Well that stunk.
Perhaps the nicest thing I can write about tonight’s game was that it really looked like the Thunder had learned a lesson from last night’s game and about midway through the fourth quarter seemed to be holding Denver to limited looks on offense by clamping down on the defensive end, while executing on the other end of the court without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the game.
Unfortunately there was still the other half of the fourth quarter left to play and the Thunder’s offense pretty much vanished, not scoring a basket for the final 9 minutes of the game, which meant that the Nuggets ended the game on a staggering 22-5 run to kill the Thunder’s hopes for a division title and, realistically, home court advantage in the playoffs. Just what we needed after last night’s crushing loss in overtime. A horrible, gut-wrenching, choking collapse down the stretch! Awesome!
And now the 8th seed looms large on the playoff horizon.
Chauncey Billups scored 31 points in the end, 22 of which in the second half and yet another point guard destroys the Thunder. Seems like it’s about time to end the “Let’s put Thabo at 6’7 on a smaller, quicker, point guard” experiment. With the playoffs in sight, I’m sorry, but Westbrook’s going to have to start matching up against other point guards and take some pride on the defensive end as the stopper this team drafted him to be. And maybe we also take another look at the success of the “Let’s switch on every single screen or pick” defensive strategy that creates countless mismatches, too?
Tonight’s fourth quarter was almost the polar opposite of last night’s game in terms of offensive production. Durant couldn’t buy a bucket tonight in the fourth (neither could Jeff Green, except for almost the entire game and not just the fourth) and the Thunder absolutely let this win slip through their fingers. You can call it heavy legs if you want or a lapse of concentration, the bottom line is that the Thunder were up by 13 points in the final stanza and let a much needed win escape their grasp, especially since the Jazz shockingly lost to the Rockets tonight.
And I have a feeling this loss might come back to bite them with Phoenix coming in on Friday. But there’s no use crying over spilt milk. The team has to put this game behind them and focus on the red hot Suns to keep up in the playoff seeding race.
- You know what was the exact same in this game from last night’s game? Russell Westbrook’s 7 TURNOVERS. Last night’s turnover count got overlooked because of the non-call on Durant that the NBA admitted today should have been called. And you know what, just like last night, Westbrook’s untimely turnovers in the fourth quarter hurt the Thunder yet again, a couple of which simply happening because he seemed to just lose control of the ball without any pressure. It’s time for Westbrook 2.0 to re-emerge and fast, especially since opposing teams’ point guards are absolutely shredding the Thunder as of late.
- It’s done and over with, but since I mentioned it in the bullet above and should be thorough, here’s the NBA’s official release about the non-call: “”On the final play of last night’s Oklahoma City-Utah game, the officials missed a foul committed by the Jazz’s C.J. Miles on the Thunder’s Kevin Durant during a 3-point shot attempt,” NBA president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin said in a statement. But Scott Brooks had the right take on it, the Thunder had a foul to give and didn’t when Deron caught the ball. Gotta clean that up for the playoffs, boys.
- What’s the deal with Serge Ibaka only getting 11 minutes tonight? Maybe you insert him during the year-long drought of the fourth quarter to amp up the intensity of the team? 7 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes…and yet he couldn’t find the floor in the second half? My only conclusion: Serge made an accidentally inappropriate joke about somebody’s mother on the coaching staff at halftime because he doesn’t quite grasp all the nuances of the English language yet.
- I still haven’t heard anything about what happened to Carmelo Anthony during the third quarter. From what I could see, it looked like he got a bit of a stinger but the crowd couldn’t see it since I didn’t see it until the replays, so I assume they believed him to be playing possum. Either way it was a weird stretch that, surprise, surprise, included a Westbrook turnover. What? The RW turnover horse isn’t that ground to a pulp yet.
- The Thunder’s shooting guards tonight: 6 points on 3 of 12 shooting. And yet they were up by 13 in the fourth, go figure.
- The Thunder shot, and yes, I couldn’t believe this either, 7.1% from 3 PT range tonight. What do they say is the first thing to go on your jump shot when your tired? Boy, I hope that was the case.
- The Thunder outscored the Nuggets by 20 points in the paint, 56-36, and outscored them by 16 fast break points, 29-13, and out shot the Nuggets for the entire game, 43.8% to 40.2%. But remember that bullet above? The Nuggets shot lights out from deep at 41.2% on threes.
- Kudos to Nick Collison for his gritty performance of 12 points on 4-7 shooting, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in 29 minutes. He earned every one of those stats.
- Despite going 0-for-everything in the last quarter from the field (or 0-5), Durant carried the Thunder offense yet again scoring 33 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, notching 4 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal and 3 turnovers, converting 14 of 15 free throws. Little help? Little help round here?
I’ll be happy when these two losses are out of my memory banks come Friday night. I’m trying to rally up some enthusiasm but, honestly, with the heart break of last night and the epic collapse of tonight, I’m just plain exhausted.