Man, I really, really hate writing recaps for these games. It's easier, because I can nitpick all day about the reasons that we lost, but it's not fun, because I have to be negative all of the time.
Granted, we were on a 5 game winning streak, and it had to end at some point. But did it really have to end here, against a completely beatable opponent? The first two quarters were pretty formulaic. The Bucks would go on a run at the beginning of the quarter, things would equalize, and the Thunder would close the quarter strong. This is usually indicative of a typical Thunder win, as was the early 3rd quarter run. But, something out of the ordinary happened. After the Thunder went up 60-50, things stabilized, and the Bucks got to within two points by the time it was all said and done.
But, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, most Thunder fans were thinking of inevitable Thunder run that would happen in the fourth quarter. But, in fact, it didn't happen. In fact, the scoring in this game slowed down to a crawl, and it turned into lots of offensive fouls and missed jumpers. Truth be told, both teams were responsible for this offensively.
Russell Westbrook really came alive at the end of the 4th, hitting 3 crucial points. Kevin Durant had hit just 2 points all quarter, and just 8 points all half. It was pretty evident that he was cold, especially considering his complete lack of help offensively, and his recent turnover. But, nevertheless, Coach Books was insistent on running a play for him at the end of the game. There's 4 seconds to go, KD inbounds it to Green, and Green hands it back to him. The Bucks, sniffing this classic play out from a mile away, have both Warrick and Mbah a Moute guard KD. He gets trapped in the backcourt, and airballs a near halfcourt heave. Green stood alone, unguarded. It was a compelte joke of a play, and I'd much rather have had Westbrook drive the ball in that situation. The Bucks wouldn't foul him, and at the same time, they couldn't let him score. Why did we give it to KD so he could fire an ill-advised 3 or deep 2? Just, horrible, predictable playcalling.
And thus, Overtime started. The thunder were constantly playing catchup, and aside from one Kevin Durant jumper, the scoring was left entirely up to Russell Westbrook. At one point, the Thunder finally got ahead, 95-94, with 1:24 to go. But then, Luke Ridnour hit a shot, putting the bucks back in the lead, and after a ill-advised three by Sefolosha, Andrew Bogut easily took advantage of the poor defense of Krstic. Westbrook responded, putting the thunder back within one, but Luke Ridnour hit another layup. The Thunder were only down by three, but their offense was increasingly one-dimensional and floundering. They inbounded the ball to Westbrook, barely. He lost control of the ball to Ridnour, who ran by Krstic, floundering with the ball. Krstic tried to get it back, and they both fell on the floor, causing a foul to be called on Krstic. Talk about more bad playcalling. The game was over by then, and the Bucks had won.
Below: Analysis, Awards
So, why did we lose to the Bucks? Well, for one thing, a complete lack of offense. The Bucks are an offensive team, and even though they can be beaten by defense, someone needs to score on the other end. I mean, the Spurs are considered a defensive team, and believe me, they are, but they have their share of offensive weapons as well. Here, we had to rely on KD for the entirty of the first half. He only scored 8 in the second half, and had no one to help him with the load. Sure, lesser players might be able to score, like Krstic's back-to-back baskets early in the 3rd, but nobody was scoring on a consistent basis until Westbrook took the reigns near the end of the game and in overtime. Jeff Green was completely non-existant, going 3 of 11 for 8 points, and Krstic, Maynor, and Harden were all bricking shots like there was no tomorrow, combining for 6 of 18, or 33%. I mean, sure, Ibaka, Collison, and Sefolosha all had their minor contibutions, but their scoring wasn't major enough to be a factor. If the team is going to succeed, they're going to need 3 players step up on a consistent basis and score a significant amount. This can't be a one man team. And KD isn't devoid of blame either. 7 Turnovers? Yikes. A lot of them came at bad times, and compounding that, he had no assists.
As far as awards, I'll have to give the Thunder Wonder to Russell Westbrook. He missed a lot of shots, but he also had 17 crucial points, 9 Rebounds, and 13 Assists. Those are Jason Kidd-like numbers if I've ever seen them. An excellent game all-around for Westbrook. The Thunder Down Under Award goes jointly to Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, for their post play. I hate giving out two awards, but I honestly can't tell which of them did the better job, and they both performed their duty relatively well. Ibaka had 9 Points, 3 Rebounds, and 2 Blocks in 15 minutes, and Collison had 8 Points, 7 Rebounds, 1 Assist, and 1 Block in 31 Minutes. Bogut scored a lot of points, but he also did most of it against Nenad Krstic.
The Thunder Blunder award is a tough one to give. Eric Maynor and James Harden both had bad shooting nights when the Thunder really needed their scoring, Kevin Durant had a plethora of Turnovers, and Jeff Green was very sub-par. But, I'm going to have to give the award to the man who deserves it the most: Nenad Krstic. No Rebounds, No Blocks, No Assists, No Nothing. Just 2-5 Shooting, 4 Points, 4 Fouls, and a heck of a game by Andrew Bogut. If we'd have left Collison and Ibaka out there the entire time, I'd venture to say the Thunder could have won this game. I'm sure it's a night Krstic would like to forget, but still, much shame for his performance tonight.
The Thunder Plunderer is also a hard award to give. Michael Redd had a resurrection of his former self, Hakim Warrick didn't allow himself to be taken advantage of in the post, Brandon Jennings had a solid game, and Luke Ridnour sealed the game with two crucial baskets that were almost like revenge to moving the team away from Seattle. Yet, the Award has to go to Andrew Bogut, who completely exploited Nenad Krstic in every single way. 23 Points, 9-17 Shooting, 15 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, and 2 Blocks complete his monsterous night. Oh, and how could I forget Squad 6, the completely awesome cheering section up in the rafters? Their enthusiasm and air horns were simply awesome, and they reminded me of a Japanese Baseball cheering section and soccer hooligans rolled into one. I only wish the Thunder had something like that. Many, many props to Andrew Bogut for making that happen, it's made the Bradley Center into an impenetrable madhouse.
Next Game: At the Bulls, Monday, January 4th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.