Five Thoughts 2-24-18 (Warriors 112, Thunder 80)
1. I’m OK with tonight. I absolutely expected a loss; the idea of going 3-0 against GS was just completely unrealistic to me- especially when you consider this would have been our second win at Oracle in less than three weeks. I knew GS would play this game like it was Game 7 of the Finals— and they did. Their fans responded as well. This was a big game for them and played it as such. The only thing I didn’t want was to just get steamrolled. And while the final score was obviously indicative of a steamrolling, if you watched the game, you know it wasn’t. We give the Dubs legitimate problems. Even as we were struggling offensively we were going toe to toe with them. In the end, there was no way we are ever going to beat them with PG having one of the worst games of his career and Russ also shooting very poorly. To GS credit, they played extremely good defense and hounded us at the perimeter. The Warriors are going to go on those explosive runs and you can’t go into deep freeze mode against them. This game really doesn’t change much for me in terms of how I feel the Thunder match up with them.
2. We have their attention. This game was intense and physical. It was absolutely played at playoff-level intensity. We can’t match their offensive firepower (no one can) and they don’t have an answer for Adams or our overall physicality. We got hit with a haymaker in the third quarter today and we didn’t have an answer tonight. But on the whole for the three meetings it’s pretty clear that the Thunder have as good of a chance as just about anyone to make the Dubs sweat in a series. I hope we get a chance to see it.
3. At this point I just want Donovan to stick with Huestis as the starting shooting guard. He wouldn’t be my choice, but I also don’t think there is a good alternative, so whatever. If he is going to go that route then I’d like to see him get a large sample to settle in. Huestis does have the frame and athleticism to be a good defender, he probably just needs more experience to hone that skill. He is a mess offensively, but not much you can do about that now. We have 21 games remaining. Hopefully that is enough time for Huestis to at least get comfortable before the playoffs. And MAYBE if he gets consistent minutes with the starters he will start finding little pockets here and there where he can contribute offensively via slashes to the basket, loose balls, etc.
4. I’ve often said Donovan is a long view coach. He picks his spots. For the most part this year, he has given the bench free reign to start the second (and often the fourth) quarter. He has had mixed results with that so far this year. There have been a few games where it’s worked out fairly well and others (like Thursday in Sacramento) where it totally backfires. Against the elite teams though, Donovan doesn’t mess around. Tonight both Adams and PG were on the floor to start the second quarter and PG was there again to start the fourth. Now, tonight wasn’t necessarily a great night to have PG running things, but you can’t predict that. Moving forward I think Donovan needs to make this an every night practice and not just something he alters against the best teams. It’s time to start making a real push and it’s time to get the rotation as set as possible. The tinkering doesn’t bother me— especially with new players and especially after you lose a starter for the season. But at this juncture I think the tinkering should stop. If there are certain match ups on certain nights where you need to alter things, that’s fine. But moving forward I would like to see Donovan stagger the rotations so that PG or Russ is virtually always on the floor over the course of 48 minutes.
5. I wouldn’t let the final score rattle you. They got blitzed, their stars were ice cold, and they pulled the plug early. Prior to that, it looked like another tough match up. Again, I fully expected to lose this game and would have almost been a little weirded out had they won. Talk about law of averages; if we were 3-0 against GS and then played them in the playoffs? Talk about being due. I’m glad that one is over. Now, we can focus fully on the playoff race. The West race from 3-10 is ridiculous right now. It’s insanely tight and any team could land in any spot. On paper the Thunder have their easiest week of the season coming up. Orlando Monday, at Dallas Wednesday, and at Phoenix Friday. The Magic, Mavs, and Suns are literally the three worst teams in the league record-wise. This hasn’t mattered much for the Thunder this year, but that has to end. These three games lead into what will be a very big game next Saturday in Portland. OKC needs to three of those four. Considering at Portland on the second night of a back to back is by far the hardest game in that stretch, it would behoove the Thunder to win the first three. We see what they can do against the elite teams. We see the problems they pose. But it won’t matter if they don’t get there first. It’s time for the Thunder to stop experimenting and riding the rollercoaster. Time to hunker down and start taking care of business nightly.