If at any point you started wondering, “I wonder how good this team would be without Kevin Durant? Like, how valuable is he really?” then this game was a good answer for you. In the second half, Oklahoma City’s offense was just clueless. The Thunder had no idea where to look for points.
And they can get away with that sometimes. For instance, against New Jersey, the Thunder’s offense wasn’t that great. It stalled at times when Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green weren’t scoring. But OKC defended. They defended from the opening tip to the final third overtime buzzer.
But against the Raptors, the defense was light. Wait, light probably isn’t the right word. I think “terribleawfulsobad” is the word I’m looking for. Toronto has a list of good shooters and OKC’s defenders left them wide open a number of times. Then when the Thunder would get a stop, they didn’t secure a rebound or they fumbled the ball away. It really just wasn’t the Thunder’s night.
Besides the poor defense and stagnant offense, Toronto also hit a number of wild shots that you wouldn’t normally see go in. The ball bounced the Raptors way a couple times. Then there were a few calls that definitely didn’t help the Thunder (Royal Ivey’s foul on Leandro Barbosa comes to mind).
I think you could definitely see it in the Thunder that they were a little flat. The rotations weren’t as crisp, the team’s focus wavered in stretches and it seemed like OKC tried to coast a bit. Obviously there could be hangover from New Jersey, but I don’t know how much of an excuse that really is. We’ve seen teams win games on the second night of a back-to-back after a tough game. They may have been a little mentally worn, but I think they shouldn’t have been tired.
Without Durant, this would’ve been a really nice win on the road. With KD, I think the Thunder wins this game. It’s just that OKC didn’t have anyone to completely rely on. Jeff Green was good, Westbrook was solid and James Harden provided some nice offense. But none of those guys are the kind of consistent four quarter scorers like KD. You can’t get by with a makeshift offense in the NBA on multiple nights. You need your stars. And OKC needs KD back sooner than later.
- D.J. White limped off in the second quarter with a rolled right ankle. It looked like he was hurting pretty good so I’d imagine he’s going to be out for a bit. That just sucks for him. He was finally getting semi-consistent playing time and boom, he gets hurt. Plus, he was playing pretty good! Give the guy a break.
- Good heavens, Thabo just isn’t a great offense player. He’s a good cutter and a nice passer, but sometimes he makes you want to eat a lit candle. Especially in fast break opportunities. Thabo always keeps the ball. If opponents need a scouting tip, just know if there’s a 3-on-1, a 2-on-1 or a 5-on-1, Thabo is almost definitely keeping the ball.
- On the other side, he’s such a good defender. Thabo had a career-high six steals. He’s so active and never stops working.
- I think Harden is starting to sort of turn a corner. He had 20 points, four rebounds and three really pretty assists. He’s got a more confident step to him and he’s playing aggressive. But he went 5-14 from the field and his percentages continue to be terrible. It’s really because he’s so bad at finishing at the rim. He’s still hoping for a whistle most of the time when he gets into the paint. He doesn’t really try and shoot the ball. He’s great at beating his man and getting to the rim, but when he gets there, he just kind of throws the ball up. He’s not so much trying to make the shot, as much as put it on the rim and hope it finds its way in. This is something Russell Westbrook struggled with and finally got the hang of. I think Harden will get it corrected and when he does, he’ll be a pretty good offensive player.
- OKC just didn’t know how to cover Andrea Bargnani. Serge Ibaka wouldn’t stick with him, Nick Collison and Jeff Green weren’t big enough and Nenad Krstic couldn’t stay with him off the dribble.
- I don’t think Jose Calderon ever closes his mouth. It is always open.
- Morris Peterson got a little burn tonight. He didn’t really do anything, but at least he played.
- Going 3-1 without Kevin Durant is pretty good, no?
- The Raptors shot a sizzling 55 percent from the field. And again, it was because they were open about 55 percent of the time. NBA players can make open shots for the most part. And the Raps did.
- Russell Westbrook just didn’t look like he had it in him tonight. He still had 20 points on 9-19 shooting, but it was almost like he was worn out from trying to carry the load. He needed someone else to take the pressure off. He needed someone to defer to. He just didn’t have another playmaker second half in him.
- Jeff Green was solid, but he had to be stellar again for OKC to be in this. Most nights, 17 points from Uncle Jeff is a pretty solid contribution, but that normally comes as the third banana.
- Ibaka saw only 21 minutes, but did pick up three blocks.
- Getting outboarded by a Raptors team sans Reggie Evans 42-34 isn’t really acceptable.
- I really, really thought Malik Rose would be better on the postgame show. He’s not that bad and definitely is getting better, but he’s obviously nervous and not sure what he’s going to say next.
Thing is, in the first half, OKC looked like a team setting itself up for another tough road win. It looked like the Thunder would go into lock down mode at some point, get some stops and hold on to another tight win. But the third quarter was brutal. Toronto outscored OKC 34-18 and the Thunder just appeared to be completely out of sorts. The Raptors made jumpers, OKC took (and missed) bad ones.
Not that it was the toughest two-game road trip ever, but the Nets and Raptors are both decent teams and aren’t easy to beat on their home floor. The Raps are hit too, winning seven of 11. Coming back 1-1 isn’t all bad, especially when your best player wasn’t available. I think we’ll survive this one, even if it was pretty darn ugly.
Next up: Home against the Warriors Sunday.
Also, some great audio via Hoops Addict: