming off one of his finest games as a pro, new Mav Nerlens Noel was playing back off the bench with Dirk Nowitzki, the legend, lining up against Adams instead.

There’s a strong theory to that. You ask Adams to play further from the rim to counter Dirk’s range which should improve the Mavs’ rebounding and their paint offence, though the counterpoint is that Dirk is a soft defender at the five and naturally both of those things were on show early. Steve made the first two buckets of the night, both one-handed floaters from a few feet out, before Nowitzki flaunted that iconic shot of his a time or two. Add in the suddenly emerging Seth Curry (brother of) and the Mavericks had themselves a lead.

End of the first and it was 28-27 to the Mavericks. Russell Westbrook was unguardable as far as Dallas went, already it was clear he was gonna get his shots if he wanted them and he helped himself to 14 points in the first frame. Adams was his closest cohort with 7 points, not helped by missing a couple of free throws (1/3 in the 1Q).

Weird thing is he didn’t score at all in the second. Russ, that is. He missed every damn shot he took and while some were then recovered by the likes of Enes Kanter for points, others weren’t. Like his deep pull-up three at the end of the quarter. The assists rolled but Russ only had one rebound in the first half, while 6/7 shooting from Dirk and a hot period from Seth Curry before the break helped the Mavericks finish that half on a 14-6 run. Kanter was huge with 15 points in that half but too many other dudes were shanking it.

For example, the Stache Bros had a combined 26 points on 12/19 shooting. The rest of the team had 24 points on 10/28 shooting. Meanwhile Dallas shot 62.8% from the field in the first half. Probably wanna do something about that, aye. (This is a good time to mention that Victor Oladipo is close to a return to the team).

Dougie McBuckets started the 3Q in place of Alex Abrines. Gave them a slightly bigger body without costing them shooting, which made a lot of sense, although Abrines was technically injured after a poke in the eye before HT and wouldn’t return (so they didn’t have a choice). But the first minute after the big rest was all Stevie. He copped the foul and scored both from the line, before blocking Wes Matthews at the rim on the next possession. Played some nice defence on Seth soon after as well, sticking with the guy for speed, but Curry drilled one up over the top of him all the same.

And while Curry and Yogi Ferrell were making shots at one end, OKC were missing all of theirs. Adams came up short on a floater and was twice robbed of the ball by a hustling Wes Matthews. He wasn’t alone. In came Enes with 5:28 left and Westbrook finally hit a long two pointer after OKC began the third with four turnovers and 0/8 shooting from the field.

End of the third it was 88-71. Russ had made a few hoops to cut into what got as big as a 24 point lead but this wasn’t looking pretty. Spoiler alert: the comeback didn’t happen. However we did see a lot of Adams in the fourth and he went about dropping a few more buckets to take his total to 19 points. Only five rebounds but 8/10 shooting so a positive offensive game. There are plenty of guys who deserve blame for a bad loss here but Adams and Kanter (16p & 10r) aren’t among them.

  • Stache Bros: 35 PTS (15/24 FG)
  • Everyone Else: 54 PTS (18/64 FG)

That is not a healthy dispersal. As a team the Thunder were 2/22 from three. Russ had 29 points but his 6 rebounds and 5 assists were nowhere close to a triple double – that’s three games without one now, yikes – and nobody other than he and the Stachies scored more than 6 points. Yeah, the sooner Oladipo returns the better.

Daily Thunder: “Adams and Kanter were the only other Thunder players that scored in double digits. Adams had a good night with 19 points, 5 rebounds. Russ was making a concerted effort to get Adams involved.”

NewsOK: “The Oklahoma City offense sputtered on Sunday. The Thunder shot 40.2 percent from the floor, and though it had some success in the paint against the smaller Mavericks — Steven Adams scored 19 points and Enes Kanter 16 — it shot 2 for 22 from 3-point range. Westbrook made both of the Thunder's 3-pointers, but shot 2 for 10 from long range.”

For the Mavs it was Seth Curry’s 22 points that topped, with Dirk adding 18, Barnes with 17 and Nerlens Noel had 13 off the bench shooting 6/7.

Mavs Moneyball: “Steven Adams is a beast - Despite leading for most of the game, the Mavs really had trouble early with Steven Adams. Adams is a great player in his own right, but the Mavericks really don’t have anyone who matches up well with him. Nerlens Noel has been great, obviously, but he still doesn’t quite have the size to match up with Adams, and when Noel was off the court, Dallas had someone helping on Adams at almost every step. Fortunately, because of the fourth bullet, that didn’t matter much tonight. Still, it’s a problem for this Mavs team when they play opponents who have Adams-type players the rest of the way out.”


vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (L 126-121)

Aaand back to the slump. Adams may have popped a few points against the Mavs but playing a team with an actual starting centre it was about as bad as when he last played the Blazers… a couple days earlier. The good news is that he was better up against Nurkic but the bad news is that he still wasn’t good.

