Memphis Grizzlies (6-15) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-20)
Wednesday, December 10
Oklahoma City, OK
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
I’ll you one thing, I’m sick of this “We’ve got to play harder” stuff. For a full month, that’s been the soundbite from this team. I’ve watched this group play for a solid two months and “playing hard” is not the problem. That’s just an excuse for what’s actually the issue, or should I say issues.
A total lack of execution. Poor fundamentals. A misunderstanding of roles. Terrible chemistry. No rhythm or flow to the offense. Awful defense. Bad shooting. Bad rebounding. Bad ball control. Bad talent. Bad players. Bad team.
Playing hard has nothing to do with it. As far as I’m concerned, they are playing hard. But this isn’t college basketball. You don’t really squeeze wins away in the NBA because you outhustled the other team. Maybe in a match of two even squads, that’s a difference maker. But when the talent gap is as big as it is when OKC plays, “playing hard” doesn’t mean that much. You have to combine playing hard with all the intangibles that actually make up a decent basketball team. I don’t care you dove on the floor 28 times if you shot only 22 percent from the field.
I really haven’t watched a game yet where I thought, “Boy, they just aren’t trying.” I’ve watched games where it was clear the Thunder were flat or lacked intensity, but it wasn’t like they weren’t trying.
And as clear as its been that OKC has played better under Scott Brooks, there was a big step back Monday night against the Warriors. Most of the players chalked it up to “not playing hard.” When in reality, the Thunder turned it over 20 times (15 in the first half) shot 60 percent from the free throw line, missed easy shots in the lane, played horrible defense, got dominated in the paint and didn’t execute outside of giving the ball to Kevin Durant and watching him shoot. Is that “not playing hard?” Sounds to me that’s “not playing good.”
That brings us to tonight’s game against Memphis. Somehow, the Thunder beat the Grizz on the road two and a half weeks ago. How? Because they didn’t just “play hard.” They executed, made shots, rebounded and made free throws. OKC trailed by 11 at the half but remained focused and stayed within itself. The did get to loose balls and secure rebounds – but that should just be part of it. Those things are completely within your control. Nobody should have to tell you to go get a rebound. You’re a basketball player. You’re supposed to just know and do that.
I don’t know what to expect tonight. I would hope that after Monday’s letdown against the Warriors, the Thunder would come out on fire and play its best game of the season. The Grizzlies are a terrible road team (1-10 on the road, 5-5 at home). This is winnable. People are expecting a win. It looks like another losing streak is building and this is a good chance to nip it before it starts rolling again and weighing on their minds. But with this group, who knows.