Archive - December 2017

Five Thoughts 12-31-17 (Mavs 116, Thunder 113)

Five Thoughts 12-31-17 (Mavs 116, Thunder 113)

1. Focused more on the greater picture of 2017 as a whole and looking ahead to 2018, but tonight’s game certainly deserves at least some commentary. It was a disappointing loss. The Milwaukee loss was very much acceptable to me; this one not so much. Feels like a minor step back after what was a good month a VERY good two weeks or so. I wanted 6-2 on the final 8 to end the year and I got exactly that. But had I known we’d be 6-0 at one point, losing the final two would have surprised me. First of all, clearly we can’t sustain our stellar D without Andre. His absence was glaring on that end of the floor and really exposes how we are bereft of any pop off the bench at that position. Andre is an essential piece on this team. Secondly, the Mavs hit shots. Fifteen three’s to be exact. The biggest one of the night was banked in off the glass. There is definitely some bad luck at play there catching a team on fire. This was the Mavs fourth straight win and they were coming off a game where they scored 128 points. Dennis Smith is a fantastic looking rookie and he was great down the stretch. Their record stinks, but the Mavs are a better/more dangerous team than many teams in the league ahead of them in the standings. So it’s hard for me to say that “old habits” bit the Thunder tonight because they really didn’t. Russ, PG, and Melo all played well. The latter two shot the long ball extremely well. Things looked pretty fluid and cohesive on offensive. It really didn’t look anything like those early season struggles. The issues tonight were all about the inability to guard the Mavs on the perimeter. All that said, it’s still not good to suffer a second loss to Dallas. And it continues a trend of OKC struggling with non-playoff teams. Three of the bottom four teams in the East are Charlotte, Brooklyn, and Orlando. The Thunder are 0-3 against those teams. The Mavs and Kings are two of the bottom four teams in the West and the Thunder are 1-3 against them. If I had to choose, I’d prefer this to the Thunder beating up on lesser lights and losing to the big dogs. But ultimately OKC won’t be able to make a run in the standings if they don’t start consistently taking care of business of middling to poor teams.

2. Speaking of the standings, now is a natural time to take a look. I haven’t paid much attention thus far this season as what’s happening on the court has been more important. But we are now just four games away from the halfway mark of the season and in a few hours we turn the calendar to a new year. 20-17 is a disappointing record for OKC at this juncture, but when contrasted to the 8-12 start it doesn’t look (or feel) nearly as bad. We’ve seen what they are capable of so I’m not overly concerned about the current standing. I am also not overly concerned about the mash of teams directly behind the Thunder right now. I think they will slowly start to pull away from Denver, Portland, New Orleans, etc… I think we start gaining some distance there to the point where the 5 seed becomes the basement. The goal will be to get at least to the 4 seed and secure home court in round one. The three seed is also still in range. So targeting the Wolves and Spurs makes sense as we enter 2018. If they have an aim at San Antonio, they need to make their move now. They are currently five back in the loss column. And we know the Spurs aren’t going to crater. So the Thunder need to get them in their sights and gain a game or two over the next month or so so that they enter post-all star break with a legitimate chance to catch them.

3. It’s always kind of annoying that the NBA season technically spans over two different years. I’ve always ignored the first part of “The 2017-2018 Thunder” and just go with the latter year. To me, this is the 2018 season. Last year was the 2017 season. The year we went to the Finals was the 2012 season. So when talking 2017 Thunder the big story would Russ and his MVP season followed by the off-season moves to bring PG and Melo to OKC. 2017 was nothing if not eventful. And don’t discount that. Always remember that this is entertainment. As a season ticket holder/fan I want to enjoy the games and the banter about the team. Obviously winning is the easiest way to ensure that. Beyond winning though, “good stories” and exciting games/moves also matter to me. In that regard, the organization totally delivered in 2017. It was the first season post-KD and my fear was that the Thunder would just sort of die. The organization would just kind of crumble and maybe Russ would leave too and the sizzle of our first 8 years would just fade into the ether and memory banks. But it didn’t. Quit the contrary. 2017 proved to be as memorable a season as the Thunder have had. Russ made sure of that. And then Presti built on that by giving us real hope again. Even if the hope proves to be false, it still matters. And now that we know Russ is here to stay I think we know that a certain level of hope will remain; regardless of whether or not this particular experiment works. So that’s how I will remember 2017 as a Thunder fan: The year that hope survived.

