For some things, there just are no answers.
For example, what’s up with these slow starts by the Oklahoma City Thunder?
If anyone out there knows, please report to Thunder headquarters before the team jets to Miami, because not even the culprits have a clue what’s going on.
On the biggest stage the season has to offer, the Thunder is inexplicably sputtering out of the gate and falling behind big before having to battle back for a shot at victory. Oklahoma City dodged a bullet in Game 1, but that same script bit the Thunder in the backside in Game 2.
Another dreadful early offensive drought doomed the Thunder on Thursday night, as the Heat notched a wire-to-wire 100-96 win inside Chesapeake Energy Arena to even this NBA Finals series at one game apiece.
Oklahoma City trailed 18-2 in the first seven-plus minutes. Over that span, the Thunder missed 11 of 12 shots and turned the ball over four times.
Miami eventually extended its lead to as many as 17 on two occasions, but this time the Thunder’s rally fell short. This time, Kevin Durant ran out of magic.
This time, the slow start cost the Thunder home-court advantage.
“I liked the way we came back and fought and made it a one-possession game at the end,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But when you get down 17, too many things have to happen well for you and perfect for you.”
Everyone from Brooks to Durant to Russell Westbrook and James Harden were asked what’s the reason for the slow starts.
Not one had an answer.
“We don’t know,” said Harden, who bounced back from a brutal Finals debut to score 21 points. “We have to change if we want to win games.”
Game 3 is Sunday at Miami, and the Thunder must now win at least one game inside American Airlines Arena to earn its first championship in the Oklahoma City era.
Oklahoma City got as close as 98-96 with 37.5 seconds remaining, but Durant, who scored 16 fourth-quarter points, missed a heavily-contacted 7-foot baseline jumper in the final 10 seconds and LeBron James finished off the Thunder with a pair of foul shots.
“The bottom line is we play aggressive basketball, we play tough basketball, and we didn’t do that to start the game,” Brooks said. “The last minute, I won’t even look at that. I’m going to focus on the first six to eight minutes of the game. That’s more important than the last minute or the last play of the game.”
In Game 1, the Thunder trailed by 11 late in the first quarter and sat on just 13 points inside the final minute of that opening period.
On Thursday, the offense was even worse. The Thunder’s half-court sets looked chaotic. They were defined by isolations and ill-advised jump shots, one after another bouncing off the rim, each miss deflating the Thunder more and more.
Westbrook started 0-for-6. By halftime, Westbrook and Durant were a combined 5-for-19.
“Thinking about it, I think we got some good looks,” Durant said. “We missed a few chippies, lay-ins. But we can’t get down that much, especially at home. We’ve got to correct it.”
Miami was again a machine while the Thunder struggled to muster anything positive. The Heat had open looks offensive and turned it over just once.
“They established their game and they played attack basketball right from the very start and they had us back on our heels,” Brooks said.
Maybe this two-game trend is just what the Thunder needs. Maybe it will serve as a wake-up call of sorts and illustrate to this championship-hungry squad that it needs to take its best to Miami.
Maybe, just maybe, at some point in between now and Sunday night, the Thunder will find an answer to this mysterious slow starts.