The Thunder’s loss to Memphis on Wednesday night was troubling on several fronts. Starting with this.
Kevin Martin was nowhere to be found. And was anyone trying to find Circle K?
This game got away from the Thunder when the Grizzlies outscored OKC 36-15 in the second quarter. The B team of Martin, Eric Maynor, Hasheem Thabeet and Nick Collison – along with starter Thabo Sefolosha – gave up half of a 10-point lead that had been forged by the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder still led 36-31 four minutes into the second quarter, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook returned and joined Thabo, Martin and Collison. It was 36-36 when Kendrick Perkins returned and restored the Thunder’s big lineup. Memphis outscored the Thunder 20-9 the rest of the half.
The Thunder had issues defensively and on the boards, but it also had issues offensively. And here’s why. Martin did not get engulfed into the Thunder offense. His sum totals: seven points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Martin missed a 3-pointer early in the second quarter, was fouled and made two free throws, then missed a drive. That was his first half usage. In the third quarter, Martin made two more foul shots. In the fourth quarter, Martin missed a jumper and made a 3-pointer. And that’s it. Martin didn’t even have a turnover.
In 32 minutes, 49 seconds, Circle K had six usages – four shots and two trips to the foul line. Thabo played just 20:38 (a problem in and of itself) and had seven usages – four shots and three turnovers. That’s crazy.
The Thunder got great offense out of Durant and Serge Ibaka (Ibaka had 17 points on 10 shots). But this roster is not built for one of its prime-timers to be removed from the offensive flow. Durant, Westbrook, Martin and now Ibaka have to contribute nightly.
The Thunder had a hard time winning when James Harden had a single-digit scoring night. But when Harden had an off night, he was involved. The last time Harden had as few as four shots, it was Feb. 13, 2011, two seasons ago.
The Harden of two years ago on occasion could disappear. The Harden of last season did not disappear. That made a huge difference for the Thunder. The Thunder can’t allow Martin to be a non-factor. He has to be a major element in every game, even if he’s having an off night.
I don’t know if Martin wasn’t being assertive, or if the Grizzlies had Westbrook and Co. in such a frenzy, Martin was forgotten. Doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s got to change. The Thunder is not built for one of its stars to veg out. And like it or not, Martin has star status on this team. He has to produce for the Thunder to excel.
That’s why Westbrook has to stay in attack mode, even if he’s not making shots. The Thunder does not have the parity of offensive talent to allow one of its scorers to step aside. Martin has to understand that. And the Thunder has to understand that about Martin.