It's been a wild and wacky shortened season, and, unfortunately, it ended in disappointment tonight. Despite Scott Brooks pulling his starters yesterday against the Kings, he decided to play things a big differently tonight and put his starters back in. Even the players themselves were shocked, with Westbrook not wanting to come back in.
But, disappointingly, the Thunder starters flat out lost this game. It's hard to chalk it up to motivation, and Durant and Westbrook both scored 30 or more tonight, and Ibaka was darn near perfect from the field. Strangely enough, the game was actually lost on defense. When's the last time that happened, 2011? The Thunder shot a shade under 50% from the field, 42% from the three point line, and 86% from the line. It's hard to blame anything that happened at the offensive end of the floor.
Where did this game go wrong? In the box score, there's a couple of categories you can point to. The Thunder had 8 more turnovers, and 6 less offensive rebounds. It wasn't just Durant and Westbrook up to their usual follies of being overconfident with the ball, it was the entire starting lineup. The reasons for the turnovers are mostly throwing the ball out of bounds and getting called for a charge when running to the basket. Both seem like stupid errors on the Thunder's part, so I wouldn't be too worried about this issue come playoff time.
On the offensive rebounding side of things, their new advantage is obvious. Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, both new acquisitions this season, were carving it up in the post. All in all, the boards an turnovers amounted to 11 more shots for the Nuggets, and a big deciding factor in the final outcome.
All in all, tonight was a really weird loss. It was pretty much the reverse of what the Thunder's problems have been all season. So I'm just going to write it off to the fact that this game was meaningless. Ibaka and Durant both almost injured themselves tonight, which might have queued everybody to slow down. That's what I like to tell myself, anyway. Comeon, can't the Thunder just have a mulligan? In any case, they still need to take care of the friggin' ball.
So, who will our playoff matchup be? That's to be determined tomorrow. If they can win against the Timberwolves, they'll secure the sixth seed and leave the Mavericks in seventh. If they lose, however, and the Mavericks defeat the Hawks, they'll slide down to seventh and the Mavs will move up to sixth. With the Nuggets winning this game, they've pretty much sealed the Jazz in the eighth spot. Since the Timberwolves are pushovers at this point, I don't think I'm being too audacious in saying the Mavericks will probably be our opponent in a few days. Still, it's always best to wait and see.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, for a really beasty and near triple-double statline.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for finally putting in a good offensive performance.
Thunder Blunder: The starting 5, for a whopping 14 turnovers between them.
Thunder Plunderer: Kenneth Faried, for a really clutch offensive rebound and putback.
Next Game: The NBA Playoffs!!!! Bring on the Nuggets or Mavericks!
It's been a great season, all! Thanks for keeping it real with WTLC, and we'll see you in the playoffs!