There must be something about the Trail Blazers, that’s the fourth time they’ve played them (and last, thankfully) this season and they’ve lost three. This was a tough one for Steve as well, up against Nurkic and Vonleh, but after Russ opened the scoring he did manage to draw the foul on the latter bugger there. Only to miss both free throws. When the confidence is off, it’s off, aye?

Stevie made amends soon after with a seven footer assisted by Westbrook but stunningly – almost unforgivably – that was his only field goal attempt of the game. He’s been off his game a bit lately but he also isn’t the opportunities he has on other days. No field goal attempts in the final 46 minutes of a game for a starting centre earning close to max money is a damn strange one, tell you that much.

Meanwhile here’s C.J. McCollum putting him in a spin cycle:

A Russ triple had OKC up 19-10 and even after a couple of quick fouls sat Adams down the Thunder continued to drive. Enes Kanter did a couple things and Westbrook was having one of those days himself on the way to a 40-29 first quarter lead. Three minutes later Adams came back in and it was 40-37 thanks largely to Mr McCollum.

Meyers Leonard briefly had Portland up a point with a triple for their first lead however Victor Oladipo, returning after his injury absence, answered immediately back with a three of his own. Still, from that point it was pretty much a back and forth game until half-time. Adams drew his third foul and he had himself a towel and a water bottle to think about what he’d done. By the time the break came around he’d only 2 points and a single rebound, OKC up 67-61 thanks to some late Russ.

Although to be fair nobody was rebounding really, Kanter, Oladipo and Aminu led the game with 4 each. Probably something to do with having both teams shooting well over 50% for the first half – Blazers at 53.7% and Thunder at 67.6%.

Daily Thunder: “Russ finished with 24, and Oladipo with 10, while the rest of the Thunder team was pretty quiet in the 2nd quarter. Especially Steven Adams, who continued his unusual streak of sub-par play in the first half and only got off one field goal attempt in 12 minutes. For the Blazers, McCollum and Crabbe both got going and finished with 11 and 12, respectively.”

Then the third was a bloody disaster. Outscored 38-25, the Thunder obviously saw that shooting stat come down to closer to normal but the problem was they weren’t doing a thing defensively. That’s too much to be letting up that deep into the game and Westbrook kinda naturally decided he was gonna have to do it himself the way it was going. He’d already logged 28 points in the first half and the bloke was well on his way to what would be a Thunder record for points in a game.

Yet when he checked back into the game in the fourth they were down 106-97. Adams came back in at the same time (pleased to report he made 2/2 free throws at one stage in the third). Russell went wild and pretty soon he was shooting free throws for the lead. He missed the second. Then he tied it up again at 116-116… only to miss his next three shots. With 26 seconds left Oladipo drained a three to pull it within one point except the Blazers made their free throws. Westbrook missed a three to tie it and the Blazers won it, four dropped in a row for OKC.

Westbrook scored 58 points. He shot 21/39. He was 6/15 in the fourth. He also had 9 assists and 3 rebounds (only three!?). Oladipo’s 16 points were the next best and he only took nine shots.

Shout out to Allen Crabbe, he scored 23 points while Damian Lillard scored 22 and McCollum chipped in with 21. They had seven of their nine players score at least 11, sharing it all around. That fella Nurkic had 17 points but shot only 5/12 which is handy for Steve’s perspective. 8 rebounds and 4 assists though.

Oh and Steven Adams got poked in the eye, having to leave the game for a bit in the fourth. He returned but after the game he was flaunting a new accessory.

NewsOK: “Trailing by seven points with 4:44 to go, the Thunder's defense held the Blazers to four points in the next three minutes. But just as the Thunder was finding some semblance of defensive rhythm, Steven Adams was poked in the left eye and had to exit the game at 2:01, tied 114-114. The Blazers answered with a floater from C.J. McCollum, then an interior basket from burly center Jusuf Nurkic over Taj Gibson after Adams returned.”

WTLC: “Steven Adams: Adams (1-1 FGM, 2-of-5 FTM, 3 rebs) was caught in no-man’s-land several times on defense and left valuable points at the line in a closely-fought contest.”

Thunderous Intentions: “AWOL Adams: Steven Adams is having a tough month. His shot attempts are down to as season low 6 a game while his field goal percentage has steadied. His 57% from the free throw line has regressed tremendously, after a promising start. Adams role and minutes increased this past summer and even more when Kanter was out. As he gets acclimated to the role of ‘Go-To’ on defense and volume shooter on offense, the results will be mixed from the young, elite center.”

Eh but Russ was good.


ODDS & ENDS

Steven Adams' hair is almost as long as mine! 💇 #curlyhairdontcare #1stratereporting

A post shared by Lesley McCaslin (@lesley__mcc) on

Do yourself a favour and read every word of this (even though it seems to have jinxed him...):