Last night's loss against Portland was rough. Let's get out some of our post-game crankiness and find out where this one went wrong....
1. Scott Brooks did a terrible job of managing lineups.
There had to be a way to avoid playing Telfair, Roberson, Thomas, Collison, and Perkins together. That lineup lost ground both times it hit the floor, and every single offensive possession was an exercise in comedy. Telfair would bring the ball up, pass it off to someone on the wing or high post, and the ball would immediately get stuck. Why? Well, the player who received the ball, whomever it might have been, never commanded any respect on the perimeter. So every single defender would just sag off and make sure his man didn't get to the rim. Meanwhile, Telfair would run around desperately trying to receive the ball, consistently getting denied by Steve Blake. That's right, Telfair couldn't even receive the ball while up against the torturous defense of Steve Blake.
My problem with this lineup isn't so much how they performed. It's simply that it was allowed to happen at all. Surely Brooks could have known that Jones, Adams, Ibaka, or Westbrook had to be on the floor at all times. They're the only four who are ever trusted with an offensive possession on a regular basis, so it only makes sense.
2. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison are too unathletic to play together.
There was a reason that starting Perk worked: It slotted him next to the ultra-athletic Ibaka. This allowed Perk to zero in on his man and play really physical D, without worrying too much about clogging the paint and collecting rebounds. But now, with Nick Collison playing power forward, Perk is being called upon to do a few things that he normally wouldn't have to. The result was lots of easy points for Chris Kaman.
3. Slowing the game down worked....but only to a point.
OKC really did all they could to keep the pace of the game as slow as possible. It might not look like it at first, because the Thunder were constantly making long outlet passes and attempting to exploit Portland in transition. But even though OKC was running the break, they always had players back on D. "Fast Breaks" for this version of the Thunder mainly seem to consist of a couple of players making a break for it while the rest of the team stands back and watches.
Meanwhile, normal possessions tended to use a ton of shot clock. The Thunder simply didn't have a lot of players that were confident enough to take a difficult shot before they absolutely had to. So they'd pass the ball around until they ran out of time, and hurl up some really bad attempts. Only Westbrook and Thomas really managed to carve out a role for themselves. The rest of the players simply couldn't find their shot, and struggled to find much of anything at the rim.
In the end, the strategy ended up biting the Thunder in the foot. OKC committed 5 turnovers in the first 7 minutes of the fourth, and a lot of it was because they wasted too much time moving pieces around. I understand wanting to find a good shot, but these turnovers came after the Thunder had stranded themselves between a rock and a hard place late in the shot clock. OKC needed to be more confident about who they wanted to set up and what they wanted them to do.
4. Serge Ibaka looked terrible.
I'm not too worried about Serge moving forward, since he's always been bad against the Blazers. But why? I could tell that Ibaka was playing with passion, because he directly responded to a few Aldridge buckets with floor-spacing jumpers of his own. And Serge's top of the key three pointer was really ace. But defensively, it looked like Ibaka was holding back. Aldridge could just get whatever shot he wanted by using his body to create space and stepping out on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Ibaka struggled with foul trouble and had to protect the paint. On the offensive end, Ibaka couldn't get much going either. Aldridge never had to play much help D, so he could stay at home on Ibaka on the perimeter. And as we all know, Serge Ibaka has absolutely no post up game, so he couldn't exploit Aldridge there.
5. Our best shooters are Ibaka and Collison. Use them more!
Collison's numbers might be low, but it's because he was stuck between a rock and a hard place a couple of times. Personally, I think the Thunder should have ran them out there together and had them run to the corners. Try to free some space in the paint for a few petty drives, and maybe get a few token points from shaky big man jumpers. Brooks generally did a good job of using Ibaka and Collison as shooters, but I feel like he could have done a bit more. The rest of this team's shooters are downright awful, including Westbrook.
What are your thoughts on last night's loss? Drop a comment and let us know!