Thunder 105, Spurs 114: Where Things Went Wrong (2011-2012 Game 44 Full Recap)

Single-Coverage doesn't work against DeJuan Blair, but No-Coverage doesn't work either. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Yahoo! Sports Box Score:

The First Quarter Slump

This slump occurred with 3:05 to go in the first, and lasted until the end of the quarter, when James Harden hit a buzzer-beating 3. It resulted in a 4 point deficit being turned into a 14 point deficit. The error that set off this slump was totally mental, as both Harden and Durant went to guard the left side of the lane with Perkins, leaving Kawhi Leonard wide open on the wing. Collison and Mohammed didn't help things offensively, as they were both blocked by Matt Bonner while trying get a backdoor cut lay-in. Westbrook tried to stem the tide, but his points were little help as the Thunder went into a zone on defense, allowing the Spurs to slice through our ranks as if they were parmasean cheese. The Thunder switched back to the man to man, but Gary Neal capitalized the run with a three off of a killer Matt Bonner pick.

The Second Quarter Slump

The deficit got to its worst when the Thunder were down by 27 with 3:35 to go in the second. Before that, the Spurs had a nearly flawless three minutes, going on a 12-0 run, capped by a final 5-3 advantage when the Thunder started getting fouled. There were several problems with the Thunder during this run. For one, we kept single-covering DeJuan Blair down low. Collison and Mohammed didn't have the bulk necessary to stop him alone, and even when the did manage to stop him in his tracks, he kept kicking it out to the perimeter, rather successfully. Secondly, we kept going back to the zone, which resulted in free points for Tony Parker.

Offensively, things weren't much better. It started off with a Collison layup that he straight up missed, but it devolved into guys getting trapped on the wing. When the Thunder came out of a timeout in the middle of the run, their best play seemed to be a simple Durant three off of a minor pick at the top of the arc. Really? For me, that was the most frustrating point in the run.

The biggest capitalization point came when Kawhi Leonard broke Harden's ankles and dunked the ball right over the taller Durant and Ibaka. Watch it here, if you must. (And YOU MUST, because it was ballin'!) Eventually, things settled down and the Thunder went on a small run to end the second.

Below: 10 Turnovers from Durant and Harden, The Crunch Time Failure, What the Thunder Need to Do Moving Forward!

10 Turnovers from Durant and Harden

Durant and Harden combined for 10 turnovers last night, but where did they come from, and how much did they affect the outcomes? Well, using the magic of MySynergySports.com, I can find out.

Hardens turnovers were ugly to watch, especially considering he wasn't being pressured too heavily by the Spurs. The first three of his turnovers (which came during our first and second quarter slumps), all occurred in the same situation. He would get a pick or a handoff from Nick Collison and find himself on the wing. Because the Spurs knew that Harden was either going to drive the ball or kick it to Collison for a mid-range jumper, they were able to commit an extra defender to trapping Harden on the wing. In all three situations, Harden either lost the dribble or missed a pass to Collison.

When all is said and done, I wouldn't mind keeping this play in the playbook, as long as Harden keeps the option of passing to the open guy at the top of the key in his head. It would make a whole lot more sense.The other two turnovers were a bad inbounds pass and a charging foul at the end of the 3rd, so I wouldn't read too much into those.

Durant's turnovers were the usual fare, with two bad passes, a charging foul when he attacked three Spurs in the lane, and a lost dribble on the wing. All but the foul seem pretty avoidable, as long as we provide Durant with an out option when he gets trapped between two defenders.

Crunch Time (Not sponsored by Nestle Crunch, which is vastly overrated as a candy)

With 1:20 left to go in the fourth quarter, James Harden swung it over to Kevin Durant for a clutch three pointer on the wing. The Thunder were down by 2, and with all of the momentum going their way, it seemed they were poised to challenge for the win.

So, what happened?

Well, Tim Duncan happened. The Thunder let Ibaka go one-on-one with the big fundamental. While Ibaka's defense was admirable, he put up his arms too early and let Duncan run right into them for the easy And 1.

Then, the Thunder got sloppy on the inbounds, as James Harden lackadaisically passed it to Russell Westbrook, who ran into a stop near half-court. Danny Green continued to run, grabbed the ball from in front of Westbrook, and ran cross-court for an epic game-ending dunk. And, again, this play came off of a time out. Really, guys? This was the best you could come up with?

The game was pretty much sealed when Russell Westbrook recklessly ran back for revenge, and was easily blocked by Matt Bonner.

Okay, so I understand the loss now. Who's to blame? How to the Thunder move forward?

Well, I hate to pin a loss on Scott Brooks, especially with how much his coaching has improved over the past few years. But here, he was simply out-coached. His defense was never consistent, he constantly allowed his players to be trapped on the wing, and some the plays he called out of timeouts were simply awful.

Moving forward, the Thunder need to recognize flaws in their defensive and offensive strategy. If you keep getting trapped by three defenders on the wing, pass it! Or stop running the play! If the Spurs are constantly owning your zone defense with their guards or your single-coverage in the post, then cover up the post and make the Spurs shoot threes! It's a lot harder to hit 47% from out there than it is right next to the basket.

Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, for igniting the offense when it needed him the most.

Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for 12 Points, 12 Rebounds, and 12 Blocks.

Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, for fouling out way too easily.

Thunder Plunderer: Blair, Parker, Green. The first ever tri-Plunderer award. Well deserved by all three.

Next Game: Versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, March 18th, 8:30 PM Central Standard Time

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