I've written a lot of in-depth analysis on the Thunder players and their individual games in the past, as well as some long diatribes that question Scott Brooks himself. In this article, I'd like to take things in a bit of a different direction and nitpick at some small things that I see from game-to-game. These aren't large issues that are indicative of deep-seated problems. However, these small problems accumulate, and they can really hurt the Thunder when they add up.
I'm writing this article now because the Grizzlies are really evenly matched with the Thunder. There's no major philosophical issue plaguing either of the teams, and it's really down to how well players are going to perform. Thus, I think that this series is going to be won through "doing the little things", and I refuse to believe that the little things can be so generalized. Anyway, let's talk turkey.
1. Letting Reggie Jackson Shoot Threes
Because the Thunder love to isolate Durant on the top of the key, oftentimes you'll have Reggie Jackson standing in the corner. The Grizzlies simply aren't concerned with his shot, so they'll let Reggie's defender float off his man to go pressure KD. This forces KD to swing a pass to Jackson. This isn't a problem on it's own, but Reggie rarely, if ever, chooses to drive from that location. Instead, he takes the wide open three. The results are horrendous. Reggie is shooting 30% from three in the playoffs, and 23% from three in the regular season.
The solutions are two-fold. The best solution is to let Reggie work the ball more, and run offensive sets where he's setting up KD in a good position, like the post. Russell Westbrook NEVER stood in the corner. Part of that is because he's terrible at off-ball movement, but part of it is also because he can work well off the wing, and cuts into the paint. Reggie needs to do the same. The other solution is simply to play Derek Fisher with Durant more, which works too, but puts the Thunder in a compromising defensive position.
2. Letting Serge Ibaka Try to Create His Own Shot
This very rarely works. I simply don't understand what the Thunder are thinking when they hand the ball off to Serge and let him isolate against Randolph. (Or any defender, for that matter.) Ibaka certainly doesn't have the bulk to do anything to Randolph in the post, and he doesn't have the handles to get a reasonable shot up. He's just going to end up stutter-stepping and pulling up for a bad jumper. Ibaka is a shooter who works well when you can pass to him out of the post. Attack the post, and amazing things will happen.
3. Not Pressuring the Grizz Bigs in the Post
I understand that the Thunder have an excellent big man core, and that they do a really good job of keeping Randolph and Gasol away from the rim. But not once have I seen the Thunder try to go for a steal, or give some help to defend one of them in the post. (Well, I've seen Fisher try it, but that's not a good option.) I know it's a risky play, but the Thunder really need to get more transition opportunities, and the Grizz bigs have been able to decent shooting nights so far. If the Thunder could just force a couple more turnovers or a couple more bad shots, it could make all of the difference.
4. Letting Kendrick Perkins Handle the Ball on the High Post
Let's get one thing straight: Kendrick Perkins is a BUTTERFINGERS. Having him receive the ball on an inbounds play, grab anything more than a short pass, or try to make a difficult assist is just asking for a catastrophe. My anger mostly comes from how he's dropped two critical passes during crunch time in this series and the last, but this is something that simply shouldn't happen. I understand that he sets good screens, but let him do his work elsewhere and use Ibaka as an outlet.
Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha have a lot of differences. One is considered a good defender, while the other is considered a bad defender with a lot of tricks at his disposal. Yet, they share one trait: Both of them are too slow laterally to guard Mike Conley. Had Conley been able to finish with his right hand and nailed his open jump shots, he could have finished with 75% shooting on Tuesday night. Jackson might have some trouble with Conley in the post, but at least he can stay with him the majority of the time. Fisher is just slow, and Sefolosha can't change directions quickly enough to keep up.
Sure, the Bayless/Conley lineup presents some problems on its' own, but the solution is simple. Let the quicker Liggins grab some minutes, or put Fisher/Sefolosha on Bayless. Need to play Fisher? Just play him at small forward. Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen aren't exactly going to punish him. I'd compare it to Mark Jackson putting Steph Curry on Danny Green in the Warriors-Spurs series, which has proven to be very effective, because it lets Klay Thompson keep Parker away from the rim.
What are your thoughts on my list? Would you add anything? Delete anything? Let us know in the comments!