Thunder-Grizzlies: How the Thunder offense faltered at closing time

MEMPHIS 111, OKC 105 (OT) — A combination of the Grizzles’ lock-down defense and a stagnant Thunder offense conspired to send the series to Memphis tied 1-1.
by Anthony Slater Published: April 21, 2014

The Thunder took 30 threes and made nine. Durant took 12 and made five – including the prayer. Westbrook took seven and made one.

“I think that’s a good percentage if I’m not mistaken. We took the shots that were open,” a defensive Durant said, referring to his 5-of-12 line, before admitting: “We settled for a few.”

But some of the late-game blame must also fall to Brooks. Since arriving in OKC, the Thunder has struggled down the stretch in tight games. With two superstars, OKC tends to allow them to force up contested jumpers following uncreative sets.

“I thought we might have taken a few too many 3s,” Brooks admitted. “It’s something we’ll look back at and see how many of them were good shots or contested shots.”

One time, with 20 seconds left in overtime and trailing by two, it looked as if Brooks drew up a solid play. Following some misdirection action, Durant was able to hit Serge Ibaka cutting to the rim for what looked like an open lane.

But Ibaka shuffled his feet following the catch and got called for a travel that essentially sealed the Thunder’s fate.

“Serge has been great finishing around the basket,” Brooks said. “I’m happy with the catch, but I’m not thrilled with the result. That’s part of the game. You’ve got to live with it.”

Maybe it was a step forward – a solid design for what should have been a good shot. Or maybe it was the exact reason OKC tends to let Westbrook and Durant freelance.

Whatever the issue, OKC better figure it out soon. Because late-game opportunities are what’s likely to define this suddenly toss-up series.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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