1. KD's random cold streak
Kevin Durant is normally the bedrock of the Thunder offense, and can be counted on to shoot no less than 40%. But KD was majorly off last night. Durant shot 36% from the field after a 3 of 3 start. There wasn't anything special about Atlanta's defense of KD, either. Carroll and Sefolosha were the hired defenders, and neither were very physical with Durant. Atlanta gave KD room to fail, and he failed.
But really, the whole situation is partially KD's fault. Look at this shot chart:
Why so many mid-range shots, KD? Atlanta's centers are so unathletic! You could have dominated them at the rim! Four shots in the paint and four trips to the line are simply unacceptable from the league MVP in a game like this. It's hard to blame KD for taking all of the open shots that Atlanta was giving him, but still.....
2. The Thunder's slow bigs
The Hawks were able to pick and pop all they wanted last night. It was aggravating because the Thunder don't really have an answer for a team that likes to pick and pop. I mean, OKC can lay on the pressure, but that generally doesn't work against this well rehearsed Hawks team. Time and time again, the slower Perkins and Adams would play deep and watch their man take an open jumpshot.
But the Thunder's centers weren't the only culprits. Serge Ibaka, usually a very capable defender at power forward, really struggled against Paul Millsap. Millsap is noticably stouter than Ibaka, and very skilled off the dribble. There are other skilled and stout bigs, but none that can start their dribble facing up from the perimeter. This ability gave Milsap a distinct advantage when dealing with Ibaka, and you can see the difference in their final statlines. Milsap shot 53% and scored 23 points. Ibaka only shot 38% and scored 13 points. Speaking of Serge's game, he missed a ton of open jumpers.
3. Waiters and Jackson never work together on offense
These two seem to be eternally pitted against each other, constantly attacking from different sides of the floor. I've never seen one set a screen for the other, and I've never seen one choose to pass to the other outside of the context of a play. In fact, if you asked me my opinion, I'd probably say that Waiters and Jackson dislike each other quite a bit. They both just seem to be at odds on the court, and I saw Jackson shout angrily at Waiters in-between plays last night. I might be reading into nothing, but these guys could seriously benefit from working with each other. Durant and Westbrook are always setting high picks for each other that give them a lot of room to work, and a Waiters-Jackson play follows the same principle.
4. Steven Adams couldn't use his size to his advantage
To date, I've never really seen Steven Adams use his size to score consistently on the block. The Thunder seemed to want that to happen tonight though, as Adams saw a few touches on the block in the first. The experiment was a disaster, though. Al Horford didn't give up an inch, and every move Adams made carried him further away from the goal. Adams just isn't skilled enough to face up his opponents yet, making it hard for him to create his own shot. Adams did eventually find a nice niche with Westbrook on the pick and roll, but it would have been nice if Adams could have generated something on his own.
5. Ibaka is the only Thunder player to say hi to Sefolosha during post-game.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with the final result, but comeon! Sefolosha was with the Thunder for practically their entire existence. And during his first game back, only Serge Ibaka gave him a post-game greeting. Everyone else walked out. I know that there's a ton of new players on the roster and all that, but this could be a good indication of just how distant Thabo was from the rest of the team. Westbrook particularly seemed to dislike Sefolosha, publicly blowing up at Thabo during games for his hesitancy in shooting the ball. It's kind of refreshing to see that the Thunder seem to respect Roberson a bit more. But still, could Sefolosha's chemistry issues have contributed to some of the Thunder's key playoff losses? We'll always be left to wonder.
So this article is super negative. But I'll give you one HUGE positive from last night's action:
The Thunder had 23 assists on only 36 made baskets.
Oklahoma City is still moving the ball, and they're doing it on a very high level. The Thunder have had issues sharing and moving the ball in the past, but none of those seemed to be present last night. The plays executed were a little simple, but that's never stopped the Thunder before. Nobody ever sank into hero ball, and the game was competitive throughout. Considering just what had to go in the Hawks favor in order for them to beat the Thunder, I like OKC's chances moving forward.
What did you think of last night's game? Drop a comment and let us know!