4. As far as 2017 goes in terms of this particular season… well, November was rough. That was not a good month for OKC. The road woes were terrible and the stars were most certainly not aligning (literally or figuratively). Thunder were tough to watch throughout the entire month and while I personally never totally panicked or wanted changes, I did understand the sentiment and I do think they were flirting with panic button time. December came along and provided a sigh of relief. They didn’t really look good early on, but they started to win ugly. Which was way better than losing ugly. Then, they started making shots and moving the ball and coming together. They started to look like a team that can do some damage. They ended the month with a stutter, but all in all it was a positive progression and a major improvement from the depths of November. Now it’s time for them to take the next step and establish what we’ve seen recently as their consistent identity. They play 14 games in January with a 6/8 home/road split. The six home games are VERY manageable with none coming against upper echelon teams. The road slate is tougher, but of the 8 half are against teams currently not in the playoffs. And of the 14 games only the road game at Cleveland will be against an elite NBA team. They do play three back to back sets, but one is the Lakers/Clippers combo which requires now travel in between. Overall, it is a manageable schedule. I think 9-5 is a reasonable goal. I think 10-4 is possible. If they win 9-10 games in January I think they will for sure begin to distance themselves from the middle pack while keeping the Wolves and Spurs in their sights (possibly even catching Minnesota). The month starts with an important trip out west. It will be hard to achieve the aforementioned win total if they don’t start well. Back to back with Los Angeles teams and then Phoenix. That needs to be a minimum of two wins.

5. Pressed for a predication on the remainder of the season I’d do a lot of hemming and hawing. I’m still figuring this team out and I am unsure of a few things. My favorite thing about them is that they’ve played their best against the best teams. They have especially shown an ability to lock down the better scoring teams in the league. In other words, they look like a team built for the post season. As long as they get there with a reasonable amount of momentum, they are going to be tough to deal with in the playoffs. My biggest concern is that we haven’t seen the offense play consistently enough yet to determine if their early struggles are indeed behind them. Fear would be a regression in certain situations to their poor play from earlier in the year. There is also a glaring hole on the bench. No shooting other than Felton. No one to rely on to score when the other guys need someone to pick them up. In the playoffs that isn’t as big of a deal, but it could continue to bite them the rest of the regular season. My final prediction is that we see the Thunder gradually improve their standing, but they still have some games/stretches that leave you wondering. I think it will be a long, slow climb but that they will catch the Wolves for the 4 seed. They will come up a few games short of San Antonio for the 3 seed. They will have home court in round one against Minnesota in what will be an exciting and tense series. The Thunder will win in 6. They will then get their shot at the Warriors after GS handles the Clippers (who make a late run at the 8 seed) with ease. The Thunder will play GS better than any team did in any series last year. But they won’t be able to get over the hump in the games played at Oracle and the Warriors will eliminate them in a very tough series where many come away thinking perhaps those were the two best teams in the league. It goes well enough to where PG and Melo want to come back to take another shot at it— even if it’s a short term deal for PG. If this prediction came to pass I could live with it. I also hope I’m wrong. I hope the Thunder catch the Spurs and get to the 3 seed. It would likely set up an easier round one series and I would pick OKC to beat Houston in round two. Catching in the Warriors in the WCF would have a much different feel than if they caught them in the second round.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
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Real Plus/Minus in OKC’s loss to Dallas

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Dallas Mavericks 116-113 on New Year’s Eve. Russell Westbrook may have triple-doubled but the Thunder couldn’t defend to save their life. It’s easy to say that Oklahoma City may want to leave these type of performances in 2017.

PLUS

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook was fantastic for the Thunder in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks recording his 12th triple-double for the season and 38th for 2017 Westbrook finished with 38 points on 17-of-28 shots at 60.6 percent 15 rebounds and 11 assists. Westbrook’s most impressive contribution to the Thunder against the Mavericks was his passing, Westbrook did a fantastic job of making the right decision when making the pass there was one play were Westbrook drove hard to the basket making it look like he was going to slam dunk the ball or lay it in but he made the decision to kick it to the corner to Carmelo Anthony who was open behind the three-point line and made the basket.

Big three in the second quarter

The Thunders big three were phenomenal in the second quarter combining for 29 of the Thunders 31 second-quarter points shooting 10-of-12 from the field and going perfect from three-point range going 5-of-5. It was George and Anthony doing the scoreboard damage scoring 12 points and 11 respectively but it was exactly what the Thunder needed after losing the first quarter 35-32 and once again showed how high the ceiling on this trio really is.

