Two very good teams battled and one team won; probably the better team. I am okay with that. The Thunder represented themselves very well for most of the game….ok, well for three quarters and the more veteran deep playoff team put the foot on the gas to bring home the win.
I think many OKC fans would have dribbled in their drawers just a little if this game had been played before New Year’s last year. There were so many good things going for the Thunder. It’s pretty obvious that our expectations are just sky high after big wins against Miami and Orlando and teams of that caliber.
This game really seemed to be decided by a big momentum shift that came at the end of the third period. That was where the Thunder had the lead (75-68) and the mojo. Then Nick Collison came out to hedge on a screen and then recovered into the post. He was there just for a second and he got whistled for a defensive three second call. LBJ hit the technical making it 75-69. Next trip down LBJ nails a three pointer (with just a minute left in the quarter). We turn it over on a bad pass and just like a hot knife through butter LBJ nails another three. I said some bad words here because that tied it up at 75. KD gets fouled and makes one of two and Cleveland gets the defensiv rebound. Crap crap crap LBJ nails ANOTHER three to take the lead 78-76. There was no looking back.
Cleveland used LBJ in the pick and roll so much it made my head spin, and Brooks either by allowing or by design had the Thunder switch on the pick. We’ve talked about this a gazillion times on the blog here so it’s no surprise Cleveland knew what we all knew: Russell will more often than not switch the screen. GRrrrrr! Here’s the deal. LBJ comes up and sets a screen for the ball handler (Delonte West or Mo Williams). Now the ball handler gives up the ball to LBJ after he releases from the screen and Russell is now (because of the switch) guarding LBJ. Get it? 6’3″ point guard guarding the best passing big man in the game, the number two scorer in the league and a guy who probably has a red cape at home in his closet. This happened over and over tonight. Do the Thunder not know that LBJ averages over 8 assists per game?? Ok, so that gives LBJ uncontested jumpshots if he should choose to take them with his half a foot height advantage, or he can hit that quick fast guy who just gave up the ball who is now being guarded by a much bigger player, or he can hit that guy in the corner that is always there for the open three. Why is he open? Because LBJ has the ball at the top of the arc and all the defenders are cheating the middle trying to cut off the drive that LBJ is famous for. It’s a conundrum.
Both teams used the holy crap out of the screen tonight, Cleveland just has more deadly shooters.
- No rebounds no rings is what Pat Riley used to say. The Thunder could only grab 5 rebounds in the fourth quarter while Cleveland grabbed 15 (5 offensive). Have you seen a team lately use the back tap as well as Cleveland?
- Also, 13 points and just six field goals in the fourth isn’t getting it done. It’s a shame because the Thunder were very hot in the first half scoring 54 points and 56% shooting.
- Here’s the killer stat: 25 for 29 from the free throw line through three quarters; zero trips to the line in the fourth quarter. They took away our game.
- We talk all the time here about how we have a stacked roster and so much depth but I still think we can use another shooter. A dead eye big balls assassin that can go on the second unit and coach can put in with the big boys when he needs some points. What’s Wally Z doing these days? Anyone?
- Only 30 made field goals for the Thunder is second fewest of the season and it won’t get it done most nights. We had 24 in the Portland loss, 31 in a loss to Sacto, 32 in losses to the Lakers and Boston. We’ve had one win and one loss with as few as 33 made FG’s. We need to make upwards of 35 FG’s with our slight 3pt shooting to be competitive most nights.
- We did a great job early defending the basket with three blocks in the paint before the first timeout. Only two more the rest of the game.
- More about the PNR. With Shaq in the game Krstic can shoot jumpers wide open all day long. Krstic screens for the ball handler Westbrook or whoever and then the ball handler flips it to Krstic. Shaq is such a shell of his former self that he can’t get out and defend outside of the paint. Why we didn’t do more of that is a a big question mark.
- As soon as Andy V or the big Z came in they both are nimble enough to get out and show and hedge the PNR. Shaq didn’t even try.
- Shaq did rotate over and swat a Westbrook drive, but it was in the paint and only took one step for the big guy.
- Jamario Moon is a very nice player. Very good defense on KD and clutch shooting.
- J.J.Hickson is a D.J.White clone: same kind of game.
- The Thunder allowed 16 points off of turns to only 8 for the Cavs.
- When you factor in three pointers the Cavs shot 54.2% eFG to the Thunder’s 46.4% eFG. Yuck.
- Points in the paint were about even 42-40.
- I made a note to myself watching this game about how the second unit of Livingston, Harden, Green, Ibaka and Collison only had one guy who could create his own shot: Harden. Then they proved me wrong and Green went crazy driving to the basket and hitting jumpers. Where has that guy been?
- Harden is really a wizard on the drive and dish as the creator.
- With the Thunder having a nice small lead in the second quarter their 6 turns in 9 minutes kept them from opening up a big lead that might’ve held.
- More about that switching: Brian Davis and Grant Long are always touting the versatility of the Thunder lineup. I’ve heard it a dozen times about how we are so long and fast and interchangeable that we can switch and still play great defense. They were rather mum on the subject tonight. I watched a debate between Kenny Smith, Sir Charles and Chris Webber on switching one time. All three agreed that it was a losing strategy in the end because it would be exploited. Point noted.