I’m kind of sort of thinking that the Thunder might’ve been able to use Kendrick Perkins in this one. Just a little bit.
Dwight Howard absolutely dominated Oklahoma City with 40 points on 16-20 shooting as the Magic rolled a shorthanded Thunder squad 111-88. OKC hung tough for a large portion of the game before it was clear that they just couldn’t scrap their way to a win. They kept hanging in the game, consistently staying within eight to 12 points, but whenever they needed that extra rebound to round out a big stop, Howard (or someone else) seemed to put back a miss and bump the chance for the Thunder to actually cut into the Magic lead.
It was kind of amazing the Thunder was close at any point of this game though. Kevin Durant struggled in the second half, going just 2-12 from the floor and 7-22 overall for 23 points. I couldn’t have been prouder of KD though as he never gave in. He battled non-stop, as evidenced by his huge 16 rebounds.
On top of Durant’s tough night, Russell Westbrook never really got into a rhythm either. He finished 7-19 for 18 points but never seemed to be completely involved the way he normally he is. The fact Westbrook had just three assists should tell you that the flow was really disrupted for the Thunder.
And I don’t blame that on two starters being missing. I blame it more on just the fact OKC’s two best players were off in this one. I mean, keep in mind this was against a good Magic team at home, who are coming off a horrible loss to the Kings. So not only did the Thunder trade its two starting frontcourt players heading into a game against the league’s most dominant center, but they were taking on a hungry Magic team at home, plus OKC’s best players played bad. The fact the Thunder lost by just 23 is kind of miracle actually.
There clearly was some level of focus missing or maybe even on the other end, the Thunder were trying to hard to make up for the two missing teammates. Missing eight free throws isn’t normal. Shooting just 33.3 percent isn’t normal. A number of things just sort of felt off. It’s easy to understand why of course.
The Thunder stayed somewhat close because Daequan Cook and James Harden were hot from 3, with the team hitting 10 from deep. Cook was 4-9 (started 4-5) and Harden 3-8 (started 3-4). Those two gave OKC 31 points off the bench and really are the reason the Thunder had any kind of chance at all heading into the fourth.
- One obvious place the Thunder missed Jeff Green was the start of the second quarter. Green anchored that second unit at small forward but instead of him there, it was Thabo Sefolosha. You can imagine how that went on the offensive end. Harden was really the only option on the floor and Orlando knew it.
- Serge Ibaka just tried too hard I think. He fouled out at the beginning of the fourth quarter, played only 18 minutes, was 2-6 from the field and had seven rebounds. Good evidence was Ibaka dropping two sure dunks. (Not that he has great hands anyway tough.) He was totally overmatched playing against Howard and didn’t have much of a shot to make a real impact.
- Same story goes for Nick Collison. You know things aren’t great for you offensively when Collison is trying eight shots and actively attacking the rim.
- There were just huge lapses for the Thunder defensively. I can think of multiple possessions where they didn’t communicate and left a good Orlando shooter wide open from 3. Those are things that you really can’t excuse.
- A horrible close to the first half really kind of sums this game up. OKC was down 55-48 with 36 seconds and possession after a stop. Westbrook was blocked by Howard and the Magic turned it into a quick layup. Durant then picked up an offensive foul and the Magic hit another layup right before the half. Instead of being down five, maybe less, OKC was down 11 going into the break.
- Is it just me or does Earl Clark’s hair look like it just doesn’t fit. It’s an in between afro and it just doesn’t seem like it matches his body. He looks like he should be a shaved head guy. The way he is now, he looks like a cop in a bad 1970s movie.
- Can someone tell me why Dwight Howard decides to turn into Rick Barry when he plays the Thunder? He went 8-12 from the line and started 8-9.
- Cole Aldrich tried hard. That’s the nice thing I can say. Other than that, he kind of looked horrible. But then again, he was going against the game’s best center. But Aldrich just didn’t have any idea how to defend the post against Howard, was late helping on everything and just sort of stumbled around offensively. I appreciate the effort from him though. He constantly competed on the offensive glass, which something nice to see.
- This was a game where it really felt like KD was going to have to do something big. He tried, but just couldn’t get things rolling.
- I’m not complaining, but did it feel like the Thunder just couldn’t get a call tonight? They took 28 free throws but overall, it felt like a really physical game.
- I honestly don’t have a lot else to say.
In reality, the outcome of this game really isn’t a whole lot different than it would’ve been without the trade. If Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were playing the Thunder still would’ve been overmatched inside. They just would’ve had 12 more fouls to use on Howard. There would’ve been an added offensive punch, but normally KD and Westbrook aren’t going to go 14-41 combined.
I’m actually proud of the way the team competed. They were clearly overwhelmed. At times, I was shocked to look at the score and see the Thunder was only down eight and actually just a stop and 3 away from making it a game, because it felt like they were down 70. But they worked hard. They just didn’t have enough.
OKC has dropped two straight for just the third time this year and with the Lakers coming in Sunday, there’s potential to lose three straight for the first time this season. But don’t worry boy, reinforcements are on the way.
Next up: Lakers at home Sunday.