Tonight’s game was kind of a sad let down from the first four games. In all four of the previous games we either won nicely or were in a position to win but just didn’t execute. Tonight we really didn’t ever get a good foothold and lost to a scrappy Houston team. How often can you look at a lineup comparison and see that you are at least as talented if not more talented at every position and yet somehow you know you may be the underdog?
Rick Adelmen teams are always very well coached. Dude can put some D-League talent, a beer vendor and the Houston mascot on the floor together and have them competitive. You have to give credit where credit is due. Our team is dripping with top 5 talent and Adelmen has a bunch of 2nd round picks (Landry, Ariza), an undrafted, undersized center (Hayes) and some role players out there making the Thunder wonder what just happened. Truly, the Houston roster is full of very good, effective players, they just don’t have the pedigree. Yet, the box score says it all.
In our first four games we sort of were getting used to the idea of our team keeping us in the game with stout team defense. Tonight….not so much. Granted, this team is much improved defensively from last year’s squad, but tonight’s defensive effort was sub par for the season so far.
In our four previous games we allowed defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of: 99, 93, 101 and 99. Tonight we allowed 112. The same rotations were there, and there were some good stops, but the overall effort was lacking. Houston was especially dangerous in transition. Whenever they had a defensive rebound I was screaming at the TV “get back, get back”. No such luck. The Rockets pushed it up with quick nifty dribbling or long passes for easy baskets. Houston was also very good at making the extra pass tonight. They didn’t settle for the first guy or the second or the third. 26 of Houston’s 42 field goals were assisted compared to 15 of 40 for OKC. Houston had 22 fast break points to just 10 for the Thunder.
Offensively we seemed to have no flow. It was like watching last season’s Thunder squad attempt to score for most of the game. The exception was the second half of the third quarter when Brooks began searching for matchups. First he used Westbrook to back down Aaron Brooks and abuse him. We didn’t see much of that last year. It is definitely a weapon as Brooks couldn’t do a thing about it. After two quick baskets by Westbrook posting Brooks, Adelman quickly called for a double team, whereby Westbrook pitched it out to Krstic for an open jumper that didn’t go down.
Also Brooks didn’t go with the same lineup’s he’s used in that third quarter. Instead of Etan Thomas and Colly he went with D.J.White and Colly. I’m not sure who was the 4 and who was the 5 but the offense flowed very well. I think it was addition by subtraction. By having Green out and D.J. in at least we had one less guy in there clanging jumpers. We ended up shooting 11/19 in the quarter (57%), but, unfortunately we also allowed Houston to go 12/19 (63%)…
Again, but for the third, the offense was a lot like last year’s. Lots of guys calling their own number, few guys making the extra pass and guys just not finishing at the rim. Usually getting stripped or tipped right under the basket. Kevin Durant had a great scoring night (his first of the year really), and he was working on D and hitting the boards, but Kevin, only 1 assist in 41 minutes? Really Kevin? Russell fell in love with the jumpshot tonight, and it was falling for him. But I’m not that comfortable with our PG being our leading scorer and taking the most shots on the team. He had a nice line with 7 assists and just 4 turns, but really Russell? 25 field goal attempts?
The bottom line for me, and I think others have echoed this sentiment, is that we are beginning to have expectations for this young team. Before it was just sort of “be competitive and play hard”. Now we want wins, or at least some good moral victories. We didn’t get either tonight. But, as we all know, the season is a long one and it will take a dozen twists and turns before we get to game number 82.
- Brooks was obviously searching for something tonight with the lineups. There was a lineup of Ollie and Westbrook, Durant, Colly and D.J.- there wasn’t a sniff of James Harden in the second half or Etan Thomas for that matter. Livingston got a bit of burn in the first half both on the ball and off. First he came in for K.D., but was still handling the rock some. He did make a very impressive turn around fall away in the paint. I didn’t know he had that shot.
- I think Etan Thomas was a bad matchup for anybody tonight. Houston was essentially going small ball with a front line of some combination of Battier, Scola, Landry and Hayes. All of those guys are too quick for Etan. I saw Landry blow by Thomas on a drive with crazy speed.
- Houston had 5 players in double figures scoring….
- Scola is a very underrated Power Forward. I see some All-Star material there.
- Rick Adelmen’s defense kept OKC back on it’s heels quite a bit tonight. I was especially impressed at how he would call in a double-team out of nowhere or a defensive trap. One trap forced K.D. into a turnover and was the genesis of a breakaway jam for Houston. You never knew when it was coming.
- Buddinger, like DeJuan Blair is definitely first round material. I am so surprised either of them fell to round 2. Buddinger reminds me of a Wally Szczerbiak with better hops.
Nuff said. Get ready for Orlando on Sunday.