Uninspired, uninterested, unmotivated. You pick the word. It all fits for this performance.
I had to keep telling myself to understand what I was watching. This is a team that doesn’t really care and they’re just looking forward to summer vacation. It’s kind of like a college freshman that has a guaranteed “D” in his biology class and while he still has to take the final, it’s not going to really change anything. So does he study? No, he just shows up, fills in some circles and leaves. That’s what the Thunder’s doing right now. And they were playing the kid that’s got a 4.0 and can get a 95 in his sleep. While it’s not exactly what you want to see, it is what it is (whatever the heck that means).
I could rant about effort and intensity and place blame on someone, but is it really worth it? Come next season, I don’t think we’ll look back and point at this game and say, “See! If they just would have brought effort here, they’d be competing for a playoff spot!” It’s just loss No. 59 in a season full of them. Sure it was pretty ugly, but this has been a long year for a lot of young guys and I’m sure they’re worn out both mentally and physically.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right there’s no excuse for it. But does the fact that the team has been uninterested and uninspired this last week and a half mean that all the good things that happened the past three months be ignored? Even though I knew exactly what was happening and I tried to tell myself that was the way it was going to be before tip, it didn’t make it any less frustrating. I was still bothered and agitated at each turnover, each defensive collapse and each Greg Oden uncontested dunk.
But regardless of all that, I honestly don’t feel as if it’s a huge deal. Of course I would have rather watched a tough, gritty 48-minute war like we’ve gotten accustomed to. But this is the last leg of the marathon and we’re crawling backwards to the finish line. And I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. It’s a collection of things. Sometimes people forget that players have to play. Scott Brooks can’t go out and man-up on Brandon Roy. Kyle Weaver’s got to do that. Sure Brooks can “motivate” him, but in the end, Weaver’s got to do the job. And the mental hangover of knowing that you’re playing for absolutely nothing against a team that’s won eight of nine and has its eyes on the biggest prize adds up to uninspired basketball. And to me, that’s not that big of a deal.
Again, of course I’d rather the team have played better put you have to keep it all in perspective. It’s not like they’re fighting for a playoff spot. They’re playing for nothing. And they have been playing for nothing for six months now. I’m sure that wears on them. I think they’re incredibly excited about next year and in fact, they may be looking ahead to it already. They may be just kind of saying, “Ok, let’s get through these games so we can get to the draft, then summer ball and then NEXT YEAR.” Sure it sort of sets a bad tone for next season, but I think they’ve made the progress they needed to make in January, February, March and even some of this month. To stumble down the stretch like this doesn’t do much to my mindset other than frustrating the crap out of me while I try and watch.
- Shaun Livingston played 18 minutes and was productive again, but more importantly, I think he’s growing more and more confident in his body. He looks much better laterally and he looks comfortable going to the rim. Like Joe said after the Milwaukee game, I’m loving his post-up game. He’s 6’7″ so it just makes sense. He’ll have a shot almost every other point guard in the league and if he can get consistent with that, he’ll be a great late game option. Now he just needs to add a little running jump hook to his game…
- Kind of crazy how similar this game was to the last one. Same first quarter score, similar halftime score, near identical final margin. Again OKC couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat and the Blazers were very efficient.
- Robert Swift checked in with four minutes left in the third. Translation: bad sign.
- Jeff Green was a -31 in the first half. Holy crap city. And he has got to get stronger on the boards. Four rebounds from the power forward position in 29 minutes is just unacceptable.
- Kevin Durant started the game 0-6 and didn’t score a point until 3:45 in the second quarter. Not a good sign from your leading scorer.
- One guy that didn’t quit playing was Russell Westbrook. Sure he went 4-16, but he had 15 points, seven assists, three boards and three steals. And he was diving on the floor wrestling Joel Pryzbilla for a rebound late in the third while OKC was down 30. I can appreciate that.
- Greg Oden fouls all the time. He only gets called about half the time, but every rebound he’s pushing and grabbing. He really doesn’t move his feet all that well and has to reach grab to get himself back in position. And he’s really not that skilled around the basket. It almost looks like he’s thinking about the post moves he was working on earlier as he’s holding the ball on the block. OK, coach says drop step, head fake and go up with the left hand? Or right hand? Crap, what is it? The guy’s got talent and I think he’ll be good, but his offseason assignment needs to be footwork and offensive post moves. He’s not going to be the player everybody wants him to be just by dunking the ball.
- OKC was outscored 29-15 in the first quarter on 6-20 shooting, digging themselves into a major hole. Didn’t help that they followed that up with a 6-18 second quarter for 16 points to trail 62-31 at halftime. Awesome!
- In the long line of awesome Thunder stats tonight, how about Portland outrebounding OKC 54-36.
- The Blazer bench did all the damage tonight. Brandon Roy had 20 and Travis Outlaw 21, but the other three Portland starters combined for 17 points. The Blazer bench had 55.
- Maybe it’s shallow, but is anyone else really bugged that KD’s scoring average is getting destroyed here late in the year? Going into tonight, he was tied with Danny Granger at 25.5 ppg for fifth in the league. And after 10 points on 5-15 shooting, he’s dropped under that. I liked “Kevin Durant: Scoring Machine” much better.
Even though the Thunder looks like they’ve fallen on their faces lately, it’s still been a relatively successful season and a lot of good things have happened. Seriously, don’t hit the panic button, don’t make rash judgments and don’t form opinions on this season based on this last week. Step back, understand the situation and take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
One day off and then a game at the Clippers to close this season. And then we get to be optimistic again and talk draft and what could be. Fun!