The Thunder lost their season on Tuesday night. They had the opportunity but they wasted it away with turnovers, missed free throws and a bunch of other nonsense that has plagued Oklahoma City all season. Here are a few thoughts on the game and the series.
Big fake tough guys
Oklahoma City has been known for being physical. It’s common knowledge throughout the NBA. However, their trash talking and all of their antics backfired in this series. You ran your mouth for a victory but the other team was cool, calm and collected for most of the series. Sure, Russell Westbrook may need to do that to get himself up. However, his emotional IQ was weak all series long. Oklahoma City needed their MVP to play like an MVP, instead he played like a fake tough guy. He’s usually a guy who can back up his talk but in a series where his play was more important, the Blazers let Westbrook and Co. get in their own heads.
Multiple times in the series Westbrook chose not to get back on defense. Multiple times in the series a careless turnover was made by a player. George’s missed free throws in the final two minutes was crucial but wouldn’t mattered as Dame hit a three. However, it’s just the fact the season came down to missed free throws.
Schröder’s wrist tapping but unable to provide consistent play throughout the series was tough. Sure, he played well in Games 3 & 5, but was wildly inconsistent the rest of the series. He didn’t even hit a three until Game 3 (was 0-of-8 before that).
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was the better of the two in this series. It was capped off with riding the hot hand in Game 5. Lillard was on fire and Stotts rode him for 36 straight minutes. Sometimes deviating from the rotation is needed. Did the Thunder REALLY need to rest George in those final three minutes of the half? Your hottest player, you’re going to sit, even with three fouls? You have to trust that player to make the right play. Instead, you sit ‘em. There were weird time outs from Thunder head coach Billy Donovan all series. They killed momentum every single time. He had a timeout so abrupt in Game 5, everyone thought a technical foul had been called. I don’t know whether he was just trying something out and didn’t work, or was he just overmatched and he was overcorrecting?
One thing I can say is Donovan’s job is safe. You can want his job all you want but there currently is not a coach that’s available where you can say “yeah, this is going to improve the play.” Coaching in the NBA is a tough profession. There are obvious issues, I think with the except of 3-4 coaches in the NBA, you could say that about any coach’s philosophy.
Donovan had a bit of a raw deal this season. There were numerous major injuries. The Thunder were without Alex Abrines due to personal issues and unfortunately, some players, i.e., Patrick Patterson never developed into the role player the Thunder expected. While some of the offense is definitely falling on him, the lack of players falls on other members of the front office.
Steven Adams, what?
It’s weird. Adams had such an up and down season. It all came to a head in the series. There were a couple of games where you really saw him dominate the Blazers and as we would expect, but then other times he would post up Kanter, throw up a wild shot and leave you scratching your noggin.
A couple of things come to mind: 1) Is he hurt? I’m assuming he is. Everyone appears to be hurt (more on this later). 2) Bad philosophy Adams isn’t a post up guy and the Thunder set up him for failure. or 3) He just didn’t have it. It’s probably a combination of all three. Adams isn’t the best post up big man in the league. Kanter, while he struggles mightily in the P-n-R, is a formidable post up defender and we saw that against Adams. Adams always takes a beating, so I’m assuming there some sort of injury nagging him. He is a Kiwi tank and he’ll battle through it.
Also, I just think Adams is not fit for a match up with Portland. His second half of the season wasn’t stellar. Not many Thunder players can say theirs was either.
Injuries upon injuries
I would not be in the least bit surprised if the Thunder announced throughout the summer multiple players had surgery. Westbrook’s hand has been an issue all season. He’s also had multiple knee surgeries, so what’s one more? George’s shoulder is an obvious one. Other players probably have something but those are the two most obvious ones. Oklahoma City has been banged up and with a limited roster, the Thunder are probably going to get everyone under the knife and get healthy for next season.
This one is just a sad one. No Andre Roberson. No Alex Abrines. This team never really was what it was supposed to be. While others stepped up in their place, the Thunder obviously missed key pieces for one reason or another. Oklahoma City dearly missed Dre’s defense and Abrines’ shooting. Oklahoma City would’ve been a different team with both of them. Playoff Dre was a real thing. Abrines is one of the best three-point shooters in Thunder history. So, Oklahoma City missing a few spokes to the wheel mattered.
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