MINUS

Bench

The Thunders bench got completely outplayed by the Mavericks bench getting outscored 44-18. The second unit did lose Josh Huestis to the starting lineup because of the absence of Andre Roberson but Huestis wasn’t going to be the difference when you get outscored by 26 points. Once again we got to see a real flaw in this Thunder squad and that is in its depth. Sam Presti is going to need to work some of his magic again to get this team some depth before the trade deadline.

Points in the paint

The Thunder were outscored 46-34 by the Mavericks. The Thunder have done a fantastic job of winning the points in the paint battle this season but weren’t able to against the Mavericks. Steven Adams only managed to take eight shots for the Thunder which isn’t good enough since he has been so good this season for them inside the paint and something Westbrook and the rest of the team has to get back to finding Adams under the basket.

Turnovers

The Thunder turned the ball over 11 times against the Mavericks. The Thunder need to look after the ball at all costs and giving up 11 turnovers is just a little bit too much against a team that can get crazy hot at any moment you don’t want to give the ball up easily. It is something Westbrook has got better at this season he alongside the team needs to continue improving in this area. Steven Adams led the team with three.

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Oklahoma City Blue keeps streaking, beats Sioux Falls 115-108

Markel Brown scored 16 points in the opening quarter as the Oklahoma City Blue won their fourth straight game, beating the Sioux Falls Skyforce 115-108 on New Year’s Eve.

Brown finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Myke Henry had 23 points off the bench for the Blue.

Oklahoma City is 12-10 on the season, first in the Midwest division.

If it wasn’t for Brown’s performance, it’s unknown what would’ve become of the Blue’s trip to Sioux Falls. He led all scores at that point and was really the only player stepping up when it was needed.

Myke Henry hit a big three-pointer with 2:42 left in the first half, tying the game at 52-all. Then, Brown hit a reverse lay up with 24 seconds left in the half to give Oklahoma City their first lead, taking a 58-56 lead into the break.

Ike Nwamu was the catalyst to an 11-2 run to start the second half, giving the Skyforce a 67-60 lead with 8:32 left in the third quarter. It wasn’t until Henry nailed a driving reverse lay up with 3:55 remaining in the third to give Oklahoma City a 73-71 lead. Sioux Falls would answer back but a Daniel Hamilton lay up put Oklahoma City up 75-74 with 3:30 left.

Oklahoma City would never trail again.

The Blue pushed the lead out to double digits, capping off a 15-3 run to end the quarter. Hamilton would account for seven of the 15 points.

Nwamu would cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 104-102 with 2:23 left in the game. Hamilton and Henry shut that down quick, scoring nine of the final 11 points.

Sioux Falls attempted 54 three-pointers in the game, hitting 22 of them. Which, for those who don’t follow the G-League, 54 isn’t any where near the record of 64 set back in 2014.

Hamilton finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, his fifth triple-double of the season.

Six different players scored in double figures, including four starters. Only Thunder assignee, PJ Dozier was in single digits with seven points. He was 3-of-7 from the floor.

Oklahoma City travels to Iowa to play the Iowa Wolves on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed on Facebook Live.

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Thunder fall to hot Mavericks 116-113

The Dallas Mavericks hit the shots down the stretch and the Oklahoma City Thunder did not. That became the different in a 116-113 loss for the Thunder on New Year’s Eve.

Russell Westbrook finished with 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for his 12th triple-double of the season but it wasn’t enough as the Thunder only shot 45 percent in the second half.

The Mavericks now own the NBA’s longest winning streak at four games. After starting 2-13 this season, Dallas is 11-12 since.

Harrison Barnes scored 24 to lead the Mavericks.

Dallas built a five-point lead out of the start in the second that’s when Paul George and Carmelo Anthony flexed their basketball muscles. The two had a one-two punch the Mavericks couldn’t handle. George, especially, gave Oklahoma City a nice boost that it missed in its loss to Milwaukee as he was out due to injury.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony had 21 points for the Thunder, going 8-of-14 from deep. Despite their hot shooting, Westbrook took the big shots late for the Thunder and missed a trio of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds. He was 0-of-44 from deep for the game, including 0-of-3 in the final four minutes of the game.

