Defense wins championships. That is the classic mantra we have all heard since we were old enough to understands this whole thing called sports. Defense is what doomed the Thunder vs. Nuggets and has exposed a major flaw with the team. It was another week that ended with a disappointing loss by the Thunder to a contending team in the Western Conference. Before we get to the bad we will start with the good.
Buffy Summers Award (Team MVP) - Russell Westbrook
This week was a lot tougher once I dove into the numbers between Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Westbrook gets the nod because he stuffed the stats a little more than KD did. The numbers for Westbrook were 25.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.
Tom Haverford Award (Best Supporting Player) Kevin Martin
K-Mart lands this week's honors by living up to his reputation. His point totals over the last four games were 15, 15, 9, and 14. He was brought in to score and he did that effectively. At least for one week. His defense has not been completely awful either this season. The reason for the improved defense is as simple as that this is the best team he is ever played on in his entire life. When you are on a better team like he is this season you tend to focus and try a lot harder on defense. The small details that may have seemed unimportant before are now gigantically important. I did find it interesting that Martin found himself on the bench during crunch time when the Thunder were trailing the Nuggets and in desperate need of some made baskets.
Dumb National Narrative Story Of The Week - Kevin Durant Needs To Shoot More
I have no idea how this is even a story. This is the definition of a nitpicking. It reminded me of what LeBron James went through a few years ago. Kevin Durant is not J.R. Smith or Carmelo Anthony. He isn't a high volume shooter. He is one of the more efficient scorers in the NBA and that is what makes him such a special player. Please everyone just stop it. Stop it right now.
Not Getting A Christmas Card From Kevin Durant Award - DeMarre Carroll
These two guys are not going to a Taylor Swift concert together anytime soon.
Danger Zone Award - Kevin Durant vs. Mavericks
The Mavs stepped right into the DANGER ZONE that was Kevin Durant's 19 point 4th quarter.
Comic Book Analogy Award - Denver Nuggets
If I had to pick a super hero to compare the Nuggets to it would be Iron Spider-Man. They attack you from every single possible angle and direction and there is not really anything you can do to stop it.
WTF Award - Ronnie Brewer's Minutes
I do not understand why he isn't playing. He has played 10 minutes in the last four games and that includes logging no minutes in two of those games. Will someone please help me grasp why Brewer seems to be glued to the bench? You would think that since Brewer is known for his defense that me might have seen more playing time vs. the Nuggets. Since...you know...the Thunder's defense was completely craptastic that game. The silver lining for Brewer is that he can use all of this time on the bench to burn through House Of Cards on Netflix streaming.
Prometheus Award (Biggest Disappoint) Thunder's Defense vs. Nuggets
To be more specific the interior vs. the Nuggets was God awful. Thunder were poised to extend their lead in the second quarter when they decided to let the Nuggets have a layup line drill at the basket. For a team that has one of the best shot blockers in the league (Serge Ibaka) and a player who is extremely sub par on offense but is on this team for his "defensive presence" (Kendrick Perkins) they were worked over like Joe Carroll was running the offense for the Nuggets.
The interior offense has not been the only defense issue for the Thunder lately. They also let the Mavs back into the game by not chasing off/closing out on the three point shooters in that game. This are the kind of issues that put more stress on the offense. If you are letting the other team score that easily and then your jumpers aren't falling you find yourself on the wrong side of the box score 90% of the time. See the Nuggets game.
Now here is the bright side of it. At least this isn't because they traded James Harden. See...I can leave the dead horse alone for at least one week.
Walter White Empire Scale - 5 (Last Week: 7)
This is the lowest the Thunder have landed on the Empire Scale since I started this post and the reason is very simple. They are lost to another high level Western Conference team. At this point in the season all that matters is how you match up, play, and if you beat the top tier teams in the your conference. I don't care about laying beat downs on the Jazz or sweeping the season series vs. the Mavs. Those teams suck and are not making the playoffs so who cares how badly you beat them. I sure as hell don't care. I care about the fact that the Nuggets were on the second game of a back to back and they came into OKC and out ran the Thunder. I know the Nuggets play fast but the Thunder never forced them to play fast on defense. They didn't force the Nuggets to use their legs on defense enough. When you have to chase around guys running through screens on the second game of a back to back that increases how quickly your legs start to tire. After a while they start to get a little heavy then the jumpers that usually go in start falling short. The Thunder failed to do that and added insult to injury by not protecting the paint.
Thunder have a great chance to make me forget about last week's loss vs. the Spurs and Tuesday's loss vs. the Nuggets if they travel to Memphis and beat the Grizzlies. A task that is easier said than done.
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