With six minutes left and the game tied, the Thunder were back at that old place. Looking for a spark, looking for a play. It looked like they got it in the form of Royal Ivey scrapping on the floor to force a jumpball, then winning it which led to a Russell Westbrook layup. 80-78, Thunder with 5:54 left.
After playing 42 fairly subpar minutes, the Thunder were in the lead and had Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden, while the Cavs did not.
And yet. Yet the Cavs outscored the Thunder 18-10 the final six minutes, snapping Oklahoma City’s 14-game home winning streak, 96-90. There were a lot of failures in those final six minutes, but how about this one that happened during the full 48: Cleveland had 21 offensive rebounds. And as result, the Cavs took 15 more shots.
Scott Brooks tried to deploy his magical smallball lineup to finish, but it could be what cost OKC tonight. Serge Ibaka was having One of Those Games with 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. But that was in three quarters of work. Because he didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve had some success playing Serge at the 5 and going small,” said Scott Brooks. “But for most part for the year, we’ve had a lot of success with Perk at the 5. I chose that matchup. Did it work? Looking back on it, I don’t think it bothered us as much as it looks but I’ll find out when I look at the film. Serge had a good game, Perk was playing good. It’s one of those decisions I made.”
Brooks instead chose to stay small, play Perk at the 5 and match up with the Cavs. Going small wasn’t necessarily the problem — it was having Perk in the game. He wasn’t rebounding and wasn’t defending a post scorer. The Thunder eliminated their pick-and-pop option with Ibaka, took their best offensive rebounder out of the game and didn’t have anyone there to protect the rim when Kyrie Irving inevitably blew by Russell Westbrook.
I don’t even think this was an example of the Thunder falling asleep or playing without energy or focus. They appeared ready to me. They just didn’t play well. Durant missed a couple of great looks from 3, the team didn’t get to the line and when they did, they didn’t convert (just 10-17). Brooks though, disagreed. He felt his team wasn’t energized.
“We were a little sluggish,” he said. “We were a step slow. It’s one game. Hopefully it doesn’t lead to two.” He noted how the team walked it up a lot, didn’t score much in transition and wasn’t cutting hard. KD said after the game the team was trying to get everyone touches and get involved, but it’s true, just 15 fast break points and only a handful in the second half.
Said Durant: “Luckily we got another one tomorrow and we can get just rid of this one tonight and try and get a win tomorrow.”
Good news on that front, KD: Tomorrow’s game is against the Bobcats. But then again, make the same mistakes as the Thunder did in this one and it won’t come easy.
- KD was in triple-double territory, but finished two rebounds and two assists shy. But had six turnovers. He admitted after the game he was trying to force things a bit much. “I know I got to be more aggressive to score the ball. I know tonight I was trying to force the pass a little too much. We played good defense, we made them miss shots. We just got to execute a little more, rebound the ball. We’ll be alright.”
- You know what’s a shame? When the Thunder waste an awesome highlight because they lost. Like the one at the top. That’s amazing stuff. But it’s not near as fun right now.
- That typical shotmaking just wasn’t there for OKC. Durant had some good looks and missed. That’s really pretty much most of what happened. OKC was up 85-84 with 2:30 left and here are their ensuing possessions: Westbrook missed 20-footer, KD missed 15-footer, KD missed 3, Westbrook missed 12-footer, Durant missed 3, Westbrook missed layup. And then some point-padding after that.
- A night after going for 31, 30 and 30, Westbrook, Durant and Harden went for 19, 15 and 23.
- Westbrook’s decision-making in a 3-on-2 is terrific. Almost always picks the right option.
- Reggie Jackson pulled out a quality dunk in traffic. More of the aggressiveness, please.
- I’m a fan of Kyrie Irving. You can tell he’s just a savvy, smart point guard. He had just nine points, but finished with 12 assists against only one turnover. And completely burned Westbrook twice late in the fourth off the dribble. Said KD: “He’s a point guard man. Got 12 assists and one turnover. His team’s going to play well. He got everyone involved.”
- The Thunder are now 0-1 the night after Kate Upton attends a game.
- How do the Thunder lose a game where they shoot 48 percent from the floor and have 20 assists? They turn it over 17 times and give up 21 offensive rebounds, and don’t make any shots the last three minutes.
- Mandatory nightly critique of Reggie Jackson: The guy just has to find some confidence in himself. After he attacked the rim early in the fourth and ended up with a putback, you could tell he was so much more into the game. He needs little victories to get him going in a game and feel like he’s doing something.
- I would not be opposed to a five-minute mix of just Serge Ibaka fistpumps. Someone get on that.
- One of the worst missed foul calls of the season happened at the end of the third quarter. The Cavs had a foul to give and tried to take it on KD as he brought the ball up. He read it perfectly as Alonzo Gee reached in to foul him, going up for a shot. But for whatever reason, the officials didn’t make a call on it. Maybe they were caught off guard by KD’s heady play. But that was bad.
- Did someone break through with the text question? Because evidently is was one asking why the Thunder have so many home games in a row.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night via ThunderBDSays: “IBAKA!!!! Lookin like the lone ranger!!! On his horse and riding!!! Didn’t need Tonto there!!!
Next up: Charlotte at home Saturday.