At really no point in the game, other than the moment Tobias Harris flushed the ball through the net as time expire, did I think the Thunder were going to lose this game. With Kevin Durant still on the team and actively playing, and the fact it was obvious how much issue the young Magic have in closing games, despite the Thunder falling asleep at the wheel and blowing a 17-point lead, it still didn’t seem possible.
Surely Durant would hit a shot, Serge Ibaka would get a big offensive rebound, Reggie Jackson would get to the rim, Jeremy Lamb would hit some free throws, someone would do something to make sure OKC didn’t lose this one.
Except none of the above happened in the final few minutes. The final three minutes, the Thunder got one bucket, a corner 3 from Thabo Sefolosha with 1:55 left, set up by Durant to give them a 102-99 lead. Other than that, it was a bunch of missed jumpers in the final six minutes, including five 3-point attempts.
Here’s the thing though with OKC’s offense down the stretch: There wasn’t anything substantially different about it from the games where Durant was Slim Reaping everyone in his path. You can say they were settling for 3s, or contested isos, but if you’re bothered by them now, then you shouldn’t have been bowing to KD when he was drilling them against everybody in January. They were pretty much the same looks. He just didn’t make them this time.
And the thing was, he really only needed to make one of them. Instead, he went 0-5 in the final six minutes, with three of them being 3s. Are you really going to gripe about Durant missing a few big shots? Because it happens. The expectation is that he doesn’t, because that’s a reputation he’s well earned, but it’s not unheard of that a few don’t go down. We’ve seen it happen before, when the Thunder get over-reliant on Durant to make everything in crunchtime and when he doesn’t, they pay. That’s where a player like, say Russell Westbrook, would really help in either creating a cleaner look, or maybe engineering two on his own.
Could the offense have been better? Of course. It’s not a coincidence that the one bucket OKC got came off the best movement they had in the final three minutes. But that’s the balance that’s hard to manage, and for Scott Brooks and even Durant himself, it’s easy to get spoiled with how easy its been. The Thunder haven’t often had to work all that hard for points in crunchtime because KD gon’ KD, but this was a night where a better set or two produces a more effective look likely would have won the game. For example: Serge Ibaka was sitting on 26 points on 10-13 shooting, knocking down almost everything he looked at. Ibaka got didn’t take a single shot the final seven minutes.
There’s really no good excuse for the loss, because the Thunder shouldn’t be losing these kinds of games. All you can really say is “it happens” and then realize that you’ll forget this one ever happened in April. For instance, you forgot the Thunder lost to the Jazz pretty quickly after they won 10 straight, didn’t you? Don’t imprison yourself in the moment. No, they shouldn’t have lost and it’s really bad they did. The suddenness that it happened was jarring, and somehow makes it feel important. But let’s not overstate any significance of this.
This is, however, a bit of a habit the Thunder, something a lot of good teams for that matter, have. I don’t think it’s coincidental that seven of the Thunder’s 12 losses have come to the Wolves, Raptors, Nets, Jazz, Nuggets, Wizards and Magic. All average, to below average teams. When the Thunder have played top tier competition, they’ve mostly won. And while they beat the majority of the teams they should, they do have a tendency to take some of the lesser ones for granted, I think.
I guess what I’m saying here is, let’s just hope they don’t see the Magic in the Finals.
- It must be noted: Absolutely pathetic effort by the Thunder getting back on that last possession. Look at where KD is. He barely even crosses halfcourt. Lamb was the only guy really trying to get back, but he didn’t realize things were serious until it was too late. Jackson is straight up jogging. There was no urgency. I think after Durant missed, the Thunder expected the game to just magically end right there. They checked out of the game, and took things for granted, and lost because of it.
- Via Anthony Slater, Scott Brooks on the play: “We could’ve got back…KD didn’t get back, Thabo didn’t get back, Reggie was jogging back.”
- KD finished with 29 on 10-22 with a career-high tying 12 assists and five rebounds. But he had six turnovers and missed his last five shots. So maybe he’s not quite a deity.
- KD’s had two other times in his career where he got double-digit assists but didn’t get the rebounds to make it a triple-double. Both happened this season. The Thunder are now 1-2 in games that happens.
- Look at the box score, and it’s hard to figure how the Thunder lost. They shot 50.7 percent, hit 10-22 from 3, went 18-19 from the line, turned over 16 times (solid for them), only got outrebounded by two and had 25 assists. Most of all that typically adds up to not only a Thunder win, but a comfortable one.
- The Magic did shoot 47.5 percent, took seven more free throws and only turned it over 11 times. That was the difference.
- The Thunder by quarter: 36, 29, 23, 14.
- The Thunder in the fourth: 5-18, 1-7 from 3, five turnovers. It was a bad job.
- Funny thing is, the Magic tried very hard to lose the game as well. They missed free throws, they had dumb turnovers, they got bad looks. You could see why they have so much trouble winning games — because they don’t know how to. The Thunder though, they don’t have that excuse.
- Can anyone explain to me why Victor Oladipo only played 21 minutes? I haven’t watched a lot of the Magic this season, but what’s the point of that? Even if he’s struggling, you want the guy out there cutting his teeth on 35 minutes a night.
- Good Game Bad Game. That’s Reggie Jackson’s nickname right now. He was so good against the Timberwolves, but tonight went 4-14 for 12 points with just four assists. He hit two nice shots late in the fourth, but that pull-up 3 was a horrible decision and his defense was pathetically soft. I just don’t know what to think about him right now.
- Perry Jones did some things in the first half, which was nice. Like not only was he playing well, but he was attacking and looking for his own a bit.
- No complaints here from me on the lineups Scott Brooks used either. I liked his closing group of Jackson, Lamb, Sefolosha, Durant and Ibaka. Made sense in every way. They just didn’t make any shots.
- I didn’t like this part: Jeremy Lamb had eight points and four assists at the half. Jeremy Lamb finished the game with eight points and four assists.
- Obligatory home whites with black shoes mention.
- But really, a walk-off dunk is pretty cool.
Next up: Home against the Knicks on Sunday