We might be watching history, folks. Coming home did not cure the Thunder’s ills. Since taking a 48-22 lead 15 minutes into Game 3, the Thunder has struggled mightily without Russell Westbrook and is playing like it will become the first NBA team ever to lose a playoff series in which it led three games to none.
Game 5 was worse than Game 4, which was bad enough. The Thunder lost 107-100. Here’s what I saw and heard:
* The Thunder defense has not been good. But it’s been acceptable when Scotty Brooks at least tries to match up with the Rockets. The Thunder offense is a total mess.
* Brooks: “The good thing is we are up 3-2. They won the last two and we won the first three. Now it is time that we have to step up and play much better. They are playing well right now. They are a confident group and they should be.”
* Kevin Durant through three quarters: 11 of 18 from the field, 13 of 16 from the line, five assists, one rebound, one turnover, 36 points.
* Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter: 0-of-5 from the field, 0-of-0 from the line, two assists, six rebounds, two turnovers, 0 points. And lots of frustration.
* The Thunder’s start to the last four halves has been bad. Down 13-4 after four minutes of Game 4, outscored 10-0 to start the second half of Game 4, down 16-9 after five minutes in Game 5, outscored 16-7 to start the second half of Game 5.
“We cannot give them confidence to start the game,” Durant said. “I have to be better as a leader and lead my guys and get us to play harder every minute.”
* Here’s what Scotty Brooks has to do.
1. Play Thabo Sefolosha more, even though Thabo played 35:49 in Game 5. Here was his offensive line – nine points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocked shots. Sefolosha is playing. He made three of six 3-pointers; the rest of the team was five of 27.
2. Play Kevin Martin less. The guy is wilting on the big stage. We all hate it. He’s a prince of a fellow. But Martin is wilting. He was a no-show in the second half of Games 3 and 4, and Martin expanded his game by going no-show the entire Game 5: 1-of-10 shooting (by making his last), three points. Plus he can’t guard any Rocket with the possible exception of Carlos Delfino.
3. Play DeAndre Liggins more. Liggins played 18 minutes in Game 5. His defense was not as good as it was in Houston, but the Thunder is having a hard time matching up. Liggins can stay in front of James Harden and Chandler Parsons. Heck, he might need to be tried on Patrick Beverley or Aaron Brooks.
4. Play Derek Fisher more. Who would ever have thought the Thunder season would come down to this. Fisher is a positive, defensively as well as offensively. Fisher can at least stay with Francisco Garcia and Delfino. And Fisher isn’t a bad matchup on Harden, if it comes to that. Harden doesn’t really outquick defenders. He outfoxes them. Hard to outfox Fisher.
5. Play Kendrick Perkins less. Nothing against Gran Torino, but the Thunder’s big lineup isn’t working at all. If Foreman Scotty wants to keep the starting lineup intact, fine. But bail on it quickly. You can’t have two big men running around out there with no one to cover.
6. Play Nick Collison more. Collison played 61/2 productive minutes in the first half, then didn’t play in the second half. I didn’t get it and no one else did, either.
* I don’t think Jeremy Lamb is an answer. Sure, it would be nice to have someone who can shoot, but the Thunder has to guard the Rockets, and Lamb hasn’t proven he can guard.
* On Feb. 20, Francisco Garcia was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets, because the Rockets and Kings are like 10-year-old best friends who live across the street from each other. They seem to share everything.
Tyler Honeycutt and Thomas Robinson came with Garcia to Houston, for Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, Patrick Patterson and cash. Patterson seemed to be a ballplayer. No one else did. His last year-and-a-half with Sacramento, Garcia averaged 17 minutes a game on a bad team.
The Rockets played 27 regular-season games after the trade. Garcia played in 18 of them. He averaged 17.7 minutes per game and 6.4 points per game. If someone confused him with Scottie Pippen as a premier perimeter defender, it has not been documented.
But Garcia in these last three games of the Thunder-Rocket playoff series has played terrific defense on Kevin Durant. KD is getting his shots and making a good number of them. But it’s not easy.
Garcia and Kevin Martin were Kings teammates for five seasons. In those five years, Martin averaged 33.8 minutes and 19.3 points. Garcia averaged 23.4 minutes and 9.0 points.
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