Oklahoma City fell to 20-16 on the season and now have dropped back-to-back games since the end of November.

While the Dallas Mavericks, more specifically JJ Barea did their thing, taking as many as an six-point lead in the first half, the Thunder never quit.

Paul George (12) and Carmelo Anthony (11) combined for 23 of the Thunder’s 31 points in the second quarter.

A raining of threes in the second quarter saw the Thunder outscore Dallas 27-15 down the stretch.

Oklahoma City led Dallas 63-57 at the break.

With the Thunder playing without Andre Roberson, the Thunder started Josh Huetsis. While Huestis wasn’t an offensive juggarnaut, his ability was seen on the defensive side. His plus…. was relatively nice.

George hit another three coming out of halftime as the Thunder opened up a six-point lead, tying their largest with 9:52 left in the third quarter.

Devin Harris hit a wide open three to tie the game at 75-all with 5:33 left in the third quarter. It really started a run for the Mavericks. Dallas went on a 12-4 run to take an 82-77 lead with 2:48 left in the third.

Raymond Felton was clutch off the bench for the Thunder as they built an 89-84 lead right out of the start of the fourth quarter. A Dirk Notiwzki three-pointer would tie the game at 89-all.

Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr. hit back-to-back threes as the Thunder were doing their best comeback on the back of Westbrook. Smith Jr. hit a three with 1:18 left, putting Dallas up 111-108.

Anthony hit two free throws, cutting the Maverick’s lead to 111-110 with 37.9 seconds left in regulation.

After Paul George was fouled, multiple Westbrook three-pointers couldn’t fall as the Thunder fell.

George went surprisingly invisible in the second half, only going 1-of-2 from the floor in 15 minutes. He was 5-of-10 in the first half as the Thunder were able to build the lead.

Oklahoma City will now go on a West Coast road trip. They’ll play at the Lakers and the Clippers on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Then, they’ll travel to the desert to play Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns.

Keys to the Game

Lawler’s Law: F

Dallas hit 100 first and that gives them the momentum. Dallas had the lead from there on out and never relinquished the lead. Oklahoma City owns more comebacks on Lawler’s Law (58) than the rest of the NBA but tonight wasn’t their night.

Force turnovers: F

Oklahoma City only forced eight turnovers. EIGHT. The Thunder cannot win games when they only allow eight turnovers. George and Westbrook, two of the NBA’s best in steals, only had one steal a piece tonight. That’s not how you win.

Rebound: C

Oklahoma City may have out rebounded the Mavericks, it was their offensive rebounds that killed Oklahoma City. Their eight offensive boards turned into 16 points. That’s a 2.0 points per possession, which is near perfect. That’s really killer even if you win the rebounding battle.

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Thunder Game Day No. 37: vs. Dallas Mavericks

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-16, 14-5 home) vs. Dallas Mavericks (12-25, 4-14 away)

Sunday, Dec. 31 :: 6 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
Coverage: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27) | 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemy: Here.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 7½-point favorite. The over/under is 202.
Online Stream: Fox Sports GoWWLS Sports AnimalLive Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Mavericks: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Fresh off the debauchery that is the outcome of the NBA officiating blunders, the Oklahoma City Thunder bring in the Dallas Mavericks for a New Year’s Eve showdown.
  • Oklahoma City has played at home on New Year’s for every year they’ve been in Oklahoma City. The franchise has played every game at home since 2004.
  • The Thunder are 8-1 all-time on New Year’s Eve, including four wins over the Phoenix Suns.
  • Tonight is the 10-year anniversary of Oklahoma City beat the Warriors and showed they could make it in the NBA despite the 4-29 record.
  • Oklahoma City and Dallas have split the regular season meetings this season, each winning on their home floors.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).

SCOUTING THE MAVERICKS

  • The Dallas Mavericks are 12-25 on the season, 13th in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, Dallas is 5-5.
  • Despite the poor record, the Mavericks have won three straight.
  • In their last game, Dallas beat the New Orleans Pelicans 128-120 on Friday night.
  • In their last meeting, Dallas beat the tar out of the Oklahoma City Thunder 97-81 on Nov. 25.
  • Oklahoma City is 80-72 all-time against the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Since the relocation from Seattle, Oklahoma City is 20-14 against Dallas.
  • The Thunder are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Mavericks.
  • INJURY REPORT:
  • Josh McRoberts (lower body) is questionable.
    Dorian Finney-Smith (knee) is out.
    Nerlens Noel (thumb) is out.
    Seth Curry (lower leg) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over the Mavericks came on Feb. 4, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 112-91 (21-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (23 points) vs. Dallas occurred during an 86-109 loss on 3/16/14.

