Why was Nick Collison guarding Dwight Howard for so long? The question continues to mystify me. Nick Collison had a -28 +/- ratio, while Dwight Howard had a whopping 40 points. Why not put Cole Aldrich on him? Discounting garbage time, Aldrich had a +/- ratio of + 15. IT was like night and day, but I continued to sit there and watch Nick Collison get owned over and over again while the Magic went on huge runs.
Granted, the Thunder did do a surprisingly good job of rebounding late, and they had their best three point shooting game of the season, hitting a respectable 40%. But overall, watching this game reminded me of watching the Warriors play in 2006. A listless, flawed team playing without direction. We were without our three traded players, but are Nazr Mohammed and Nate Robinson really going to make that much of a difference? I'm weary of Sunday's game against the Lakers.
By the end of the game, the Thunder looked like a team which could get no scoring out of their big men, and relied on the three way too much. In other words, they looked like a completely different team. Durant and Westbrook weren't getting good opportunities, and a open shot in the lane was few and far between.
But, enough sulking! Let's hit the recap....
Below: The Recap, Future Analysis, Awards!
I forgot I wasn't watching soccer early on in the game, as both teams couldn't score a field goal, and only scoredon penalties. Jameer Nelson finally cracked open the game three minutes in. Nick Collison started bleeding a couple minutes in, which couldn't bode well for our depth, with only Aldrich and Mullens in reserve. Jason Richardson finally ignited the offense with two consecutive threes, and the Magic eventually pulled ahead by 10. The Thunder went small with the departure of Nick Collison, and they were easily out-rebounded by Howard. Eventually, Ibaka got two fouls, and the Thunder were forced to put in Cole Aldrich. This helped a lot, as the Thunder benefited from having 7 feet of size on the floor defensively. By the end of the quarter, the deficit was down to 6.
In the second, the Thunder continued to find nice plays for their guards to score from the perimeter, but the Magic were simply too talented to ignore. The Magic almost got their earlier lead back, but Daequan Cook was lights out from three, allowing the Thunder to pull within four. The score hovered around that amount until Nick Collison was put in the game, and the Magic lead swelled to 13. The Thunder continued to fight back, but they couldn't get any consistent offense going, and ended the half with a 11 point deficit.
The third was more of an even game. The Thunder were scoring relatively well, but they weren't threatening to make any runs, because they were missing too many shots. The Magic shot well, but they had too many turnovers. Eventually though, destiny caught up with the Thunder and the interior defense fell apart. The Magic pushed their lead up to 28, and, aside from Westbrook, the Thunder were looking listless. At one point, Collison backed down Howard and got straight up blocked. The Thunder finally started showing signs of life toward the end of the quarter, via a couple of Cook threes. The Thunder finished with a 10-2 run and were only behind by 10, but their run wasn't looking sustainable.
Watching a bunch of chickens run around with their heads cut off is what I'd equate the watching the Thunder with in the fourth quarter of this game. The Thunder almost committed a few costly turnovers, but hustle turned those TOs into points. Every time it looked like the Thunder might be on the cusp of a run, the Magic would nix it with an impressive play. Oddly enough, the Thunder were winning out on rebounds at this point, allowing them to get several second chance opportunities. But a couple of corner threes later, and the see-saw battle turned into a 16 point Magic lead with 5:48 to go. The game quickly got out of hand, and that was all she wrote. The Thunder fell victim to the typical post-trade bug, and lost badly to the Jazz.
Moving forward, the Thunder drop to 36-21 and eagerly await help from the newly acquired players. They remain 3.5 games ahead of the Nuggets for the Northwest Division lead. The Magic even the season series at 1-1, and improve to 39-17. They are 6 games behind Miami in their division, and four games behind Chicago in the race for the fourth seed. The teams won't see each other again until next year.
Thunder Wonder: Cole Aldrich, 0 Points, 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Block. He held his own against Dwight Howard defensively in his first real NBA game. He also set a a few nice picks. Hopefully a sign of thigs to come.
Thunder Down Under: Daequan Cook, 15 Points. He did his job, 'nuff said.
Thunder Blunder: Nick Collison, 8 Points, 2 Rebounds, -28 +/- Ratio, 1 Assists, 1 Tunover, 1 Steal, 1 Block. How many times did he get owned by Dwight Howard? Far too many. Not his fault entirely, but he still did a horrible defensive job.
Thunder Plunderer: Dwight Howard, 40 Points, 15 Rebounds, 5 Turnovers, 2 Steals, 6 Blocks
Next Game: Versus the Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday, February 27th, 1:30 PM Central Standard Time.
Note: The dude who does the Thunder studio broadcasts, John Rhadigan, is leaving to do Rangers broadcasts. He lives in Dallas, so it's no surprise. No word on his successor yet, but to be honest, I doubt that many people will notice. Or maybe it's just me, because I never watch the pre or post game.