Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Issues At Bay

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a pretty good basketball team when they have that Russell Westbrook guy out on the court. When he's on the bench things get a little ugly.

No player on the Thunder bench had positive +/- in Sunday's game. Westbrook led the team with a +14, but when he's out of the game the Thunder have trouble getting anything going offensively.

Something has to change for the Thunder to drastically alter the momentum in this series. Part of that is shortening the rotation. Just like last year when Billy Donovan staggered Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, he must do the same thing against the Rockets.

Victor Oladipo hasn't had a good series. He's been streaky and his confidence doesn't seem to be very high. But, for Oklahoma City to comeback he must become their second best player. The backup point guard situation is a mess. Neither Norris Cole or Semaj Christon can run a second unit effectively. So why not stagger the minutes between Westbrook and Oladipo?

Let Oladipo run the second unit as point guard, a position he ran frequently during his tenure with the Orlando Magic. This would allow the second unit to have some sort of playmaking ability with Westbrook on the bench, and hopefully an opportunity for Westbrook to breathe a little while he's there.

Also Taj Gibson has to play more. I understand what Billy Donovan is trying to do. The Rockets are littered with three-point shooters, so he wants to counter it by going small and matching their quickness (Oklahoma City's three-point defense is a whole different story). Gibson is rugged defender with the capability of knocking down shots in the post, or from 15 feet away.

In the one game they won, Gibson took 20 points on 13 shots.

The Thunder's season could end tonight, but with the right adjustments they could push the pressure against the Rockets

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bricks Lead to Brink

I'll just say it. That was one of the worst five minutes of basketball I've ever seen. Stupid fouls, missed calls, turnovers, both teams looked like they just started at the YMCA league.

The worst, which most Thunder fans will agree with, is the foul Jerami Grant committed on Houston forward Nene.

With about 20 seconds to go Steven Adams went to the line with a chance to cut the deficit to just three. But, after making the first free throw Adams went to half court to set up a play of his own. Westbrook began nodding his head and made his way to the three point line, waiting for his opportunity.

Adams return to the free throw line, takes one dribble and throws the ball off the front of the rim. The Thunder center skies for the rebound and throws a pass to a waiting Russell Westbrook. BANG.

The Thunder were down just one point, 108-107. Any way the Rockets played it, OKC would have an opportunity to tie the game unless they really screwed up.

Spoiler: They screwed up.

The Rockets inbounded the ball, where the Thunder immediately should've fouled. They denied the ball to their best free throw shooter (Harden), which was a success. The only poor free throw shooter the Rockets had on the floor was Nene, but he was on the other end of the court.

It didn't really make sense to waste time hoping for a miracle steal, the Thunder needed all the time they could get. But the Thunder did not foul...at least not yet. No, Oklahoma City decided to wait and foul Nene as the big went up for a layup. They screwed up.

The only way the Thunder could eliminate themselves from the game at that point was allow a three point shot, or foul on an and-1. Fouling on the inbounds would have gotten rid of both of those possibilities.

Nene made the following free throw, eliminating the Thunder from the game and placing their season on the line Tuesday night.

There's still a chance the Thunder could pull it out (they themselves blew a 3-1 lead last year), but chances are slim. Russell Westbrook needs to pull one last rabbit out of his hat, or rather some teammates that'll contribute when he's not on the floor.