Taming the Mavericks

  • A Dallas radio station sponsored a name-the-team contest and recommended the finalists to team owner Donald Carter, who ultimately chose Mavericks over Wranglers and Express.
  • The 41 fans who suggested Mavericks each won a pair of tickets to the season opener and one of those fans, Carla Springer, won a drawing for season tickets.
  • Springer, a freelance writer, said the nickname “represents the independent, flamboyant style of the Dallas people.”
  • That’s certainly an apt description for current team owner Mark Cuban.

NEW FACES

  • The Oklahoma City Thunder added a bunch of new faces this year.
  • Paul George was acquired on June 30 for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
  • Carmelo Anthony joins the Thunder after Oklahoma City sent Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second round pick to the Knickerbockers for Anthony.
  • Oklahoma City also signed Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson via free agency.
  • Terrance Ferguson was drafted in the first round out of Australia.
  • Oklahoma City also added PJ Dozier, undrafted rookie out of South Carolina to a two-way deal.

INJURY REPORT

  • Paul George (left knee soreness) WILL play.
  • Andre Roberson is OUT (left patellar tendonitis)

NEXT UP

  • The Thunder go on a West Coast swing playing the Clippers, Lakers and the Suns in 2018.



Three Keys to the Game

Lawler’s Law

Lawler’s law is so big for the Thunder. They’re 17-6 when they hit the 100-point mark. Oklahoma City, though is only 7-11 when an opponent hits 100 points. I know Lawler’s Law isn’t about “hitting a 100” but it’s big. Dallas is 2-17 when they give up 100 points. So, that’s Oklahoma City’s should be goal.

Force turnovers

The Mavericks are No. 1 in the NBA in taking care of the ball. They’ll have to find a way to force turnovers against the Mavericks tonight. If Dallas takes care of the ball, this game might end up being closer than expected. Oklahoma City forces turnovers, the Thunder might run away with this one.

Rebound

The Oklahoma City Thunder have rebounded well lately but they’ll have to do it again tonight. Dallas is 6-3 when they out rebound the opponent. You flip that. Oklahoma City is 15-5 when they can grab more boards than their opponent.

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Peake & Roll Podcast S2 E15: The NSFW Episode…NBA Screws OKC Again

Earmuffs kids! In the wake of the controversial loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Chuck and Brady talk about the Thunder of both past and present. What exactly is going on with Alex Abrines? NBA tanking, Chuck not knowing who Heisenberg is and Brady finding out his one true love is married. Much more!

0:29 — 3:23: Soft intro –
3:24 — Voicemails — You can call (405) 928-0823 to leave your voicemail
9:20 — Chuck is unaware we are recording
12:38 — Second Intro
13:19 — Shout out to (405)990 caller
14:29 — Milwaukee controversy
20:55 — ¿Lo que está mal con Alex Abrines?
26:04 — A trip down Thunder Memory Lane; Golden State on New Year’s Eve 2008 and Milwaukee opener on Oct. 29, 2008
37:36 — Brady finds out a terrible truth…
41:35 — Back on track! Milwaukee loss
49:46 — Chuck doesn’t know who Heisenberg is.
51:33 — OKC should beat Dallas with or without PG13/Andre Roberson & NBA tanking
60:54 — Chuck’s Thunder New Years Resolution
63:59 — Chuck’s new article

Our podcast is on SoundCloud or on iTunes. Give us a listen. We try to do one or two a week.

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Paul George and Andre Roberson listed out against Dallas

The news gets worse for the Thunder, who are coming off a bad call loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have listed both Paul George (left knee soreness) and Andre Roberson (left patellar tendinitis) as out for the tomorrow night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks (12-25) in their Game Notes.

You can view the Game Notes here.

George missed last night’s game and Roberson left with 18 seconds remaining and did not return. Donovan said in post game it would have been Roberson on Giannis Antetokounmpo, not Josh Huestis, if he was healthy.

Fred Katz at the Norman Transcript was first to report this.

