If you turned off your TV about halfway through the third quarter, I don’t blame you at all. Not only was that some ugly, frustrating basketball, but you weren’t even getting to watch the Thunder’s best players play.
I’m not an NBA coach and I don’t think I could win 50 games in that role. So I don’t question Scott Brooks much. But it’s hard not to wonder why Kevin Durant and Jeff Green only played two minutes and 46 seconds in the third quarter.
When the two checked out, Oklahoma City was down 60-54. The Thunder weren’t playing well, but they were in the game. What was hurting OKC was the lack of any offensive rhythm. So when Durant and Green went to the bench with over nine minutes left in the third, it was curious. But you were thinking, “OK, quick blow here and they’re coming back.” Instead, they sat the remainder of the quarter.
And we watched the Thunder reserves meander along, hanging somewhat close before the Bulls eventually took over and pulled ahead by 16 going into the fourth, punctuated by a buzzer-beating 3 by Derrick Rose to end the quarter.
Of course Brooks could’ve had an issue with something Durant and Green were doing or maybe he simply wanted to rest two of the top minute players in the league on the second night of a back-to-back. There may have been a reason. But to sit them for virtually the entire quarter? I just don’t get that. Customarily, Durant plays most of the third, checks out with a few minutes left and sits to start the fourth and checks back in with about nine minutes left. I guess Brooks wanted to try something different, and clearly, it didn’t work.
Via Darnell Mayberry, Brooks’ explanation: “We weren’t playing well, and I tried to make a change and see if we could manufacture some more energy.” I get that. But for nine straight minutes when it clearly wasn’t working? Doesn’t compute.
Green and Durant returned to begin the fourth and played the entire last period, but it was too late. The Thunder whittled the Chicago lead down to nine but the game was pretty much over already. OKC lost the game in the third, with Durant and Green sitting. Bad coaching move.
Losing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road against an Eastern contender isn’t a big deal. Really, it was sort of expected. But the way it happened with it almost feeling like Brooks was willing to drop it in order to give his guys a rest isn’t the best thing ever.
- Jeff Green though, didn’t really have a huge reason to complain about the lack of minutes tonight though. He just couldn’t hit a shot for anything (1-9 from the field). Sometimes that happens.
- Durant played a pretty nice game in his 33 minutes. He finished with 29 on just 7-18 shooting, but was 14-14 from the line.
- Russell Westbrook just didn’t seem like himself either. He went for 15 points and dished out seven assists, but missed some easier looks and didn’t have that same bounce all night. He turned it over six times and really, was just completely careless with the ball. He tried to do too much and as a result, the Thunder offense never found any rhythm.
- There was a bright spot though and that was Nenad Krstic who had a season-high 18 points on 8-12 shooting. He had it going early on hitting a few jumpers as well as a few dunks inside.
- The Thunder shot just 34 percent from the field. That’s horrible. It was only as close as it was because they went 28-31 from the free throw line.
- The Bulls murdered the Thunder on the glass. The edge was 52-39, but it was worse than that. Chicago had a hand on nearly every defensive rebound OKC got. Like seriously, almost every one. Nothing ever came easy for the Thunder on the glass and a number of Chicago’s points were off second chance putbacks.
- James Harden with 13 points, but again, 3-12 from the field. If he can figure out how to shoot a semi-decent percentage, he can averaged 15-18 points, easy.
- Carlos Boozer absolutely worked the Thunder tonight. He had 29 points and 12 rebounds. He was really the difference as Rose wasn’t great (11 points on 3-13 shooting). Luol Deng made a difference too though with 19 points.
- Kyle Korver was in a shooting slump (only six for his last 27) so naturally he broke out of that tonight scoring 13 on 5-11 shooting.
- Serge Ibaka wasn’t able to give OKC any kind of a spark either. He only played 15 minutes, had two rebounds and two points. I figured he would make a difference against the Bulls big interior players, but he was a total non-factor.
- After a no-call on a Jeff Green shot that airballed, Brian Davis said emphatically, “The ball doesn’t lie.” Obviously he’s not familiar with the meaning of that phrase.
- One more: After OKC scored a bucket to cut the Bulls lead to 13, Grant Long said, “The comeback is on!” OKC was on a big 2-0 run when he said it.
- The Bulls defense deserves a lot of credit too. They swarmed and hounded OKC all night. The Bulls played harder. They played smarter. They executed, on both ends. They were just better than OKC in this one.
The most exciting moments of the second half came with a minute left because the Bulls were stuck on 99 points. And Chicago has one of those things were you get food if the team scores 100. But the Bulls turned it over three times, missed an easy one at the rim and ended up short. MORAL VICTORY FOR THE THUNDER!
But really, that was maybe the most lackluster game of the season. Even the blowouts to the Clippers and Jazz felt like they had a better flow and reason for the result. Ugly, ugly loss here. It almost felt kind of like Brooks knew his team was flat and was willing to pack it in and just finish out the night. Maybe some of the blame goes to the team for allowing the Warriors to push them when the game should’ve been over after three quarters. Maybe the team was just unfocused from the beginning. Or maybe it was just a bad, ugly game.
Probably a combination of the three.
Next up: At the Wolves Wednesday.