If you told me before tip that Oklahoma City would lose by 11 to the Houston Rockets (7-4) I would have said, “Hey that means we probably played pretty good!”
And they did. For one half again. The score was 56-50 at the break. Five minutes into the third, OKC (1-10) was down double-digits.
So what went wrong? Why couldn’t OKC keep pace again? Well, for one the Thunder could not hit shots in the third and fourth quarters. They went from shooting over 50 percent to shooting right at their average of 40 percent. Every open look hit everything but the bottom of the net. It’s clear: This team just does not have the talent to compete with an average or above average team for 48 minutes. It’s that simple. Over the course of a game, Oklahoma City just can not keep pace with probably 90 percent of the league. Obviously, we can hope for improvement and we can hope for something to miraculously change, but at this point, that’s all we can do. Hope.
Second, Jeff Green went stale. He had 13 at the half and only three in the second. And not only were the Thunder missing open jumpers from 20, they were missing the most open shot of all – free throws. OKC went 18-27 from the line (67 percent).
Two of the biggest misses were Johan Petro about midway through the fourth. OKC had the Rockets lead to eight and Petro came up with a big board after a Joe Smith miss.
As Petro walked to the line, I knew he’d miss both. It was just obvious. Because that’s why these guys are 1-10. They don’t do any of these little things right to win. They don’t knock down the two free throws to cut it to a two possession game. They don’t complete the three on one fast break. They don’t secure a loose rebound even though three Thunder players are around the ball. Just the type of things that make you scream at the TV and then dig around the couch so you can throw the remote at it.
Kevin Durant was his usual self, scoring 29 and grabbing seven rebounds. And hey, Russell Westbrook actually played three more minutes than Earl Watson! How exciting. He was decent scoring 14 on 5-14, but he also picked up five steals. To which at one point Grant Long said, “Westbrook is known for his offensive prowess, but this defense of his is a real nice surprise.” I’ll let you off the hook there Grant. You’re new. You probably didn’t know that pretty much the reasoning behind drafting Westbrook was his defensive skills. That’s ok.
And with how unproductive Nick Collison is right now, I start Joe Smith over him. Collison’s stat lines make me wonder right now. Four points, three rebounds. What’s the deal there? Where’s under-the-radar guy that puts up 10 and nine every night?
It’s tough to win when you’re only productive on a night-in, night-out basis from two or three positions. This team is no where near complete. It needs another scorer (or two). It needs a reliable three point shooter. It needs a post player that can score AND defend. It needs a point guard that isn’t one dimensional and can drive, dish and shoot (Westbrook will be that man, but he’s not there yet). I believed before the season Oklahoma City would give this squad a bump and that they’d win these type of home games just like the Hornets did (that team was 4-6 after 10). But there’s a difference between the two teams: Chris Paul. One team has him, the other team doesn’t.
Oklahoma City has tomorrow off and then another home game against the 1-8 Clippers. There’s a winnable game. Maybe.