Now this could be only scheming. You list the two players out more than 24 hours before the game. Then, tomorrow you list them as doubtful and by game-time they’re ready to go. Oklahoma City likes to be secretive and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a thing. They’ll wait as long as possible to name a starting replacement due to this as well.

Oklahoma City is now 1-2 without either George or Roberson in the lineup. George previous missed games against Brooklyn and Memphis. Roberson missed Charlotte and Indiana.

It’s unknown who will replace the two in the starting line up if they’re unable to go. The probable starters on the Game Notes lists the same ones from last night. However, Josh Huestis stepped in and played big minutes last night. He was a plus-21 while Alex Abrines was negative-24. Usually single game plus/minus can be ignored, but not that big.

You will probably see a combination of Huestis and Abrines in the place. Maybe they’ll surprise everyone and start Daniel Hamilton, which is something I’d like to see.

The Thunder host the Mavericks in a New Year’s Even showdown at 6 p.m. on FS Oklahoma. The Mavericks have won three straight and the Thunder are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including 12 of their last 16 games. The two teams split their previous two meetings this season, both winning at home.

Roberson is averaging 5.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting this season. His defensive rating of 96.5 is No. 1 in the NBA and will surely be missed.

George in 33 games this season is averaging 20.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and an NBA best 2.5 steals per game.

The Thunder cancelled practice due to the icy road conditions in Oklahoma City today. So, there was no media availability to ask about the status of either player.

 

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Three suggestions to improving replay

The NBA has a replay problem. It’s arbitrary decisions on what is reviewed and what’s not is flawed. That was no more apparent than in Oklahoma City’s robbery on Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo stepped out. There’s no call. Therefore, there was no review. There was only five people in the arena that didn’t know he stepped out: the three officials on the floor (two are watching other areas and the covering official was watching the ball) and the two players involved in the play, Josh Huestis and Antetokounmpo.

This all has to change. As an official, it’s easy to defend the officiating fraternity you’ve been indoctrinated into. You understand basketball is the most difficult sport to officiate, especially if you officiate basketball. You give the benefit as their position is different from the stands or at home. There’s a reason why they’ve climbed the ladder of success. However, you also has to realize there are realistic issues going on. The inconsistencies are unacceptable.

I’m just a high school official. I’ve done some college football. However, for my time as a basketball official, I am only a NFHS official. Same thing for doing softball, just a high school. However, for softball I do a lot of travel ball and probably see better softball throughout the summer than I do within the season. There, that’s my bias. There’s my flaw. However, I’ve been taught two things in all sports:

1) You’re not always right and you have to own up to it when you’re wrong. Go up to the coach and look him in the eye and just tell them, I missed the call. The amount of acceptance from the head coach is dependent on the time of the game. If I blow a call with 27 seconds to go in the game, they’re probably going to lose it. If I do this with 4:29 left in the second quarter, I may get a butt chewing but it’ll go away. You tell them. “I missed it coach. I’m sorry. I’ll do better.” Most of the time it works.

2) You get better. While I’m just a high school official, I know I have to get better. Thank you for HUDL, which finally allows video review at the high school level. When I first started officiating in 2004, there was no video review. You didn’t know you missed unless you requested a copy from the coach and that was still 50/50 if you were getting it.  The video review allows you to see where you can improve or where you were right. Check your ego at the door and get better.

The current crop of NBA officials are full-time. They’re paid a decent salary and are full-time employees of the NBA. They’re officiating all year from the season, to Summer League (younger officials and those trying to break into the league). It’s not like the NFL, where one of the most known head referees, Ed Hoculi is an attorney in Arizona. Joey Crawford, Stafford, and others are officials. That’s their job.

How do they get better? That’s the ultimate question. It has to start with accountability. The NFL has a point system for every call. I’m sure the NBA has their own evaluating system. However, the one thing we can tell from the NFL to the NBA, is sometimes the best officials don’t make the playoffs or a less consistent official makes it to the playoffs or NBA Finals.

When an official is sighted on the L2M report, as Stafford has been in quite a bit despite his 30 years of NBA officiating. The relegation possibility has to be on the table. In the NFL if you continue to make bumbling errors, there are chances you’re removed from crews and someone is called up to take your place. There are numerous officials at the G-League and NCAA level who could replace some of the NBA officials.

Checking your ego at the door is key. While many officials I know, multiple sports and multiple levels, are pretty level in knowing the game is about the players, not us. There are a bunch who definitely feel they are involved in the game. With replay, going to the monitor, checking your ego and getting the call right is the most important thing. Sometimes, it feels as if that’s not the case this season.

