The Oklahoma City Thunder, in their second full game without the injured Kevin Durant, lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 101-99. Anthony Davis absolutely dominated the game with 38 points on 16-22 shooting with 12 boards. Serge Ibaka was nowhere to be found, only registering 6 points on 2-8 shooting with no blocks. Still, the Thunder were able to get a good performance out of Russell Westbrook, who led them with 29 points on 10-27 shooting. The rest of Westbrook's line is as full as ever, with the utilitarian point guard getting 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 6 turnovers, and 3 steals. Most notably, Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder really struggled from three point range. Westbrook was 0-6, while the rest of the team was a mediocre 5-14.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
I'm pretty angry at how poorly the Thunder were executing their offense. I felt like there was very little sharing of the ball, and I think it's becoming a common problem without having KD there as an extra facilitator. Jackson and Westbrook like to play hero ball sometimes, and they're going to miss passes. KD hasn't been very prone to doing that in post-foot injury mode, which is why I think his absence is having such an effect. Also, when you consider that the players who generally get more minutes in KD's absence are PJIII and Roberson, you start to understand why the ball is moving a bit less. Jones almost never gives up the rock, while Roberson just doesn't deserve a lot of touches.
I'm also really miffed at how poorly Serge Ibaka played. I know that Anthony Davis is supposed to be the next generation's superstar, and I know that he always finds ways to score. But seriously, all of Anthony Davis' buckets seemed to come with him working off-ball. As a result, I'm not going to be able to know what the heck Ibaka was doing until I check the footage later. Every time I saw Davis score in the arena, it was as if he had burst out of nowhere, instantly canning an open shot. I just wish Ibaka had stopped playing help defense for a game and locked into Davis. Seriously, AD scores enough points for that adjustment to be worth it!
What was,overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
For me, it comes down to two factors.
The first was poor late game execution. There was only one play in the final 5 minutes that wasn't heavily Westbrook-focused, and that was a mistake. Where the heck was Reggie Jackson and his good shooting percentages? Why not throwing Perry Jones a bone? Heck, why not even throw it to the ice cold Ibaka? Ibaka didn't take a single shot in the entire second half (save for an end of game tip attempt). I know 2-7 is a cold way to start off a game, but he needs to be involved in the offense.
The second factor in the loss was terrible play out of Collison and Perkins in second quarter. They basically allowed Alexis Ajinca and Ryan Anderson 8 points each, while wasting a few offensive possessions of their own. Over a 5 minute span. That's right, the Collison-Perk frontcourt gave up 16 points in a 5 minute span. If I EVER hear about Perk's defense again.....Also, Nick Collison looks like the oldest man in the world right now. His mind is clearly on point, but the execution just isn't there.
The Tyreke Evans Effect
I feel like this game deserves a special section on Tyreke Evans. He's been notoriously effective against the Thunder over the course of the past two seasons, bursting past our slow guards and into the paint. Tonight, the Thunder directly countered Evans with Roberson. Roberson clamped down on Evans early, and the Pelicans' otherwise solid offense suffered a bit.
But Evans changed his strategy a bit, dishing the ball off once he got down low. The Pelicans were able to get a few baskets this way before the half. The third quarter saw Evans finally return to his productive self though, as he was able to nail a few jumpers, create some room for himself in the post, and grab a few mismatches. Of course, this also had the effect of making Tyreke think that he was playing better than he actually was. When push came to shove, Evans went into hero ball mode, just like Westbrook did. And had the Thunder just played some decent basketball in the fourth quarter, this could have been an easy win.
- Jeremy Lamb looks about as done as I've ever seen him. 6 minutes, 0-2 shooting, split a pair of free throws. If he can't get time tonight, he certainly won't sniff the floor when KD comes back.
- Dante Cunningham's points were really annoying, because he always seemed to get so egregiously open when the Thunder needed it the least. He really loves the weak side.
- Omer Asik looked downright awful, in my opinion. He couldn't man up Adams very well, and wasn't much of a presence on the boards.
- I don't consider a Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson front court to be "small ball". Both of them are very good at shooting, and Davis can handle. But comeon. Both of these guys are 6'10". Anderson is more than big enough to be a power forward, and Davis easily has a center's wingspan. By no stretch of the imagination did New Orleans give up anything inside by running that lineup. Especially with how badly Asik was playing and how badly Ajinca can play on D.
- I've railed on Perk's D, but his offense has really taken a step up. Almost every shot he takes is created for himself, either through offensive boards or a post-up. Meanwhile, Perk constantly sets screens for teammates. With how black-hole-ish some players have been getting lately, Perk's play is actually kind of refreshing.
- I think Ryan Anderson did a good job on Adams. I didn't have the sharpest eye on the matchup the entire time, but Adams seemed to struggle more when Anderson was on his back, as opposed to Asik. It really baffled me, but I think early pressure when Adams gets the ball is the key to keeping him off the scoreboard.
- What would you rather have? Westbrook (29 points, 37% FG, 8 Ast, 6 TO, 3 Stl) or Holiday (11 points, 33% FG, 15 Ast, 4 TO, 4 Stl). I'll always take Westbrook because he's more fun to watch and can produce late. I mean, seriously, how often is Russ going to lose a one-on-one scoring battle with Tyreke Evans? Ughhhgghghghhhh.......
Thunder Wonder: Andre Roberson, who continues to do everything right on defense, so much so that I'm willing to overlook his airballed three.
Thunder Down Under: Anthony Morrow, who quietly contributed his shots while managing to not hurt us on the defensive end. He's usually a huge problem, so it's nice to see him clock a good game.
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, who needs to remember that it's not 2008 anymore. I bet he still has plastic Rock Band guitars in his living room and orders Netflix through the mail, too.
Thunder Plunderer: Alexis Ajinca, whom I saw revitalize his career at the 2013 Eurobasket and 2014 World Championships. Really amazed at how he's gone from a clumsy goof to nailing tough hooks and jumpers.
Next Game: Versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, December 23rd, 7 PM Central Standard Time.