You heard me right. If you were too busy doing something else on Friday night, then you might have missed how the Thunder went down by 14 to the Kings in the first quarter. Moreover, you missed the magnificent comeback that put them up by 7 at the half and up by 25 towards the end of the third. Yeah, it was that kind of game. The missed shots and questionable calls led to quite a few technicals and boos from the Sacramento faithful, in a game where it almost felt bad to be the villain.
How the Thunder fell so far behind to begin with was rather obvious. They were pretty tired in the middle of their 6 game road trip, and they failed to play quality basketball. They kept succumbing to the Kings' high pressure of the pick and roll, settling for bad mid-range shots. The Kings got a few fast breaks, and were able to pound the ball into the post.
The comeback was a lot more interesting. Here's a list of three reasons as to why it happened.
Reason 1: Kevin Martin Gets Hot, Varies the Offense
Never underestimate the power of playing your former team. A large part of this comeback was just the sheer gall of Kevin Martin. With the team down, he wasn't afraid to start chucking up shots. But, he had good reason to. With the Kings taking advantage of the constant pick and roll the Thunder were running, K-Mart was able to mix things up a bit in terms of the playcalling. He shot early in transition, sat on the weak side of a failed pick and roll, used a little two man action, made a baseline cut on the weak side, and even ran an iso play. The sheer variety of what we was able to do confused the Kings defense just enough to get him open, even though he was basically using the same skillset every time. K-Mart did shoot a couple of nasty shots, but when you're hot early in the game, I'm never opposed to a heat check.
Reason 2: Westbrook's Mid-Range Jumper Started to Fall
Russell Westbrook has fallen in love with his mid-range shot. Some would say he's fallen in love with it perhaps a bit too much. But here, he used his skills to perfection. Rather than sprint to the top of the arc, stop on a dime, and release, he worked for much more reasonable-looking opportunities. He was able to back into his opponent for a nice turnaround, and use a pick in order to walk into his jumper, rather than run into it. Moreover, he worked off the ball, cutting inside for a nice layup and standing baseline for an open jumper during the fast break.
Reason 3: The Kings' Uncreative Offense
The Kings offense was able to work early on because they hit a few tough shots and were able to take advantage in transition. But when they have to run half-court sets, their offense falls apart. Half of the time, they'll simply iso someone on one side and hope that a guy like Kendrick Perkins doesn't rotate over. Other times, they'd just do some simple pick and roll of shuffling of players at the top of the arc that would end up absolutely nowhere. Almost all passes relied on the creativity of the ball handler, and given how the Kings have no true point guard playing for them right now and a lack of talent, that's a recipe for disaster. In terms of skills, the players were on point, but the structure just wasn't there.
What to Take Away
I really think that the play of K-Mart and Russell Westbrook (at least in the first half) is a fine example of how these two players could be consistently effective. In the case of K-Mart, he needs to be ready on the perimeter as always, but not be afraid to mix things up with a well timed cut or some two man action with a big. In the case of Westbrook, he shouldn't be afraid of playing half-court offense or working off the ball. I know I say stuff like this a lot, but tonight was a perfect example of how both of them basically carried the team to overcome a huge deficit by playing this way.
What did you think of the Thunder's comeback? Do we take anything from what happened moving forward, or was it just a goofy night?