Thunder Throws One Away, Goes Down 3-1
Nuggets from my notebook from Monday’s 112-105 Game 4 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
- The Thunder had a 15-point lead with five minutes left in regulation.
- The Thunder scored six points in the final 10 minutes of the game.
- The Thunder now faces a 3-1 hole going into Wednesday’s Game 5. For all the talk of this team’s resiliency, we’re about to find out just out tough this Thunder team is. Only eight of 200 teams have ever climbed out of a 3-1 hole. That’s a 96 percent success rate for teams with a 3-1 lead.
- The Thunder must now win three straight to make it to the NBA Finals. I know you know that. Reading it, however, probably helps put it in perspective how tough that will be.
- Everyone wants to know who’s to blame for what transpired in the final 10 minutes. The answer is…everyone. It’s not possible to put a loss of this magnitude on the shoulders of just one person. Every single player who suited up, and every single coach should share in the blame. It’s only fair.
- When you start dissecting this one, there are tons of questions that come to mind.
- What was Kevin Durant thinking on that last shot in regulation?
- Why couldn’t the Thunder hardly get a single quality shot down the stretch?
- How much did James Harden fouling out impact the Thunder’s offense?
- Did the Thunder think it was over and let up?
- Why didn’t Russell Westbrook let that loose ball with just over two minutes left in overtime go out of bounds?
- Why wasn’t Daequan Cook in the game in the final 40 seconds of overtime instead of Thabo Sefolosha?
- Why didn’t the Thunder run something for Westbrook instead of continuing to try to force it to KD?
- How on earth do you blow a 15-point lead on your home court in the final five minutes of regulation and get outscored 17-2?
- The Thunder went 3-for-16 from the field with four turnovers in the final 10 minutes. That just hurts.
- Durant tried to provide an answer to question No. 1 above. “I didn’t have anything else to do,” Durant said. “I caught the ball almost at the half court line, seen three Mavericks in front of me and had three seconds on the (game) clock. I didn’t know what else to do. I tried to get a shot up. I didn’t want to run into their defense and get another turnover.”
- Durant on the fans: “I feel upset because I think I let them down. I let the city down.”
- Durant didn’t want to blame this one on youth, saying “This is basketball, man. Our youth has nothing to do with what were doing on the floor right now. We’ve showed we can play on this level.” That, of course, is a youthful and prideful answer. The final 10 minutes of this game had everything to do with age and experience. The Thunder looked like it didn’t have a clue for solving this riddle. The Mavs, even when down double digits late and especially when it got close, looked like they were in full control.
- The Thunder’s inexperience really started to show in the final two minutes of regulation. That’s when the Thunder made mental mistakes and had its offense bog down as a byproduct of having no real plan and being forced into shots the Mavs’ pressure wanted it to take. Westbrook missed a jumper after the offense just watched him dribble time off the shot clock. Durant lost the ball in a crowd. Westbrook committed a somewhat excusable hustle play when he ran in for an offensive rebound but climbed Shawn Marion’s back and gave up a trip to the stripe. And of course, there was Durant’s ill-advised last-second shot.
- The final 10 minutes wasn’t all bad offensively. The Thunder takes a lot of heat for its stretches of stagnant offense, and rightfully so. But there were a few plays in the final 10 minutes that were extremely well executed but the shots just didn’t fall. There was an inbounds play designed for Serge Ibaka to get a quick score but the Mavs smoked it out and forced him into a missed jump hook. There was a possession of great ball movement, ending in Sefolosha swinging a pass right back to Durant after Durant had swung it to him, only for KD to come up short on the 3-point try. And there were two possessions in the final minute of regulation where Durant made the right pass to teammates out of double teams. But one was to Sefolosha who missed a 3 (again, where was Cook?), and the other was to Westbrook, who also missed a jumper. You can’t blame the Thunder’s offense on those possessions. Those were good looks that didn’t fall.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks: “There’s no doubt it was a tough loss. If this loss did not hurt, there’s no such thing as a loss that can hurt you.”
- Jason Kidd had the sequence of the game in the final minute of overtime. The Thunder was hanging tough and showing that it wasn’t going to roll over after that disappointing end to regulation. Ibaka had just tied it up with a jumper, and the Thunder followed that by getting its third straight stop when Jason Terry missed a jumper. Then Kidd turned the tide. He started by stripping Durant and finished with a 3 at the other end that put the Mavs up 108-105 with 40.5 seconds left. Ball game.
- The Thunder made another big time mistake late when it took 8.9 seconds to foul the Mavs after Kidd rebounded a miss with 25.9 seconds left in overtime. And after the Mavs took the ball out, the Thunder let Terry squirt free and get an easy pass and run off another four seconds before he was finally fouled. That’s 13 seconds of game time the Thunder let pass in a three-point game.
