This game was particularly frustrating to me. Sure, they avoided being completely shalacked on the road again, but to me it's almost worse when you have a game against an inferior team within reach and can never seem to turn the corner.
Memphis set the tone early, opening with a 15-5 lead. Though the Thunder were able to fight their way back, leading for most of the second quarter and going to halftime tied at 55, the Grizzlies took back over in the third quarter, led mostly by Rudy Gay who was unstoppable most of the night.
The Thunder collectively only grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, which was just a quarter of what Memphis had. In total rebounds, the Thunder were outnumbered 42-31. Zach Randolph was definitely the greatest benefactor of this. The Thunder had absolutely no answer for him, and it showed.
Below: "The Shot," Awards
First off, I have to preface what I say with the fact that if he had made that shot, Thunder fans everywhere would have erupted from their living rooms. SportsCenter analysts would have marveled at and praised Durant. Video of the shot would have 2,000 views on Youtube before you could blink an eye. Chinese middle schoolers wearing pirated Tracy McGrady jerseys would have spent hours trying to replicate the shot.
But he didn't make the shot.
He didn't even touch the rim.
Heck, even if he had made the shot, there'dstill be something near nine seconds on the clock for the Grizzlies to answer with a score of their own. A lot of offense can run in nine seconds. Regardless of whether Durant makes the shot, it wasn't a best case scenario because better shots could be had that took more time off the clock. At that point in the game, it wasn't even a given that the Thunder were going to take a 3.
According to Darnell Mayberry, KD took that unexpected shot because he thought the Grizzlies would foul to prevent the 3 ball. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Don't the Thunder want to be in those late game free throw battles? Sure, they weren't leading at the time, but Memphis only shoots 74% as a team. I may sound like a broken record, but there was still a lot of time left. I'll take my chances with KD on the line.
So, in conclusion, even though "the shot" isn't the main reason the Thunder lost the game, it is the easiest to gripe about and it was so easily preventable.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 28 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 block. Only had 1 turnover and made key shots when the Thunder needed them, including a gutsy three that put the Thunder ahead in the fourth quarter (though not for long).
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals. Yeah, another fine stat line but the turnovers and lack of clutch down the stretch keep him from taking the top prize.
Thunder Blunder: Thabo Sefalosha, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal. Not only did he do little on the offensive end, but he also wasn't that effective on the players he guarded, which is ultimately his purpose on this team.
Thunder Plunderer: Zach Randolph, 31 points, 16 rebounds, 2 steals. I want to give it to Tony Allen, as he unexpectedly turned a position of weakness for the Grizzlies into one of it's biggest strengths. However, there's no denying Randolph on this dominant performance.
Next Game: At the Dallas Mavericks, Thursday, January 6, 7 PM Central Standard Time.