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

As he staggered toward the deep corner, falling out of bounds and likely taking the Thunder’s faint hopes with him, Kevin Durant threw up a fadeeeeeeawayyyyyy prayer.

Swish. Plus the foul.

Then moments later, following an errant game-winning three attempt by Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins corralled the rebound and tossed in a putback at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Two miracle plays. Two of the most unlikely shots in Thunder history. And two moments that would be remembered a lot more fondly had OKC not eventually fell 111-105 in overtime on Monday night.

But both also served as perfect examples of what, again, ailed the Thunder on Monday night and stands as a glaring concern as this series moves forward.

Ineffective late-game offense.

Not much movement, not much structure, far too many contested threes. The Thunder lost this game down the stretch because of unstructured offense and a pair of stars who settled for too many deep, guarded threes.

“You have to find a good shot,” Scott Brooks said. “And we didn’t find enough of them.”

In the final six minutes of Monday’s loss – the last minute of regulation and all of overtime – the Thunder made only four of its 12 shots.

Two were well-designed plays, one resulting in a Durant 14-footer over the smaller Courtney Lee and the other a solid pin-down screen which freed Durant for an open three.

But the other two were the miraculous Durant heave and the fortunate Perkins putback, neither of which came off well-designed plays.

“We pressured some passes,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger explained. “Pressured the basketball.”

And he’s right. The Grizzlies tenacious and unrelenting defense had a lot to do with the Thunder’s late struggles. But it seemed that, instead of attacking the physicality, OKC shied away.


by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com'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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