Five Thoughts 4-3-18 (Warriors 111, Thunder 107)
1. I’m not a huge scapegoat guy or a big finger-pointer. It’s a team game and when things go wrong there are normally layers to it and the answer is often more nuanced than it appears on the surface. But sometimes there is a scapegoat. Sometimes the finger should be pointed. The Thunder had a good plan tonight. They played hard. They moved the ball. They got good shots. They weren’t overly sloppy. They didn’t allow many easy shots for the Warriors. Russ was awesome. But they lost the game. And the reason they lost was because PG didn’t fill his role. Russ did all of the heavy lifting. He made the tough shots/plays. He teed the game up. He simply needed someone else to come in and swing and knock it out of the park. It was right there. But no one did. Felton didn’t shoot it well at all. Neither did Melo. Adams missed some free throws. But those guys aren’t tasked with being the #2. That is the job of Paul George. He just failed tonight. He didn’t need to be a star. He didn’t need to carry the load. He simply needed to fill in some gaps. He just needed to provide the proper support. Instead, he was Brick City. In addition, he was also tentative when driving and had some costly turnovers/missed opportunities. Russ can’t do much more. We saw that last year. This year PG was supposed to make life easier. For awhile, he did. But as this season has come down to the nitty-gritty, he has slowly seemed to get smaller and smaller. I will wait to pass final judgement on him or anyone else until the season is over. He still has three games and MAYBE the playoffs to make a mark. But right now, I feel it would be in the best interest of the Thunder if he were to walk in the off-season.
2. The plan overall was fine tonight. Team was prepared. Again, the shots were really good. The shots we took were generally better than the shots GS took. But the one head scratcher for me with Donovan tonight was why dust off Huestis? Why does he wind up with as many minutes as Patterson and Felton? I suppose Donovan liked his length and athleticism against Klay or KD, but I’m just not seeing what he brings to the table. Especially at this point in the season. He had his chances this year and he proved to me that he is not an NBA rotational player. It isn’t just that he is horrendous offensively (he is); it’s that he doesn’t really do any of those “little things” that those types of players normally do. He doesn’t get offensive rebounds. He doesn’t finish at the rim. He doesn’t get momentum-making steals. He doesn’t wind up with loose balls. He play adequate one on one defense. He is a good shot blocker for a wing player. That’s it. It’s just silly to sit him so many games in a row (which was the right call) and then bring him back in a game of this magnitude.
3. Adams looks completely worn out. This is the time of the year where you’d like to rest any player who might be ailing. Adams appears to be in desperate need of some time off. He is clearly playing through some pain. Over the past week to ten days he hasn’t been quite as effective. He played his guts out against Anthony Davis the other night, but he just looks a step slower than he’s been all year. These next three days might help, but he is probably at a stage where he could use a legitimate week off. Unfortunately, the Thunder clearly can’t afford to rest anyone right now.
4. The volume of close games this team is playing is absurd. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It barely makes sense. The simple law of averages dictates that just randomly you will have one night where you lay an egg, or the other guys lay an egg, or you just can’t be stopped, or they just can’t be stopped. March 10th was the last time OKC played a game that wasn’t tense in the final minute or two. They beat the Spurs that night by ten; it was a much wider margin for much of the second half before a little flurry got it closer for SA. Since then the Thunder have played eleven games. All ten have been tight in the final minutes. The win at Atlanta was the only that wasn’t in doubt in the final SECONDS. OKC is 6-5 in those games. So they’ve actually improved their record over that stretch, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. They have currently lost 5 out of 7. All five were just brutal. The wins were also very tight. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. In a way it provides some hope because if you keep games THAT close in the playoffs then anything can happen. But it also means ANYTHING can happen. Like not making the playoffs at all. It’s just really remarkable how these games have gone. And honestly, it is absolutely exhausting.
5. Thunder didn’t get any help tonight either. The only two games I really cared about were Utah and Denver. They both won. I kind of like the fact that the Thunder don’t play again until Saturday night. Between now and then there are a number of games that could positively or negatively have an effect on OKC. One thing is for sure– the Thunder will at the very least take the court on Saturday in Houston with their destiny in their own hands. Even if every single other thing goes against them (it won’t), the Thunder will make the playoffs if they finish 3-0. Looking at the schedule, I would be SHOCKED if 2-1 doesn’t get them in. Now, it is entirely possible the Thunder could lose both games in Houston and Miami. That certainly isn’t far-fetched at all. It’s also possible they’d stay above the cut off line even if they lose both if other things fall their way. We will know a whole lot more by the time the game tips off on Saturday. I am certainly hoping they enter that game with a little wiggle room. Because even though my confidence has dipped to a very low level, I really don’t want to face the humiliation and disappointment of missing the playoffs altogether. Right now, that possibility is still very much in play.