Man, this game was another strange one. It seems that the scouting reports on the Thunder tell other teams to constantly get in our passing lanes and try to force turnovers. And even though there were tons of loose balls tonight, the Thunder actually did better than their season average when it comes to turnovers, and they always seemed to recover the ball.
Early on, the Thunder were actually doing a good job of correcting their past errors. They had 7 offensive rebounds in the first 9 minutes, and the offense was moving well, with all parties getting involved. Westbrook found the spots on the floor he wanted, and the lane was wide open for business. Were it not for a last second Anthony Morrow four point play, the Thunder would have gone into the second quarter with a 14 point lead.
But the good offense pretty much ended there. The second unit came in, and they had no Ubuntu. James Harden basically carried them offensively, but he was mostly scoring for himself. Nobody was there to give opportunities to Cook, Collison, or Mohammed, all of whom need to be set up on offense. Reggie Jackson was running the point, but he seemed really unsure of himself. He almost passed on an open three, but after he took the shot and made it, he missed a couple more open attempts. He was working as a wingman for Harden on offense, but his offensive repertoire was more limited than Eric Maynor's. He seemingly had no mid-range shot, and he had no desire to drive the lane unless he was already halfway there. At times, Nazr Mohammed was actually barking out instructions on how to run the offense.
I know rookie bashing is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but my intent isn't to talk about how horrible Reggie is. He's a rookie, he'll soon learn our offensive system, become a part of the offensive flow, and know what shots he can and can't make. All I'm trying to say with this is that James Harden can't be the on-ball guy all the time. He's got to have pressure taken off of him, and that's what we're hoping Reggie Jackson can do in the future.
Below: Excellent Defense, Terrible Offense, More Analysis, Awards!
Fortunately, our defense held up throughout the game. In fact, I'd say that's the only reason we scored any points at all beyond the first quarter. I mean, sure, our offense was better with Westbrook at the point, but there were still certain plays where our entire strategy would be to let Durant or Westbrook have the ball. Westbrook would settle for some boneheaded jumpers, while Durant would lose the ball driving into the post. It would really grind our offense to a halt, and the only thing keeping us alive would be the steals or rebounds we came up with that put us into transition, or the few times we happened to throw the ball in the post.
The Nets....were pretty terrible offensively as well. 74 points is a testament to that. To me, it just looked like they didn't have the firepower. Sure, the Thunder got their usual amount of steals and they blocked a good amount of shots in the post, forcing the Nets to go outside. But 3-23 shooting from beyond the arc? Seriously? I remember the Thunder were pretty horrible from beyond the arc in the pre-Cook days, but their number never reached that much of a low point. And they weren't outright missing the jumpers.
To compound the Nets problems, they weren't getting much from inside the arc, either. Deron Williams was running the offense with his usual skill, but the Thunder were especially keen on guarding the post, and the Nets had no real threats inside aside from Humphries, who had a horrible game. It got so bad at the beginning of the second half that the Nets actually had two consecutive shot clock violations. The Nets did have a few spurts of offense, but they were always driven by one player and never seemed to go anywhere other than pushing the Thunder back to within 10 points. Overall, they were held to 31% shooting, which is a record low for a Thunder opponent. 74 points is a tie for a Thunder opponent record low as well. The other time was back in March of 2009, when we defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 89 to 74.
Despite the Thunder's good amount of offensive boards in the first, they still had a big problem with the Nets getting them on the other end. It could be due to the large amount of long shots taken by the Nets today, but Durant having more defensive boards than all four Thunder big men is just perplexing. I didn't pay exclusive attention to it, but I did see a good amount of times where Serge Ibaka simply didn't box out. It was like he was still playing in Europe, where he could rely on his athleticism for rebounds and grab the ball inside of the cylinder. But I'd have to pay more attention to it before drawing any conclusions.
All in all, the game was defacto over by the time James Harden hit a three with about 8 minutes to go in the fourth, putting the Nets down by 16. But it was really over by the time Westbrook responded to a DeShawn Stevenson three with 1:52 to go, keeping the Thunder's lead at 11. It really was a good win and I hate to focus on the negative, but it's hard not to see such poor offensive rhythm affecting us in the future.
With the win, the Thunder move to 13-3 and are half a game behind the 14-3 Bulls for the best record in the NBA. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Nuggets for the lead of the Western Conference and the Northwest Division. With the loss, the Nets fall to 4-12. They are tied with the Toronto Raptors for 11th in the Eastern Conference and 4th in the Atlantic Division. We will not see the Nets again until next season.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for his rebounds. Yeah, I'm a grinch, but he had as many rebounds as Perk and Ibaka combined, and more defensive rebounds than all of the Thunder big men combined.
Thunder Down Under: James Harden, for basically carrying our second unit.
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, who hasn't been an offensive threat since the Devon Tower topped out.
Thunder Plunderer: Deron Williams, for initiating what little offensive ball movement the Nets had.
Next Game: Versus the Detroit Pistons, Monday, January 23rd, 7 PM Central Standard Time