U-G-L-Y, that’s what this one was

BOX SCORE

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

I have no idea what I just saw. Really, no clue. I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how recap this thing. Maybe the best way to sum it up would be: BAD. OFFENSE.

A couple happy fun-time stats from that… thing:

  • I believe the stat is supposed to read “assist-to-turnover.” But for the Thunder tonight, they had a 19 to 6, turnover to assist ratio. No snarky comment necessary.
  • Oklahoma City shot 34.3 percent, 3-14 from 3 and missed nine free throws. Blech.
  • The Thunder scored just 74 points.
  • And one more time, just for emphasis: SIX ASSISTS.

But yet, in what was easily the worst game Oklahoma City has played this season and one of the ugliest I’ve EVER seen them play, I’m strangely encouraged. And yes, the Thunder lost 83-74 to Portland, dropping the first game of the season. Yet I feel somewhat good. Why?

Because despite what I would kindly describe as a poo poo performance, this one was there for the taking. Kevin Durant shot the ball, um, not well. Nine missed free throws (ahem, how much did we lose by?). The turnovers and the assists (or lack thereof). Yet knock down a jumper or two and you’re right there. Why? Because the Thunder is playing some defense. And that’s what good defense can do for you. When you’re having the worst of worst nights, you can be right there. It may not be fun to watch, but it sure is better than losing by 25 and never really having a shot. OKC had a chance to win in the fourth quarter and just came up short. It was a bad game obviously, but all was not lost. I still see the improvement.

But I mean, have you ever seen a team shoot so incredibly poorly from outside the paint? Other than the three 3-pointers, I don’t know if I can think of more than two outside jumpers that went in. Seriously. From the free throw line too. Nine missed freebies is bad. And not just the Thunder either. Portland shot just 40 percent, including Brandon Roy going 5-17 from the floor. I think the stud scorers caught some shooting version of the swine flu. They say shooting is contagious, but I don’t think “they” meant it in this sense. By the end of the night, I wanted to dive headfirst into an above-ground swimming pool.

I have never, ever seen Kevin Durant shoot that poorly. Never. Ever. I wanted to cry. As someone that scours over box scores more than a normal human being should, “3 for 21” sticks out like a white guy at a Tyler Perry movie. I’m telling myself he just got the bad one out of the way early. He went 3-21 from the field, yes, THREE of TWENTY-ONE. He even missed an easy cram towards the end of the game. But you know what? It happens to every good player. It just does. A couple of shots don’t fall, then a couple that you KNEW were going in don’t fall and now you’re not shooting, you’re guiding. You just want to place the ball on the rim and hope it somehow slips through the net. I think this paragraph summed up my basketball career actually.

Oh, and then Russell Westbrook. What a weird night. Six turnovers in the first half, nine for the game. No reason to freak, but I don’t think Westbrook isn’t totally there yet. He’s better for sure, but he’s just not there entirely. Not comparing by any means, but even Chris Paul has nights, well, maybe not Chris Paul. But good point guards have nights like this. And remember, he’s just 20 years old. It’s obvious he worked hard this summer and had a nice first two games, but we can’t expect him to play like John Stockton for a full season this early. He’s still developing and more nights like this are going to happen. The fact that he kept his head up and really kept OKC in it with 23 points on 8-12 shooting is kind of encouraging actually.

  • Kevin Ollie doesn’t move the ball. Rip City Project tweeted early in the game, “I love any possession where Kevin Ollie dribbles for 14 seconds. Usually good things are going to happen for you defensively.” Yep and yep.
  • I’m loving Etan Thomas’s physical, defensive presence. Nine boards for The Big Poet tonight, but he’s kind of mean on the glass. He grabs rebounds with FORCE and clears the lane with that awesome hair swinging wildly. Granted, he misses a point blank put-back with the best of them, but still, OKC needs a paint enforcer like him.
  • James Harden knocked down back-to-back 3s early in the second quarter to dig the Thunder out of a 12-point deficit. He went just 2-9 from the floor in 18 minutes though. But still, those two moneyballs were nice. I kind of thought Scott Brooks should have gone with more Harden to try and open up the game a bit offensively with his creation ability, but I think Brooks deferred to trying to win ugly on the defensive end with Thabo heckling Roy. I’m not second guessing, but in hindsight, maybe a switch up could have sparked something. Who knows though.
  • One more time: Six assists. The previous Oklahoma City franchise low was 13. That stat is ugly as can be, but when you don’t knock down open jumpers and the only offense is coming from your point guard creating for himself, that happens.
  • Big props to Jeff Green who played extremely hard all night. He had a quiet 19 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Durant and Green played 43 and 41 minutes, respectively. They’ve played over 40 in all three games so far this year. That needs to ease up a bit methinks.
  • Thabo Sefolosha really did a nice job on Brandon Roy tonight. Frustrated him, stayed in front and never gave him a clean look.
  • Take away Russ’s nine turns and OKC just flips it just 10 times. That’s kind of crazy to me.

Again, this was a horrible game. But oddly, it’s encouraging in my mind. The Thunder drops a game, but there are a bunch to go. The team is clearly playing some hard-nosed defense and when you put yourself in position to win even the ugliest of games, you’re going to squeak out a few you shouldn’t. They didn’t get this one tonight, but the fact they had the chance is improvement. As twisted as it sounds, it’s true. They aren’t going to shoot like that all year. But they could play defense like that all year. Which will translate into wins. You won’t hear any, “I knew we shouldn’t have gotten excited about those two wins” crap from me. This was one of 82. It happens.

A day off and then the world champs roll into town. It sure would have been nice to be 3-0 heading into that, but 2-1 is a nice consolation prize. I’ve got a feeling Durant doesn’t sleep tonight because he’s at the gym. Things will get righted offensively and as long as the defensive effort continues, OKC could have a chance Tuesday night.

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