Five Thoughts 3-12-18 (Thunder 106, Kings 101)
1. Weird night. Thunder were all over the place. Defense in first half was a B+. Defense in third quarter was an F. Defense in fourth quarter was an A-. Offense was kind of herky jerky all night, but they hit three’s at an efficient rate (and it’s a good thing they did). I’ll give the Kings credit too— I didn’t think we tried to coast so much tonight as much as they just played pretty well. At the very least they played hard start to finish and didn’t wilt the handful of times it looked like we might pull away. Played them four times and had to scrape to go 3-1 against them. Our defense was atrocious in the third quarter when Sacramento racked up 39 points, but it was pretty darn good the rest of the night-they barely averaged 20 in the other three quarters.
2. Not sure what Donovan is doing with Abrines and TFerg. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Brewer is obviously the starter now. Huestis is being relegated to the very back of the rotation (I would remove him completely). Abrines had a nice game against San Antonio on Saturday. Tonight, TFerg is first off the bench and Abrines doesn’t get into the game until the fourth quarter. He subsequently hits two three’s that help the Thunder gain some distance. I don’t think either TFerg or Abrines is a particularly strong option off the bench, but at this point it’s likely made worse with the inconsistency of minutes. I’d just let Abrines be the first shooting guard off the bench—use TFerg if you need some extra relief. At this point I don’t see TFerg factoring into a playoff rotation, so I’d save his minutes for low stress stuff the rest of the regular season. Brewer’s emergence is allowing the rest of the rotation to settle in— Donovan needs to allow that to happen.
3. Speaking of rotations, Donovan has experimented with a subtle change in recent games that I think might work. Rather than stating the second and fourth quarter with Adams, Russ, PG, and Melo all on the bench, he has kept PG out there for the first 90 seconds or so to start each quarter. He then returns with Russ at his normal time. This bridges the gap a bit and limits the number of possessions the Thunder go all-bench on the floor. In the playoffs he may need to take this a step further and virtually eliminate the all-bench minutes. But by doing this now he’s allowing for a change to not be a cold turkey type of deal down the road. The offense is a wing and a prayer when Russ, Melo, and PG all sit together. Those minutes need to be mitigated.
4. I would like to freeze the standings tonight and keep it exactly the way it is until the end of the season. As good as Houston has been this year, come playoff time I still think any team would be better facing them than Golden State. Given a choice, I’ll choose to avoid the team with the better top line talent. Doesn’t mean I would be confident at all against the Rockets; just my preference if I had to choose. So I want to line up in the bracket with them. It looks like they will be the #1 seed. I also want home court in the first round. So the spot that accomplishes those two things is the 4 seed. That’s where we are today. This changes every hour or so it seems and we could still go anywhere from third to out of the playoffs, but we see a glimpse right now of what would be the ideal scenario for me— especially if we matched up with New Orleans in round one. As long as Houston stays at one, I don’t really care about getting the three seed— Portland is on fire so it may be moot anyway, but it’s not something I’m overly focused on. Stay in the top four, line up on opposite side from Warriors. That’s the aim.
5. Thunder have won 8 of 11 to go eleven games over .500 for the first time this year. It hasn’t exactly been a scintillating streak; at times it’s been shaky as hell, but it certainly beats the early season trend of losing to teams they should beat. And I like the defense lately. The Brewer addition has clearly been a positive as well. Tomorrow night in Atlanta is their last chance until the final game of the year to potentially take advantage of a bad team. After the Hawks, they will play 11 games in a row against teams either currently in the playoffs or within one game. This includes games against the top four teams in the league, three of which are on the road. Making sure they escape Atlanta with a win will provide them a little margin. It’s a big game. Hawks aren’t good and their roster is far worse from just the last time we saw them— they’ve unloaded some vets since then and have shelved Kent Bazemore for the season with an injury. That said, it’s a road game on a back to back in the NBA— those are always scary. Also seems like a good chance they will be without Adams. Thunder need to suck it up and find a way to get out with a W by any means necessary. Pretty, ugly, disgusting, beautiful. Who cares. Just don’t lose.