Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Problems mostly offensive

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: January 15, 2014

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is fouled by Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) as he shoots in front of center Marc Gasol during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is fouled by Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) as he shoots in front of center Marc Gasol during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Thunder remains stuck in mediocrity without Russell Westbrook — 5-5 since Breakable’s latest surgery — and offense seems to be the problem.

Huge scoring droughts in losses to Portland and Brooklyn.

Only 87 points scored in a loss at Memphis, only 88 at Denver, only 89 in a win at Charlotte.

The Thunder has had its defensive lapses, too. Allowing Utah to score 112? That’s absurd. But the Thunder has played mostly solid defense without Westbrook.

It’s that offense that is stinking up the joint.

And here’s what’s scary until Westbrook returns. Not only have the Thunder not been playing a killer schedule (which soon will change), but the Thunder has been playing relatively weak defenses.

Of the 10 post-Westbrook games, only two came against elite teams, Houston and Portland. Four games against the great unwashed of the Eastern Conference (Charlotte, Brooklyn, Boston, Milwaukee), which is where the Thunder got three of its victories. Three games were against so-so West teams (Minnesota, Denver, Memphis), and one game was against a West bottom-feeder (Utah).

And those are mostly bad defensive teams. Of the 10 games the Thunder has played without Westbrook, only one (Charlotte) came against a top-10 defense. Four came against bottom-10 defenses (Portland, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Utah).

Ouch. What happens when the Thunder has to play San Antonio and Golden State and the like?

Memphis is generally an elite NBA defense but hasn’t been this season, primarily because Marc Gasol missed 23 games. Gasol was back Tuesday night, though he didn’t seem himself, particularly on defense, and the Grizzlies also were missing Tony Allen. Memphis is ranked 20th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency, so clearly, the Grizzlies haven’t found their defensive footing.

Yet Tuesday night, the Thunder scored more than 20 points in only one of four quarters. OKC scored 12 points the first 11 minutes of the game, then 12 points the first 9:45 of the third quarter and finally 11 points the first 8:45 of the fourth quarter.

The Thunder just can’t find any offense outside of Kevin Durant. Alas, we know where to find that offense.

Westbrook. Until he returns, the Thunder seems relegated to mediocrity.



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