Charles Barkley is back at it, talking about the Thunder needing easy baskets. Needing a low-post presence, someone the Thunder can dump the ball into when they need a score and get an automatic two points.
Enough already. There are no easy baskets in the NBA. Not at the level we’re talking about.
Did Tim Duncan get easy baskets down the stretch of Game 6? Not when the Thunder put someone taller than a munchkin on him. Duncan got a few relatively easy baskets when Scotty Brooks kept calling for switches on screens and the likes of Reggie Jackson or Derek Fisher guarding the 6-foot-10 Hall of Famer. But when Serge Ibaka was guarding Duncan? No. When Kendrick Perkins was guarding Tim Duncan? No.
Low-post scoring is an excellent weapon to have. Same as a premier penetrator or three off the dribble. Same as spot-up shooters. Same as slashers from the wing. Same as big men who can step out and nail a jumper. Some teams have them all. Some teams don’t.
The Heat doesn’t. Miami doesn’t have low-post scoring, yet has won two straight NBA titles and might win another. The Grizzlies and the Clippers have low-post scoring, yet were dispatched by the Thunder.
In the San Antonio series, the Spurs outscored the Thunder 280-234 in the paint. That’s a difference of 46 points. But 34 of that difference came in Game 1, when then the Thunder played the worst defense you’ve ever seen.
Easy baskets? The Spurs in that series made 56.4 percent of their shots from the paint. The Thunder made 58.5 percent of their shots from the paint. Who’s getting easy baskets?
You know where the Spurs beat the Thunder? In the series, the Spurs outscored the Thunder by 60 points on 3-point shooting.
So does the Thunder need more low-post scoring? Sure. That would be great. But don’t think that low-post scoring means easy baskets. People like Perkins don’t let them be easy. I know that dumping on Perk has become one of our great pastimes. But this easy-basket talk brings us back to Perk.
If you want to believe in easy baskets, you’ve got to believe in Perkins. His post defense makes a difference. Game 6 was a perfect example. Duncan scored six points in the 21 minutes that Perkins played. Duncan scored 13 points in the other 18 minutes in which Perkins didn’t play. Two-of-seven shooting with Perkins on the court. Four-of-seven shooting with Perkins on the bench. Two foul shots with Perkins on the court. Six foul shots with Perkins on the bench.
It’s an inconvenient truth. Baskets don’t come easy in the NBA, even in the post. But if they do come easy, people like Kendrick Perkins turns them from easy to difficult.
I think the Thunder has a lot of issues. Wing defender who can shoot a little. What to do with Reggie Jackson. Fortify the bench with the expected departures of Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. But low-post scoring? That ranks way down the list.