So with all of this rambling and non-sense, here are three ways the NBA can improve the replay game

Coach’s Challenges

Currently in the G-League, the coach’s have the ability to challenge a call. Here’s the ruling from the G-League on how that works:

  • The coach’s challenge: The coach’s challenge has been revised so that teams receive only one challenge per game, to be used at any point during regulation or overtime periods.  Only fouls called, goaltending/basket interference and out-of-bounds calls may be challenged.

Essentially under the Coaching Challenge feature, Thunder head Coach Billy Donovan could challenge the call and would have been right.

The G-League implemented this rule years ago and has been tinkering with it for years. At first you could only do it within the fourth quarter or overtime. The review was limited to 75 seconds.

How has the G-League challenges worked? 2W10D has that information:

  • 2015-166: 232 challenges — 75 overturned — 32.3 percent success rate
  • 2016–17: 249 challenges — 81 overturned — 32.5 percent success rate

Just under one out of every three calls were overturned over the past two seasons. We were not able to collect team-by-team data to show those correlations, however this provides a solid picture for the last couple years.

2W10D makes a good point as this could be an improvement on coaching-officiating relations. No more yelling. You only appeal and then you get the call you get.  It’s interesting

Use the Replay Center

The NBA touts this replay center as this legendary place that helps with reviews. Why not go one step further and give them the ability to flag a play? You see this in the NFL. In the final two minutes, the booth can call for a review. While the NBA moves much quicker, you could do this as well.

Limit it to the final two minutes of the half or game. Have an officiating crew back in the replay center watching and being on point for any need for a stoppage. The table can signal the horn for a replay and the game could be stopped. The Head Referee can go to the table while the umpires stay on the court with the teams, keeping coaches from coaching during this point.

The number of officials back in the replay center will need to be increased. There is often one to four officials depending on the game volume. Would need to be even more for this to work. However, this would give more autonomy to the call. Instead of those who  made the call influenced by what they saw, let someone else do it.

Your question then becomes, why even have officials? Because the human element is key. NBA officials are right 98 percent of the time. It’s that two percent that needs work on. The NBA games has evolved and become so fast, an extra set of eyes.

Speaking of adding an extra set of eyes…

Add a fourth official

It doesn’t need to be on the court. This can be injunction with the last point. He’s the one that makes the call on the court and is flagged by Secaucus (the location of the replay center in New Jersey). Once again, you have an impartial set of eyes on the film, making a judgement if there is a need for over turn.

You could put one on the court. The G-League is already experimenting with four and sometimes five officials with games involving the Long Island Net’s games at Barclays last season. Nine games were play with four or five officials.

While we said in the previous point the game is faster. The players are bigger. The game has evolved beyond three officials. The NBA has been known to add officials, but it hasn’t been done since 1988 when the NBA added a third official, citing to the LA Times in 1988:

”The game has become faster and quicker and is being played by bigger people,” said Rod Thorn, then executive vice president of operations, ”and it’s our opinion that an extra pair of eyes would aid in covering the entire court more.”

The current positioning is the lead (end line), slot or center (stands at the free throw line extended), and the trail (has center line responsibility). While this chart says NFHS and NCAA, it’s relatively the same for the Association:

The way the G-League has done it they’ve put a fourth official on the sideline. So, you have three watching everything above the break, where a lot of action happens. This also would provide eyes for that baseline step out the officials missed. Here’s how it looks in an Oklahoma City Blue game earlier this season:

The officials (2, and 4) can slide down a bit to help with backside action and provide support for the single lead official. If they wanted to get fancy, add two lead officials and position the trail, (1 in the image), to the center circle and allow him to go back and forth if needed to cover things, ala a back judge in football.

This could help eliminate some of the need for the replay. An extra set of eyes, allowing for more to be seen. The NBA said in games where there were four officials, there were more fouls called. Which the average fan doesn’t like it but it teaches better defending and play.

All of this is just me rambling about what could work. The NBA said they’re going to mull over messing with the replay selections. Which, Royce Young said nothing could also happen.

 

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Three missed calls against OKC in final 2 minutes

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t just step out. He committed two other violations in the final two minutes that weren’t called as the Oklahoma City Thunder fell in controversial fashion to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

“Obviously, he stepped out of bounds,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “Everybody knows that. I did not get a chance to personally see the replay. I was trying to ask for a review.”

