Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got pretty used to not playing in the fourth quarter last week. Evidently it rubbed off on the rest of the team, because nobody showed up the final 12 minutes Tuesday in Utah.
It was a pretty rugged performance by Oklahoma City the first three quarters as the Jazz piled up offensive rebounds and the Thunder threw the ball away constantly, but still, after a solid close to the third, OKC was within seven headed to the fourth.
The Jazz rolled OKC up those final 12 minutes, outscoring the Thunder 23-15 to cruise to a 109-94 win. All those bad things the Thunder were doing and getting away with the first three quarters caught up to them in the fourth. The turnovers, the lack of defensive energy and focus, the inconsistent offense — eventually it wore the Thunder down enough to where Scott Brooks actually put Westbrook and Durant back in their familiar place on the bench for the final six minutes of the quarter.
Except obviously, circumstances were different this time. No dancing, cooing and yelling about OKC’s garbage time All-Stars in this one. The bench was a sullen place tonight.
Here’s what’s so strange about this game: The Thunder lost by 15 — their second largest margin this season — in a game they shot 55.9 percent from the field. How often does THAT happen? Couple significant box score issues to single out: 1) 10 missed free throws; 2) outrebounded by 12; 3) 16 offensive rebounds for Utah; 4) 20 turnovers and 5) 19 more shots attempts for the Jazz.
The breakdowns defensively were most on the interior where Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison couldn’t slow down Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap at all. Both were largely held in check in the first meeting in OKC, but tonight combined for 41 points and 17 rebounds. Ibaka and Perkins? They combined for 14 points and four rebounds. That’s right, in a game where rebounding was at a premium and the Thunder were getting massacred, their two starting bigs combined for four of them. That’s really just unacceptable.
Scott Brooks tried to tinker with the lineups to find a pairing that worked. Ibaka and Perk, Perk and Collison, Ibaka and Collison, Durant and Ibaka — nothing really clicked. I thought maybe a smallball lineup would at least create a mismatch for Utah and maybe force Ty Corbin’s hand, but all it did was force the Thunder to double down which opened up perimeter shots for the Jazz, shots they knocked down.
To make it worse, the Thunder’s bench was a complete no show. Until the third stringers added a few buckets late, DeMarre Carrol had equaled OKC’s second unit all on his own with 12 points. Kevin Martin looked out of rhythm after missing a game with the flu. Reggie Jackson was a bright spot, but he’s not equipped to really drive a bench unit. Without Martin providing a punch and no help from extras like Thabo Sefolosha (zero points) or Perk, the Thunder couldn’t keep pace.
Really and truly, just one of those games. It’s kind of amazing how you can look for unstoppable for a week and then get humbled right away. That’s part of the NBA season though. Games don’t carry over. Momentum is only as good as your latest performance. The Thunder went from pure and unfiltered dominance to having people ask questions about their coaching, rotations and bench.
Isn’t the NBA season wonderful?
- KD played a pretty brilliant offensive game despite the loss. He had 31 on 10-14 shooting after three quarters of work and finished with 33 on 11-16.
- Russell Westbrook drove the Russell Coaster tonight, scoring 22 points on 8-14 shooting, but had seven turnovers. He had eight turnovers in the first meeting against Utah. What’s the deal with Westbrook and turnovers against the Jazz?
- In a two minute span, Perk picked up a technical foul and then a flagrant. I thought this was a big deal when it happened, but then KD outdid him by picking up each in about a 15 second span.
- KD picked up his 10th technical of the season and it came after a strange flagrant foul. It seemed that Durant gave a forearm shiver the Alec Burks, but it’s hard to know. Pathetically, on the FS Oklahoma broadcast, they avoided showing the replay for a solid three minutes as the officials reviewed the play, then finally reluctantly aired it, a single replay with a terrible angle that didn’t really show anything. I get protecting players, but come on, that was embarrassing. Broadcast the game. Don’t just be a complete PR shill for the team.
- Scott Brooks shortened the rotations tonight, cutting DeAndre Liggins out in the first three quarters.
- That Durant coast-to-coast finish was pretty nice though, wasn’t it?
- Great stat from Darnell Mayberry: “The Thunder hasn’t turned it over more than 14 times in the past four games. OKC has 14 at halftime tonight in Utah.”
- Ty Corbin’s suit looks like it’s about two sizes too big.
- Because 800 people asked, the Thunder are now 4-4 in their alternate uniforms. They’re 2-4 on the road in them.
- Another game in the alternate uniforms, which means I like them even less today than I did yesterday. Not just because OKC lost in them, but because instead of growing on me, they’re having the opposite effect. I think the reason is because when you watch regular games and see the Thunder in their home whites and then road blues, then see them in the navy alternates, it’s jarring. My criticism of the alternates all along is that they make the Thunder look like a different team because they don’t really incorporate anything Thunder in them. They’re unrecognizable in them. In more ways than just one, evidently.
- After 18 points and then 20 points, Thabo put up a big fat zero on 0-2 shooting tonight. So much for that.
- Serge Ibaka was a -28. And deservedly so. He had seven blocks, which was good, but he was completely soft on the glass and didn’t play focused defense on Millsap. One of the worst games Ibaka has played this season.
- Upside to this game: We got to see Perry Jones LEAP. That dude can get up.
- Brightspot: Reggie Jackson. He was very assertive running the offense in the second quarter and managed looking for his own while setting things up very well. He tied his career-high with 12 points.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “….”
Next up: Miami at home on Thursday.