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OKC Thunder and Final Shots: How Bad/Good Are They?

The Thunder end-of-game woes resurfaced this past Wednesday, as the team failed to convert on their final nine shots of the game. As a result, the Houston Rockets survived for a one point win. The end of the game led to the latest round of discussion about the Thunder's late game struggles, where I'm sure Charles Barkley in particular felt vindicated in his criticism of OKC.

Does the criticism have merit?

Here for your enjoyment/torture are those final nine shots:

Time Player's Attempt Resulting Miss
2:10 Westbrook drives on rim with 9 seconds left on shot clock Layup blocked by Dalembert
1:43 Harden takes contested 3-pointer with 6 seconds left on shot clock Shot was the culmination of Harden standing at the top of the key for 10 seconds then shooting
1:20 Westbrook takes contested 3-pointer with 4 seconds left on shot clock OKC had grabbed the offensive rebound, but then wasted 20 seconds not trying to set up any shot before Westbrook's attempt.
0:41 Durant pops open for an easy 15-footer Shot is uncontested but misses
0:15 Durant attempts contested 28 foot 3-pointer with 15 seconds left on the clock Shot is uncontested and shot 8 seconds into the possession, misses
0:11 Durant attempts 17-foot baseline jumper after offensive rebound Shot is slightly contested, but is still a clean look and misses
0:03 Durant attempts contested running bank shot in traffic Durant takes the ball hard to the rim and gets off a contested shot, but it misses
0:03 Westbrook gets to the offensive rebound for a put-back attempt Westbrook's tip comes too hard off the backboard and misses
0:01 Westbrook misses 3/4 court heave Shot falls short, game ends

Darnell Mayberry wrote after the game that if you look at each play in this fashion, the argument that the Thunder did not execute well in the end really does not hold a lot of merit.

In fact, if you revisit each of those possessions, the Thunder played pretty darn heroically. In those final possessions, they got Durant three good looks at the rim all inside of 17 feet. They battled for four offensive rebounds, the last of which Westbrook was but a few inches away from tipping in the game winner. The shots just did not fall.

The only gripe I have in retrospect was the three 3-point shot attempts that were taken. In those possessions, the Thunder really needed to find a way to manufacture something, even if it was a single free throw. Both Harden and Westbrook's 3-pointers were basically just possessions where they dribbled out the clock and then shot it from the top of the key. Durant's 3-pointer was a deep shot that was taken way too early; the team didn't even try to see if something better was available.

In the end the Thunder lost the game, and that's really all that matters. However, I think that had they recognized better that they didn't need to leave the game to Durant heroics in the end, they would have acted more expediently when they had the three point lead. It was at that point that OKC should have closed out the feisty Rockets when they had the chance.