Why did this have to happen? The Thunder were within a breath of finally being considered among the Western Conference elite, and then they lose to a very beatable Grizzlies team at home. If we had won this game, we would be only one game behind the Lakers in the standings, while being a mere game and a half back of Dallas. With this loss, it's back to widening the gap between us and the Jazz.
But, enough sulking. It's time to get down to brass tacks. Why did we lose this game? Even Craig Humphreys reading the box score on the radio over and over again could tell you this one. Turnovers. We had a astoundingly high 21 turnovers, with six of them (and a goaltending call by Ibaka) coming in the fourth quarter.
The sad thing is that aside from the turnovers, the Thunder were playing a wonderful game. They absolutely dominated the glass, limiting Zach Randolph to an offensive role and making Gasol irrelevant. Early on, the Grizzlies struggled to get to the line and were forced to take a lot of contested shots, resulting in a ten point halftime deficit.
But the Grizzlies were quickly saved in the second half. Tony Allen, who had been relatively quiet in the first half, played a huge role in the second half, scoring 19 points and helping the Grizzlies overcome the scoring hump and keep them over it. And did I mention his defense? He's everything we saw in Thabo Sefolosha last year, and more. He completely shut down Russell Westbrook (0-3 3 Point Shooting, 8 Turnovers, no points scored until the middle of the second). I'm not saying we should go out and get this guy, because his games against the Thunder are statistical anomalies caused by our weak defense at SG and a turnover prone PG. But when a guy who usually functions as a forgettable role player all of a sudden starts playing on a Stephen Jackson or Jason Richardson level against your team, you know there's something wrong.
Below: What's Wrong, The Fourth Quarter and OT, Awards!
What's wrong? Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden. Sefolosha was more valuable offensively than he was defensively, allowing Allen to score in bunches and posting no non-scoring numbers other than one rebound. James Harden wasn't much better, functioning as an average scorer and a defensive liability. The situation got so desperate that I found myself pining for Daequan Cook, or even putting Morris Peterson in uniform.
After the Grizzlies caught up with the Thunder in the third, the Thunder had to foul their way to the finish and hit a few clutch threes. The defensive stops came when they needed to, but when the Thunder had an opportunity to win it all, the game rested on a terrible looking Westbrook three, after he failed to shoot well all night long. James Harden was almost the hero with a narrowly missed reverse-layup, but it was all for naught, and the game went into overtime.
In overtime, the Thunder had opportunities, but nobody had the hot hand. Westbrook continued his cold shooting and missed a pair of free throws, Green went 1-4 with his only make being a tip, and the rest of the team failed to contribute. Kevin Durant was the only beacon of light, scoring both times he got the ball.
The Grizzlies weren't that much better, but their starters had produced all night, and they could rely on Zach Randolph as we could Durant. The Thunder had several opportunities to take the lead and win the game, but key opportunities were repeatedly blown. We couldn't secure the ball well to get any sort of play going, and even when we did, nobody on the team was having success on offense. It was a big nightmare that will be repeated in the future when we can't find a third scorer to help us out.
I think I'll close the recap on this note:
James Harden and Jeff Green, where are you?!
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 31 Points, 10 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 1 Steal, 2 Blocks.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 6 Points, 14 Rebounds, 3 Blocks.
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, for poor shooting and horribly timed turnovers.
Thunder Plunderer: Tony Allen, 27 Points, 9-12 Shooting, 3 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 5 Steals, 3 Blocks.
Next Game: At the Sacramento Kings, Saturday, February 12th, 9 PM Central Standard Time.