Officials said since there was no call, there was no ability to review the play. Had the officials said Antetokounmpo stepped out, only then could they review the play.

When asked, Stafford said this to the pool reporter:

“In any reviewable matter, there has to be a whistle called on the floor. There was no whistle blown for the play, so we couldn’t review it.”

First missed call

Antetokounmpo stayed in the lane for more than three seconds. The violation was a defensive three seconds and would have come with a Thunder free throw and possession. While Andre Roberson hit a three-pointer on the play, this would have been essentially a four-point play, bringing Oklahoma City within 93-90 instead of 93-89 with 1:48 or so remaining.

Second missed call

On this play, Andre Roberson came down with the rebound but it was Antetokounmpo who grabbed Roberson’s arm and forced Roberson to yank it free. This call is really nothing as it would’ve been the first foul within the final two minutes. In the NBA, you’re given a foul to give within the final two minutes, regardless of your foul situation. This would have been there foul to give. So, the Thunder would have retain possession from that point on the floor. Nothing was bothered by this. It’s just a stupid foul.

Third missed call

Well, you know this one. Antetokounmpo went baseline. He stepped out and lead official, Derrick Stafford, missed it blatantly and cost the Thunder the win because the basket gave Milwaukee a two-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining. This should’ve been called and Oklahoma City would have a chance with 3.2 seconds remaining.

Other things in the Last 2-Minute Report:

Good D Josh

On the controversial play, Josh Huestis guarded Giannis Antetokounmpo very well. There was a little clamoring for maybe Huestis bodied Antetokounmpo a little too hard but the NBA said no, Huestis did a good job.

Russ Lane violation

They say on Eric Bledsoe’s second free throw attempt, Westbrook stepped into the lane early. He did. However, if you make the calls you should’ve made earlier in the game, we’re not even in this position.

What does all of this mean? Nothing. Oklahoma City can protest and it will come to no avail. The precedent it will set with forcing the game to be replayed or taking the points away would be a horrible one. If you replay that point, why not the foul in the first quarter on and and-one? That’s the argument you’ll get.

Secondly, the NBA needs to address these type of plays. Whether it is allowing coaches a challenge or allowing the NBA’s replay center to signal to the scorer’s table to do a replay.

For Derrick Stafford, he’s not having a good week. He was on the call on Christmas where he was cited for missing three no calls against Kevin Durant fouling LeBron James.

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Real plus/minus from Bucks robbery of OKC

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 95-97. The Thunder saw their six-game winning streak come to an end a blown call in the dying seconds of the game as Giannis Antetokounmpo stepped out of bounds only to come back in to lay the ball in for the go-ahead basket.

PLUS

Bench

The Oklahoma Citys bench outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 32-13. The bench was well led by Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton as they scored 12 and 10 points respectively. The bench shot a collective 61.9 percent on 13-of-21 shooting also going 3-of-9 from three-point range shooting at 33.3 percent while also giving the Thunder six assits and three rebounds.

MINUS

First quarter

The Thunder had a terrible start to the game shooting the ball 7-of-20 from the field at 34.9 percent and 1-of-4 from three at 25 percent. It wasn’t just the Thunders bad shooting that had them off to a bad start it was also them being careless with the ball turning the ball over five times in the first quarter. The Bucks used their length very well and the Thunder couldn’t get around them as they lost the quarter 38-18. The Bucks also out-assisted the Thunder 10-2 in the first quarter which was a product of the Thunder not getting their offense going with the absence of Paul George.

Three-point shooting

The Thunder were woeful from three-point range shooting 28 percent on 7-of-25 shots, Russell Westbrook was the worst of the team shooting 2-of-9 at a percentage of 22.2 one of the threes happen to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. After Westbrook had done such a great job over the past six games of limiting his three-point attempts he decided to pick up the slack of Paul George who missed this game against the Bucks because of knee soreness hopefully Westbrook returns to taking very little threes when George returns.

Turnovers

The Thunder turned the ball over 12 times against the Bucks five of those coming in the first quarter, which assisted in giving the Bucks a 38-18 lead in the first quarter. Westbrook was the main offender turning the ball over four times in the first quarter. The Thunder would turn the ball over three more times in the second quarter but managed to find a way to take care of the ball better in the second half only turning the ball over four more times all together which was a catalyst for their comeback.

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