Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Lessons from the loss to the Clippers

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm •  Published: February 24, 2014

Strange game Sunday, when the Thunder lost to the Clippers 125-117. Horrid defense early, great offense most of the day, collapse late. That about sums it up.

But lots of developments in between, and I always like to look at the lineups. With Kendrick Perkins, it gave the Thunder glimpses of different lineups. Here’s what I saw:

1. Kevin Durant with the B team is a very fruitful lineup. Of course, it mostly went against Clipper reserves. But in the first half, the lineup of Durant, Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison outscored LA 11-4; then in the second half, that lineup outscored LA 18-10. The Thunder’s two best runs of the game were with that lineup.

In the first half, that lineup went mostly against the Clipper lineup of Jared Dudley, Reggie Bullock, Ryan Hollins, Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford. Only Crawford is a starter. In the second half, that Thunder lineup went against the Clipper lineup of Bullock, Dudley, Collison, either Chris Paul or Crawford and either DeAndre Jordan or Hollins.

The Thunder clearly has a bench advantage on the Clippers and took advantage of it Sunday. But the Clipper starting unit was vastly superior to the Thunder’s.

2. The Thunder starting lineup was outscored 41-31 while on the court together. A 13-19 hole to begin the game, before Scotty Brooks substituted, and 13-15 to open the second half. Of course, Steven Adams replacing Perk in the lineup will take a period of adjustment. So let’s not judge too harshly. But for once, you can’t blame this slow start on Perkins.

3. The Thunder small lineup — which basically means any unit that uses Durant as a power forward — outscored the Clippers 64-50. Some of that was against small-ball LA lineups, but some of it was against the Clippers’ primary lineup that includes Jordan and Blake Griffin. If you subtract the Durant/B Team lineup totals from the full small-ball lineup totals, the Thunder small lineup was outscored 35-36 by the Clippers. Interesting, don’t you think? It’s quite possible that the Thunder small lineup could be used even more frequently than Brooks is using. You can’t ask Durant to guard Zach Randolph, but Jordan, he can check.

4. The plan to use Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson together will take some time. When the two point guards were on the court together, the Thunder was outscored 29-32. The worst part was the game’s final 7:23, when Westbrook replaced Lamb and joined Durant, Fisher, Ibaka and Jackson on the court. The Thunder trailed 105-104 at the time but was outscored 20-13 the rest of the way. Shot selection seemed to be an issue with Westbrook and Jackson. Both took some ill-timed shots in this game. I think they’re still adjusting to each other and the variances of playing off the ball.

5. The worst Thunder lineup was Ibaka and the B team — Collison, Lamb, Jackson and Fisher. That lineup was outscored 9-0 in the second quarter, wiping out a 40-32 Thunder lead. In the old days, the Thunder B team could be ably supported by James Harden. You would think the Jackson/Lamb combination would be enough to get the second unit some scoring punch, but not Sunday. The Thunder reserves needed Durant.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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