Western Conference Standings
The Thunder are on the road this week and took on two high-powered offenses, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors, back to back Wednesday and Thursday. Both games resulted in losses and now, OKC looks to bounce back in Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (full coverage)
The main story Wednesday night in the Thunder's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (111-103) was Serge Ibaka's ejection from the game with 6 seconds left in the first half. At this point, the Thunder looked to be very much in control of the game. Ibaka had 13 points, shooting 6-for-6 from the field. (He continued that game, by the way, the next night, finishing with 27 points and 13 rebounds against the Warriors, but we'll talk about that later.)
The Thunder led at the half 62-53, but the Clippers stole away the momentum in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Thunder 30-16. Trailing 83-78 at the start of the 4th, the Thunder cut the Clippers lead to 5 points before Jamal Crawford hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in the game.
What was the cause of the Thunder's defeat?
A combination of things:
- Turnovers (22 of them)
- Rebounding (35 to the Clippers 50)
- Foul Trouble (Collison-5/Sefolosha-5/Durant-4).
- An ejected Serge Ibaka
- An absent pick-and-roll defense
What was the cause of the Thunder's resilience and near win?
-Kevin Durant recorded a double-double with 33 points and 10 assists
-Russell Westbrook recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists
- The Thunder bench kicked in 24 points
The one-two punch of Westbrook and Jackson is beginning to flourish. They are developing some really exciting chemistry, taking turns slashing and cutting to the basket.
2. Golden State Warriors (full coverage)
Thursday night, the Thunder traveled to Oakland for a track meet with the Golden State Warriors. That game was as-advertised: lots of made 3-pointers, several lead changes, and a tied ball game, 62-62 at half time. No surprises. We were watching two elite teams with some of the best scorers in the NBA, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, to name a couple. But it would be Russell Westbrook who, at the end of the day, led all scorers with 31 points (13-20 shooting). Ibaka had 27 points (9-14) and 13 rebounds. Clay Thompson led the Warriors with 27 points, shooting 10-15.)
Both of these teams were magnificent from the start, but the Thunder lagged, once again, in the 3rd quarter. The Warriors outscored the Thunder 33-24 in the 3rd. And again, OKC fought back and overcame the deficit to take a one-point lead with 2.3 seconds remaining in the game after Russell Westbrook drained a 3-point shot. The Thunder's celebration was short-lived, however, when Andre Iguodala sunk the game-winning jumper. Golden State won 116-115.
The Thunder's problems are tangible and fixable: turnovers, foul trouble, tempers, rotating on defense and protecting the perimeter. They are a young team still learning to play together, their combinations still being assessed and adjusted. Perkins is expected to return to the team Saturday as they head to Milwaukee to take on O.J. Mayo and a Bucks team that is still fitting pieces together themselves.
All that said and done, there is an issue that seems to be rising, at least in my mind.
Just as we question Perkins presence on the floor when he is of no use offensively or defensively, should we question Thabo's presence when engaged in a shootout with teams like the Clippers and Warriors? Sefolosha shoots well, but there are times with he seems reluctant/unwillingly to shoot a seemingly open jumper.
So you tell me, in shootouts like these last two, should Coach Brooks give some of Sefolosha's minutes to a better scorer, i.e., Lamb or Gomes?