What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
That was the opposite of pretty.
Perhaps we should not have expected more though, as Kevin Durant only logged 19 minutes in spot duty while his Olympic teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden did not play at all. Instead, after Durant departed it was left to the rest of the crew to try and generate offense against the improving Jazz defense. A funny thing happens when you remove over 40 points of offense - the team looks bad offensively.
What should be a bigger concern though is that the Thunder did not really have a good executable offensive scheme to fall back on when their All-Stars stayed on the bench. The disparity between OKC's haphazard offensive attack compared to the Jazz's much more deliberate and focused offense is troublesome, especially since this revelation is not a new one.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
The Thunder kept things tight for a half, even though they trailed much of it. Durant gave them some signs of life, as it was clear that Utah had nobody who could match up against him, and the fast pace allowed OKC to stay close.
Unfortunately, one of the big culprits from last season - turnovers - victimized the Thunder once again. The team had 21 turnovers overall in the game, and their two point guards, Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor, combined for 11 of those. The Thunder offense is basic enough as it is, but when the point guards cannot even run consistent sets without coughing up the ball it makes it difficult for their offensive cogs to accomplish much.
Jackson in particular was a big part of the problem, as he had 7 of those turnovers and frequently would penetrate into the lane without having much of a plan on what to do once he arrived. To be sure that is a tendency that OKC has endured in the past, specifically with Russell Westbrook, but Jackson doesn't have the finishing ability that Westbrook has. As a result, Jackson missed a number of shots at the rim and finished with only 10 points on 3-10 shooting. To his credit though he remained tenacious and grabbed 7 rebounds on the night.
There were a few bright spots. Perry Jones III, while not blowing up the stadium or anything, continues to make strides in getting used to the pro game. OKC needs to see him fully engaged though and not quite so passive. Despite playing a bench-high 30 minutes, his numbers did not scale well on a night when shots were there to be taken. His 14 points on 6-10 shooting were solid, but I think he is capable of more.
Also, Serge Ibaka was back in action and it was clear from the beginning that Scott Brooks wanted him to get some touches in the post. While the results were a mixed bag, I liked the fact that Serge is getting the opportunity to grow in this area. At the beginning of the second half he had consecutive possessions where he had his shot blocked and then had the ball stolen. However he came right back in later possessions with drives to the rim and got his mid-range pull-up jumper to fall. OKC needs Ibaka to be an offensive threat if they are to continue to build themselves as a championship team.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
Turnovers were the key. With 21 on the night, the Jazz were able to turn around and convert those turnovers into 29 fast break points. While the offense was always going to be lacking, the team was simply careless in multiple forays to the rim.
I think a big part of the problem is that when one guy attacks, his teammates aren't really on the same page and therefore don't know what to do as he drives to the rim. To contrast, Durant and Westbrook have learned and continue to learn each others' tendencies for when they want to attack and when they want to stay on the perimeter. The rest of the players need to learn their teammates tendencies to be able to better capitalize when a player like Jones or Jackson breaks down his man and gets a lane to the rim.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
We knew this game would likely be a loss and it was, but we were really hoping to see better performance from the Thunder guards. Utah isn't really known for being a stout perimeter defensive team (although their interior defense is consistently solid), but they had little trouble in dealing with the Thunder's perimeter attack. OKC needs to continue to build an offensive strategy that the young players in particular can fall back upon when they are unable to rely on the playmaking ability of their Big 3.
The Thunder next play against the Bobcats, so there should be ample opportunity to grow in these areas. It all starts with a plan though, so we shall hope that next Tuesday there is a better one in place.
Thunder Wonder: Perry Jones III, who continued a solid showing this preseason with 14 points on 6-10 shooting. 0-5 from the FT stripe though? That's not going to fly in OKC.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, the offensive focal point for most of the night scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Thunder Blunder: Reggie Jackson, who backslid with a poor 3-10 shooting performance coupled with 7 turnovers.
Thunder Plunderer: Mo Williams, who was the hot shooter on the night, scoring 15 off of 6-7 shooting.
Next game: Tuesday, Oct. 16 vs Charlotte Bobcats at 7:00PM Central Standard Time