Frogger. That’s what I think of when I think of the Thunder this season. You know that game where you’re a little frog and your goal is to cross the street, avoiding the onrush of cars in the process? The hallmark scenario of Frogger is, just when you think you’re going to make it, after you’ve successfully navigated multiple lanes of traffic… SPLAT.
Yep, that’s kind of how the Thunder’s season has gone. Oh, how many times the Thunder have risen to the threshold of playoff certainty, only to be walloped by another injury, resetting everything. This week, it’s Serge Ibaka, who missed the last three games and had to have a procedure on his knee.
In 1982, a magazine called Softline wrote, “Frogger has earned the ominous distinction of being ‘the arcade game with the most ways to die.'” Similarly, the Thunder’s 2014-2015 season has earned the ominous distinction of being the season with the most injuries to ruin the Thunder’s playoff chances.
- Loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, 120-108
- Beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 113-99
- Beat the Chicago Bulls, 109-100
- Lost to the Dallas Mavericks, 119-115
THE BEST PLAYER
Enes Kanter. The loss to the Mavericks stole my really wonderful plan of making Dion Waiters the player of the week. If the Thunder had won, I was going to talk about how Waiters led (well, participated to be precise) the Thunder to wins in each of his five starts this year. Boo. But hey, the Thunder have still won 80 percent of the games Waiters has started, so that’s something.
So now that we’ve got the obligatory Waiters joke out of the way, I’m going with the upset and name Enes Kanter as the best player. I’m giving the nod to Kanter in part because, well, everyone knows Russell Westbrook has this on lockdown and I need fresh material, but also because, holy offensive centers, Kanter is unlike anything Oklahoma City has ever had in its arsenal.
In the last week, Kanter had a 23 point, 15 rebound game, an 18-point, 18-rebound game, and a 19-point, 13-rebound game. Kanter is crafty in the post, killer on the offensive glass, and incredibly difficult to contain in the pick and roll. Imagining Kanter, along-side Ibaka, Durant, and Westbrook, I just get giddy inside. I can only imagine how excited Westbrook must be for this possibility—State Farm better watch out because Russ will be doing some assisting.
Also, Kanter did one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen a Thunder center do. Against the Timberwolves, he was a one-man fast break.
THE BEST PERFORMANCE
Russell Westbrook against the Bulls. In a revenge game, Russ falls just shy of another triple-Russell (36 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists), but the story here is how Russ played inspired, intelligent basketball down the stretch. Russ got a critical steal and layup and subsequently found Morrow for three on a drive and kick to seal the game.
It was an ugly offensive night, especially in the first quarter. Russ started out awful offensively, shooting just 1-of-8 in the first quarter (including a dreadful 0-4 from three). But that fourth quarter was something else. In the fourth, Westbrook doubled his assists on the night (with three in the quarter), scored 14 points on 5-8 shooting, and had zero turnovers. Hashtag, MVP.
THE BEST PLAY
Speaking of that critical steal, guess what? It’s my best play of the week. It epitomizes the force that is Russell “my job description is 1,000 pages long” Westbrook. A pivotal play, by an unstoppable force.
Speaking of Westbrook’s job description, let me be a little more concise. Russ, your job is to be awesome. You’re doing a great job, by the way.
Honorable mention: Dion’s hard work yelling “and one!” finally pays off when he gets an “and one.”
THE WORST PLAYER
Andre Roberson. I must be on a mission to target all of the unproductive starters or something. Last week, it was Kyle Singler. This week it’s Andre Roberson.
Before the Thunder’s game against the Clippers, Roberson was getting in some shooting. To his credit, he drilled a ton of threes. However, he also did this.
Roberson knows he’s not an offensive juggernaut. In 62 minutes over the last four games, Roberson took just six shots, making three. In particular, in the Thunder’s two losses, Roberson scored a grand total of two points (by way of two free throws), with just one rebound, 1 assist, one steal, and three turnovers.
It’s an admirable attribute to know your limitations (hi, Dion!), but it doesn’t change the fact that teams will scheme against your limitations. Andre’s defense is elite, but sometimes the Thunder’s offensive system fails to produce points. When offense becomes a higher priority, Andre just doesn’t have a place on the floor. He’s afraid to shoot and kills spacing.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Andre. I love his hustle, his energy, and anytime his man takes a shot, I am sure it’s going to be a miss because Andre can straight-up defend. Yet, there are times when he’s such an offensive liability that a little defense must be sacrificed to get a player on the court who can challenge the opposing team’s defense.
THE WORST PERFORMANCE
Pick and roll defense against the Clippers. Let’s just say Chris Paul absolutely abused the Thunder in the pick and roll last Wednesday. Granted, Paul is one of, if not the best, pick and roll point guards in the NBA, but yikes. It felt like every time the Clippers ran the pick and roll, one of three things happened: (1) Paul got an uncontested shot, (2) Paul hit DeAndre Jordan rolling for an easy bucket, or (3) Paul found a wide-open shooter (mostly Matt Barnes) after the Thunder’s defense collapsed.
While I have no NBA coaching experience (outside of video games), I know enough to understand that you don’t want any of those things to happen when you defend the pick and roll. Not to mention, you know it’s a bad night defending, when your best plan to stop the Clippers is to intentionally foul Jordan.
THE WORST PLAY
NBA refs, man. It is such a cop-out to blame the referees for a loss. I won’t do it. Sometimes, though, NBA refs get so blinded and whistle-happy that they make awful calls.
In a critical moment, with the Thunder down four and just over a minute remaining, Russ drives to the basket and gets called for a questionable (at best) charging call. It was the 47th charging call (slight exaggeration) against the Thunder and it gave Westbrook five fouls.
Westbrook follows that up with a dumb foul of Chandler Parsons, ending his night and all but ending the game.
On a lighter note, let’s all watch Dion Waiters airball another layup.
- Against the Boston Celtics on Monday, March 18
- Against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, March 20
- Against the Miami Heat on Sunday, March 22