- Yet again, the team with the highest scoring bench won the game. The Mavs’ reserves outscored the Thunder’s 40-21. Terry, with 20 points, nearly outscored the Thunder’s bench by himself again.
- It’s a shame this one ended the way it did. You almost forget about how well the Thunder was playing through 3 1/2 quarters. Does anybody even remember the Thunder made its first nine shots of the game to spark a one-time 12-point first quarter lead? Anybody?
- Anybody remember how money Durant was from the outset? OK, probably so. Because now we know what Durant looks like on the court when he’s angry. It’s something fans and media alike have wondered and even suggested he’s needed to add to his game.Durant was downright grumpy at Sunday’s practice. He couldn’t wait to get back on the court. And when he did, he shot out the gate like Seabiscuit. He made his first five shots and didn’t miss until the 2:54 mark of the first quarter. For perhaps the first time in his career, he played with a chip. And after seeing what it looks like when he does, you can count me in with the rest of the crowd that thinks he needs to more often.
- Durant scored five points in five seconds in the third quarter, all coming on one trip. How’s that for efficiency. He made a free throw before missing the second. He then drilled a 3 after Collison corralled the offensive rebound. And when Tyson Chandler was called for an offensive foul, Durant buried another foul shot. Pure luck but impressive nonetheless.
- Durant’s nine turnovers, and that 30-foot launch that got stuffed, unfortunately will overshadow his performance. The guy scored 29 points with 15 rebounds and had four assists. And no one will say a word about it Tuesday.
- Dallas coach Rick Carlisle sounded almost sorry for Durant’s struggles tonight. When the topic of Durant’s nine turnovers came up Carlisle said, “Well, look, I mean, the guys that are getting the ball a lot are facing tremendous pressure. You know, Dirk in the last game had seven turnovers, and tonight Durant had his share of turnovers. Look, we’re game-planning for the guy like crazy. We’re chasing him, we’re double-teaming him out to half court a lot of the time. He’s receiving a lot of attention.”
- No matter what happens from here, this game is another experience that is going to help make Durant deadly in the years to come. Last year, Durant battled Ron Artest. This postseason, Durant’s gone up against Arron Afflalo, Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson. I’ll even through Kidd in there because he’s played some terrific minutes on KD and provided some different and challenging looks, too. And let’s not forget about Chandler, who Durant has to deal with at the rim once he beats his defender. That’s like an All-Defensive team. Between the individual experiences Durant is dealing with, and now a possible bitter exit in the Western Conference Finals, it’s scary to think about what we’ll see next season.
- You would think that with 26 turnovers the Thunder would have gotten blown out in a playoff game. But OKC did a good job scoring off the Mavs’ turnovers while also dominating the glass to limit the damage of the giveaways.
- Brooks took his stubbornness to new heights tonight. And it worked terrifically. With noise coming from all corners (including this one) about Brooks needing to alter either his starting lineup or the minutes distribution, the Thunder coach played Kendrick Perkins 10 1/2 minutes in the first quarter and didn’t bring in his first sub until 3 1/2 minutes were left in the opening quarter. It’s like Brooks said, ‘I’ll show y’all.’ But really, Perk played his tail off. His hustle and energy were contagious. He had two points, two rebounds, two assists and a block in those first 10 1/2 minutes.
- With that said, Nick Collison and Ibaka both played more than Perk, which I maintain is key in this series.
- To be fair, I’ll point out that in the plus-minus Perk was a plus-9 while Ibaka was a minus-10 and Collison was a minus-14. Now, to keep it real, Perk didn’t play a second in the fourth quarter or overtime and a collapse like the one we saw tonight is an example of when you basically can throw plus-minus out of the window.
- Collison’s contract next season will be the best value in the league. And it won’t be close if he continues playing like he has in this postseason. The last guy you would consider a stat stuffer, Collison had 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 31 minutes. Six of Collison’s rebounds were on the offensive end, keeping possessions alive and helping the Thunder rack up 20 offensive rebounds. Behind those boards, the Thunder outscored the Mavs 24-12 in second-chance points.
- Ibaka was growing more invisible by the game in this series. His man defense on Dirk was much better in Game 2, but in terms of excelling at what he does best, he just was bringing it. He brought it tonight. He had 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting with 10 boards and five blocks, his most since game three against Memphis. Ibaka looked comfortable and confident for the first time all series. He was at his best during the Thunder’s game-changing 20-9 run that led to the 15-point lead. He was blocking shots and gobbling up rebounds.
- Remember the nifty crossover Ibaka pulled that got him an open jumper? Another incredible aspect of this game that gets lost in the storm.
- I’ll leave you with this quote from Brooks because this will be the key to what happens next. “There’s no question that this is a very difficult loss, but it is a loss you have to take. You have to take it like a man and move on. And we have to somehow muster enough energy tomorrow in our practice and then come back and just focus on one game. We have to win one game.”
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