Five Thoughts 2-5-18 (Lakers 108, Thunder 104)
1. First off today, a bit of a life lesson– and probably one I should have learned by now. Was able to attend the game today with my wife and my two oldest kids (nine and six). Our one-year old soaks up a lot of time for obvious reasons so it’s nice when we can do something where the focus is 100 percent on the non-babies. As I’ve mentioned here many times, my 9-year-old daughter is a super fan and one of her “rules” is that we don’t leave early. Up big or down big, she wants to stay until the final horn. She has not yet been jaded as a person or fan to a point where she ever gives up on a game. With just over a minute to go and the Thunder down by 10, I was insanely frustrated– it has been building all game and I was holding myself back from muttering expletives and throwing a tantrum. At that point I figured let’s not sit here and stew–beat traffic and get the hell out. I stood up and in a fairly grumpy manner motioned to the crew to get moving. My daughter looked up at me and said no. She wanted to stay. This created a little “battle” that lasted about 30 seconds. She looked disappointed that I was forcing her to leave before it was over. But because I can be kind of a jerk, I insisted– and again, I wasn’t super polite about it. So we get down the stairs and then my wife realizes she left her scarf (a useless accessory if you ask me). By now it’s too late to go back up so we have to wait until the game ends to go grab it. But we can’t stand at the bottom either as the ushers will make you back up. So the Thunder make this almost miracle comeback and we aren’t really watching it. There was a tiny part of me that was relieved they ultimately fell short because man, if we missed that and they won…. boy, I’d never live that down. I’ve told myself many times to never quit on a game based on the wild things I’ve seen at The Peake over the years. Obviously I don’t always follow through on that. Probably would be wise to follow the lead of the 9 year old.
2. I actually was not surprised or disappointed that the game wasn’t a blowout. We have played the Lakers twice previously and humiliated them both times. It is very hard to destroy any NBA team three times in a row. And the Lakers don’t suck. They are below average. They are very inconsistent. But they have some decent young players and Lopez can give you problems when he is making three’s (which of course, he was doing today). It is absolutely a game the Thunder should have won especially considering the came in on losing streak, but I wasn’t expecting it to be a bloodbath. That was one of those games that a good team just figures out a way to win. Instead it goes down as another maddening chapter in this book the Thunder are writing this season. It is filled with chapters of losses to subpar teams. It has passages that make no sense because in a situation where the team should have EXTRA energy, they have very little. The Thunder have been completely unable to establish any sort of baseline this season. They are a rollercoaster. They have not been able to find an acceptable middle ground where the just play pretty well game after game. Instead they are either really good or really bad. The “really good” keeps hope alive because that’s what you need in the playoffs. Teams that want to make noise deep into spring have to be able to turn it up. Thunder have shown they can do that. But they can also be shut down– and we are too deep into the season to chalk that up to anything intangible. This appears to be who they are. It is frustrating as heck. It’s hard to win eight in a row in the NBA. You have to be pretty good to do that. Then, to follow that up with four straight losses? C’mon man.
3. At some point we will need to stop talking about the Andre Roberson factor and just accept it and move on, but for now it’s still fresh enough that it seems like a relevant point. The numbers don’t lie. I can’t believe it is as staggering as it is, but considering it has coincided EXACTLY with his absence-return-absence it is hard to deny. They were awesome with Andre and awful without him. Simple as that. It’s almost stupid. A certain fall off? Sure. Adjustments that need to be made? Of course. Time needed to figure out how to handle it? Absolutely. But this kind of swing is absurd. I hope Andre is feeling pretty validated right now. He should be, my goodness.
4. They have to do something about it. Whether in-house or out, they can’t just trot Terrance Ferguson out there. The kid isn’t ready at all to be a contributor on a good NBA team. I think he was a good/smart draft pick and I’m glad he is in the fold, but he just isn’t ready to go right now. He has taken a total of four shots in four games. That might make it seem like the team just isn’t involving him enough and there might be some truth to that. But it also has to do with a young guy that doesn’t really know what he is doing yet. He doesn’t know how to get open or how to create anything on his own. We see at least a handful of timer per game, Andre would score on a slash to the basket, alley-oop, fast break, etc. He also would get some points here and there on offensive rebounds/put backs. Ferguson is just sort of lost out there. And he is obviously a massive decline defensively as well. My preferred solution would be to find someone out there via trade or buyout that has a bunch of experience and is at least an above average defensive player. If he can hit three’s that would be a plus, but isn’t a must. The “must” part is that he can defend and can at least finish plays/move without the ball on offense. If Presti is unable to land someone then they have to change things up with what they have. I mentioned Kyle Singler the other day and I’d still be willing to try that. I certainly understand why anyone would say “no thanks” to that though. I would also consider starting Patterson at the power forward spot and sliding both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George down to their natural positions. But Donovan just can’t keep throwing Ferguson out there.
5. It’s a no excuse loss. I thought the other three losses this week all had a bit of explanation behind them. I could reluctantly accept them losing at least two of those games. This one, nothing flies. It is a bad loss. One thing we always do as fans is point to the emotional aspects of “why.” Fans are emotional by nature so perhaps that makes sense. We say things like “energy,” “heart,” etc… but more often than not, actual basketball comes into play as well. Donovan very clearly mentioned their terrible three point defense in the post game today. He didn’t sugar coat it. He went as far to break down the specifics that they are “stopping short” when closing out almost in fear that the shooter is going to drive past them. They’ve gotten torched this week by opponents canning three’s in their eye– and far too often those shots have been uncontested. It’s a four game winning streak now and it will likely be a five-gamer after Tuesday in Oakland. Not exactly a great time to catch the Dubs– we are fading and they are struggling. That means they will be locked in for us Tuesday night, especially considering we wiped them out earlier this year already. Thunder could essentially erase this entire four game win streak with a win on Tuesday. If they can keep proving they can tango with the elite then it makes losses like today more annoying and less troubling.