Caption: Is the game over yet?
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Analysis: So, during about an 8 minute stretch of the third and fourth quarters, the Thunder scored a grand total of one point. Yeah, it was that bad.
There were moments of greatness in this game, to be sure, but when Durant and Ibaka left this game, there wasn't very much to feel positive about. Of course, that's to be expected, because the Jazz were playing realistic lineups most of the time, with the true doldrums of the roster only getting spot minutes.
The main point of interest tonight had to be the point guard battle between Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson. Today;s game highlighted the main differences between the two. Jackson is more of a threat to run inside and draw defenders or pull up for a mid-range jumper, but his court vision and ability to find the open men could use some work. Eric Maynor is the cool head of the offense, slowing things down and running proper plays. But he's not much of a threat offensively, with his main threat coming from the floater that he likes to take in the lane. I can't tell you how many times he bricked an open jumper tonight while trying to create the offense.
But when it's all said and done, Maynor should win the point guard battle here. Though Derek Fisher has never been much of a true point guard, he was brought in last year to provide a veteran presence on the floor. He was able to calm the offense down and make smart plays, and he would never take a reckless shot. Eric Maynor provides that same type of presence, and if we settled for Reggie Jackson as our backup point guard, I feel like the offense would become one-dimensional and predictable. Not to mention Jackson's 7 turnovers compared to only 3 assists. Ouch.
The battle for the big man spots was also in full-swing, with Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet, and Perry Jones III logging heavy minutes. The results for Aldrich were very mixed. Obviously, he had the titanic task of guarding the paint, sometimes alone, against the deepest front court in the league. In this task, he performed admirably. He was able to grab a decent number of rebounds, and actually possessed a good sense of when to pressure the ballhandler and grab an easy steal. But his offense left something to be desired. His hook shot, while pretty to look at, was blocked three times. And not because a defender got behind him on the release, but because his man was able to reach up and block the shot before it got to its apex. In other words, they blocked it before it was on the way down. Whether this will be a problem against most defenses is hard to say, but it perfectly illustrates why Kareem's sky hook was so effective. It had an arc that made it near impossible to stop. Aldrich's shot is a bit more flat and comes when his arm is lower to the ground, so it's more possible for a help defender to come in and block it. But, in my opinion, Aldrich's main weakness is his speed. He doesn't have the quickness to block or challenge a big man who will shoot against him, meaning that someone like Steve Novak could have a field day. Regardless, he played admirably tonight, and should get the spot over Thabeet.
Speaking of Thabeet, he was pretty much what you'd expect him to be. He fouled himself out of the game, again, after only 16 minutes. And his offense was limited to getting fouled at the rim or nailing an open dunk. He did, however, block two shots quite impressively, and grabbed a few more rebounds than usual. The big issue with Thabeet is finesse on defense. He can't just keep sending people to the line trying to block their shot and throwing down physical fouls. Sometimes, especially when you're 7'3", the best thing you can do is stand still with your hands straight up. I'm not asking him to be an Ibaka, who gets 80% of his blocks playing help defense. But I am saying that he needs to learn when and when not to challenge a shot. Because if he doesn't, he handicaps our offense and negates our defense.
Lastly, Perry Jones III, who isn't really a big man, looked impressive tonight. He mostly saw time at the power forward spot, and he was super effective offensively. He scored 14 points on 6-11 shooting, used the triple-threat position to perfection, and even nailed a couple of threes. However, outside of his offense, he left Cole Aldrich/Hasheem Thabeet out to dry in the post, didn't rebound very well, and missed four straight free throws. Perry looks like kind of a trade-off if you're going to play him at power forward. On the one hand, he almost always has the matchup advantage in terms of quickness and range, but on the other hand, if he's not doing anything offensively, he's not doing anything, and he leaves the Thunder vulnerable in the post.
Hollis Thompson got some time, but his time was mostly forgettable. He was 1-4 until he hit two shots in the last three minutes of the game, when the Jazz stopped playing defense altogether. One of those was just an open putback. Defensively, he didn't really provide many hustle stats, and I saw him get beat a couple of times. If Thompson's performance tonight is any indication, DeAndre Liggins (who didn't play) is the frontrunner for the 15th roster spot right now.
Nick Collison was downright terrible. I know I harp on him to be more aggressive, but he was tonight, and he just kept bricking semi-open jumpers and get clobbered in the post. During his time on the floor, the Thunder were 15 points behind. Honestly, Thabeet looked better out there. But it's just a pre-season slump, so meh.
Speaking of complete disasters, let's talk about Lazar Hayward. He had 5 fouls and 4 turnovers. Okay, so he did a decent job of filling the stat sheet, scoring 6 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, and dishing 3 assists. And, when things looked grim, he was pretty decent at generating offense like a battering ram in the paint. But without other scorers on the floor, he just looked outmatched most of the time. I think he'd pair well with a guy like Westbrook or Durant, because the defense would have deal with two threats going into the paint and couldn't put so much pressure on him.
Andy Rautins got three minutes, but I honestly didn't even notice he took the floor. All he did was miss a three and foul somebody. Ah well.
Oh, and there's the guys we really don't need to talk about, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. They both pretty much took open shots and made them. Didn't get too overly aggressive in the pre-season. And they were both a cut above the rest of the team. So hooray!
Lastly, I'll talk about the Jazz, who got the job done. Their ability to shut down the paint will win them a lot of games, but that isn't what won it for them here. Well, not directly, at least. Because they could rely on their bigs to guard the paint effectively, they could free up their guards to step in the passing lanes. This led to a lot of easy steals and points. And that's not even mentioning Marvin Williams' ability to help out in the paint, and Alec Burks going crazy and attacking the rim. It should be said that an offensive performance like what they showed here won't win them games on most nights, but given that their backups saw heavy minutes, I'm giving them a pass. For now, at least, the future of the Jazz looks bright.
Thunder Wonder: Serge Ibaka, 12 Points in 18 Minutes
Thunder Down Under: Perry Jones, 14 Points and a cool jab step
Thunder Blunder: Hollis Thompson, for not doing much of anything.
Thunder Plunderer: Al Jefferson, for a good all-around statline.
Next Game: Versus the Charlotte Bobcats, Tuesday, October 16th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.