Now that’s what a bad loss looks like.
The one in Sacramento wasn’t a good one by any means, but this was a bad, bad one. A 3-7 Clipper team that is ready and willing to quit at the drop of a hat, comes in to the Ford Center and beats Oklahoma City 101-93. Hand it to the Clips though, they made plays. And you can guess which team didn’t.
But step back from the ledge my friend. You could cut ties with all the lies, that— uh, I mean, it’s a long season. Nobody thought this was a championship team this year. It’s one of many more losses to come. But as frustrating a loss this is, you know what the worst part is? The part that makes me want have Vinnie Jones slam my head in a car door a la Snatch? In the most crucial moments, the parts of the game where you HAVE TO HAVE a bucket, the guy with 40 points doesn’t touch the ball. Doesn’t even sniff it.
Now I don’t dispute Jeff Green’s shot. Heck no I don’t. That’s a good shooter with a wide open look. He just missed it. And I don’t really hate Russell Westbrook’s jumper either. He’d a hit a few in the second half and he’s hit that one many times before. But at the same time, with hindsight vision being very clear, Kevin Durant needed a shot. Heck, he had earned it.
Though keep this in mind: It’s tough for Durant because he struggles a bit to create his own. His handle isn’t the best and a lot of times, Durant gets flustered and forces something. He’s at his best when he’s curling off a screen or catching the ball in rhythm. So it’s not like he can “take over” like Wade or LeBron. He’s going to need help from his teammates and it was clear that the Clippers WERE NOT going to let Durant beat them. They had three guys around him in the last two minutes at all times. Somebody had to step up and Green and Westbrook had chances, but didn’t get it done. So you want to get mad and point fingers, but at the same time if a couple shots go down we’re talking about how players stepped up and it was a team effort. Funny how that works.
So I know what people are going to say. Why didn’t Westbrook get him that shot? People are going to have their views of Westbrook’s game Sunday. By no means do I think Westbrook played poorly. He played another really nice game. I know some unnamed radio hosts are going to huff up and puff out their chests and say, “You see! That’s why Westbrook shouldn’t have the ball in his hands late! THAT’S why he’s not the point guard of the future.” And if some want to believe that, fine. But it’s ignorant. The guy had 17 points (albeit on 17 shots), seven assists and nine rebounds (all in the first half!) and just turned it three times. He made plays all night long. But a shot doesn’t drop, a ball gets tipped out and now some are probably ready to overreact. Again, go right ahead, but just know it’s a very, very silly thing to do.
Without Westbrook, this game isn’t close. What do you think the outcome would have been if Kevin Ollie had played Westbrook’s 36 minutes? Where would OKC have been offensively without Westbrook’s drive and slashing? Where would the Thunder have been in the first half without Westbrook’s energy and second chance point opportunities? Growing pains can hurt, but that’s just it. Chris Paul learned. Deron Williams learned. Steve Nash learned. Dwyane Wade learned. And you’ve got to get the minutes if you want a guy to learn. WILL Westbrook learn and “get there”? I honestly don’t know for sure, but I know he’s got to have the chance to do it. Otherwise you’re wasting a tremendous talent.
A lot of blame for this loss goes to the complete shutdown in rebounding late, and the inability to get stops. You should have to rely on scoring every time down anyway. And when you GET the stop, GET the rebound. Sounds simple, right? At one point OKC held a 40-29 advantage on the glass, but the game finished with the Thunder winning 48-42. So down the stretch, the Clippers outboarded OKC 13-6. Not. Good.
- Kevin Durant’s “rip move” is nearly unstoppable. It makes defenders back off his jumper a little, so with his height and length, he can shoot over them. But you can’t back off because he’ll knock that jumper down. A perfect example came in the third quarter as Al Thornton stepped back because he had the rip in the back of his mind and KD drilled a 3 over him.
- A tough night for James Harden. The rookie had four points on 0-8 shooting and 0-5 from 3.
- This game had 25 lead changes.
- It all came from three Clippers tonight: Kaman had 25, Davis 24 and Thornton 20. On the flip side, Durant had 40 and Westbrook 17, but other than that, not too much help from the team in white.
- Honestly, maybe the most improved aspect of Durant’s game is his rebounding. He’s so much stronger on the glass.
- Middle of the fourth, did it feel like OKC was up by double-digits to anyone else? Then you’d look at the score and it was tied. It just felt like the Thunder was on a run, when really, the Clips were responding really well.
- I want to point out a great play by Westbrook with about 6:20 left in the third. Durant got cut off, swung the ball to Krstic and Kaman went for a steal, opening up a lane for Nenad. Krstic swung it to Westbrook who pumped and went around Baron Davis and had a wide open 15-footer. But instead of hoisting an open look from the baseline, Westbrook kicked it to a wide open Krstic for an open elbow jumper, where Krstic is deadly from. It’s learning.
- A line I enjoyed from the Daily Dime chat: “Marcus Camby’s shot looks like a trebuchet winding up.”
- It’s funny because I see some people are upset with Westbrook’s defense on Davis when Baron hit that 3 to put it away. Baron had shot horribly until that point. Shot horribly last week in L.A. too. When the ball came out of his hand, I thought, “Good, give him that shot.” But the thing is, Baron Davis is a very good player and he made a shot. Plain and simple. No fault of Russ’s.
- Jeff Green was quiet in a game OKC needed him. He went down hard early on a miraculous putback and also got in some foul trouble. He played just 21 minutes, had seven points and only one rebound.
- And for those pointing fingers at Westbrook: Thabo went just 1-9 from the floor and 0-5 from 3. And after a half he was 0-8. He knocks down a few of those shots and we’re talking about what a great game Westbrook had. Thabo did other things like grab eight boards and playing nice defense, but that glorious knock-down shooter we enjoyed a week ago was missing tonight.
- My wife after a closeup on Baron Davis: “Who’s that? Kimbo Slice?”
We all knew these slow starts would come back to bite the Thunder eventually. The difference between this year and last is that they never let it get to insurmountable territory. Regardless, falling behind consistently 7-10 points isn’t a good habit. But on the other hand, the Thunder has come out with great energy and execution in the third quarter this year. Which is a major opposite of last year.
All is not lost for this team by any means. Everything is alright, the season is not over. Of course this wasn’t a good one, but we all know it happens. Sunday night against the Clips is a gentle reminder that this team isn’t “there” yet. They will get there and games like Saturday in San Antonio help prove it, but the Clipper game brings it back around to believing in development and improvement. Hang in there kids, it’s going to all work out. The NBA season is long and one game does not a season make. Hey, it’s better than last year, right? RIGHT?
The Thunder takes it on the road again with two in Florida against the Heat and Magic. If there is any way they can come home still at .500, well, color me thrilled.