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Five observations from the Thunder's heartbreaking 100-99 OT Game 5 loss to Memphis

by Anthony Slater Published: April 30, 2014

-Let’s do a quick film study, picking on the Thunder’s two best players, to see what I’m talking about:

The first play came early in the second quarter. Understandably, Durant is willing to help when guarding Tony Allen, a below average outside shooter. But Allen’s also a terrific and well-known back-cutter. Gotta be aware of the personnel. And Durant isn’t here, completely losing him on the play. It leads to an easy layup, which Allen has got on numerous occasions this series:

The next two clips are a pair of effort rebounds late in the game in crucial spots. The first came after Durant played some solid defense on a Marc Gasol post-up. He’s overmatched physically, yet holds his own and forces a tough shot and miss. But he doesn’t finish the play by attacking the rebound. He spectates as Gasol crashes the glass, grabs the board and gets fouled (watch this one through for the replay):

The next one is off a free throw with 30 seconds left. Durant does an average job of boxing out Tayshaun Prince but, again, doesn’t attack the rebound. It allows Prince to back-tap for a huge possession:

Now let’s look at a couple Westbrook lapses, both late in the game during crucial spots. The first one comes when the Thunder trails 83-82 with four minutes left. As Mike Conley takes a dribble hand-off from Mike Miller and drives toward the paint, Westbrook lazily reaches around for a low-percentage gamble and gives Conley and easy, uncontested floater:

Soon after this next play, Westbrook would make up for his defensive errors by hitting on one of his most fruitful gambles — a steal and game-tying dunk with four seconds left. But in a tight game, this next clip is an equally important play. After missing a three, Westbrook slowly floats back on defense and, as Conley attacks him with the dribble, Westbrook lets him cruise right by. Easy layup, no resistance.

5. Miller Time - Imagine how different this series would have been if Mike Miller decides to sign with the Thunder this past offseason. At the time, it sounded like a real possibility. And not only would it take away the Grizzlies only consistently potent 3-point threat (what a fit he has been for them), you’d add a piece the Thunder could desperately use. Caron Butler’s been great — and would still be used — but Miller’s a different level of shooter. If the guy’s open from 30 feet and in, you can basically book it. Pairing him with Westbrook and Durant could have been deadly.

-Also, his combined line in two career Game 5s against the Thunder: 44 points on 12-of-16 from three, plus 11 rebounds.

Lingering thoughts

-A little too much attention is being paid to Joey Crawford’s predictably weird antics late in the game. After giving Kevin Durant the ball for a second free-throw late in the game, Crawford sprinted at Durant, took the ball from him and went over to the scorer’s table for an animated and extended argument. Like an NFL coach to a kicker, Crawford iced Durant a bit. KD missed and the Thunder remained down by one. Scott Brooks called it “An awkward situation”. Mike Conley kinda laughed about it, saying he thought “What is Joey doing?”. But Kevin Durant was right when he said: “I don’t know what happened, but I got to make that free throw”. It’s too convenient for the Thunder to use that as an excuse.

-One game after his career night, Reggie Jackson was limited to only six points on 2-of-7 shooting. Saved the season on Saturday, but he’s been underwhelming in the other four games (5-of-26 shooting). Thunder need more from him consistently.

-The Thunder has three crazy four-point plays in the fourth quarter of games this series. They’ve gone on to lose all three games.

-On the last play, I don’t understand why the Thunder (or maybe just Kevin Durant) treated it like there was 0.6 seconds on the clock. OKC inbounded it with 2.9 seconds left and only trailed by one. They didn’t need a three and certainly didn’t need a fadeaway contested look. Maybe some kind of backdoor cut or misdirection, even an inbound to Durant that had a screen attached to it so he could free himself up with a dribble to find a cleaner look. It wasn’t desperation heave time, but they treated it like it.

-Kevin Durant wrote “It’s only bball” on his shoes for the game. Slightly interesting and it might be over-analyzed, but I do think it gives a small peak into his current psyche. The struggles are probably (and understandably) weighing on him a bit. This has been a tough series for him. So it probably serves as an in-game reminder for him to relax.

-Photo of the game came from Nate Billings on the last sequence — the Serge Ibaka game-winner that never was. Crazy scene that sums up this crazy series:

-I still think the Thunder has a solid shot to pull this series out. I’d pick Memphis, because who wouldn’t at this point, but it just takes two solid performances from the Thunder in a row. Not inconceivable.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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