The Oklahoma City Thunder have paid the price for 24 team turnovers, losing to the Houston Rockets 110-105. The loss was disappointing, because the Thunder came into the game with three straight wins, and had built a 14 point lead in the early second half. Kevin Durant led the Thunder's scoring with 29 points, finding a lot of success with catch and shoot threes from the top of the arc. Russell Westbrook was right behind him, scoring 25 points to go along with 11 assists. Westbrook's usual show of transition play and pick and roll drives was in full effect. Hidden amongst the successful game from Durant and Westbrook is their 13 combined turnovers.
The turnovers are no coincidence, as Kevin McHale's Houston Rockets were pressuring the ball from the outset. The Rockets were missing Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, their first and second options at power forward. As a result, Houston played a wing at power forward for 95% of the game, and did everything they could to steal the ball. James Harden certainly benefited from the strategy, scoring 37 points on the night. Dwight Howard wasn't as successful, scoring only 16. Howard's percentages weren't bad, but it wasn't easy for him to have to deal with three separate defenders in Adams, Ibaka, and Kanter.
Terrible ball movement late in the game
The last shot that wasn't taken by Durant or Westbrook? A Serge Ibaka Dunk, with 8:08 to go in the fourth quarter. What is this, 2011? I'm not writing a recap for the Western Conference Finals, am I? Durant and Westbrook were ballhogging it, plain and simple. It's almost as if the two were in their early twenties again, taking turns trying to furiously prove their worth.
Then again, I really can't blame KD and Westbrook for taking the offense over like they did. During the third quarter, the Thunder had 8 turnovers and only scored 14 points. D.J. Augustin simply couldn't deal with the Rockets pressure, and Dion Waiters barely even got to touch the ball. Meanwhile, Enes Kanter was in the post failing to isolate Dwight Howard and Clint Capela. Ibaka might have been an option, but he was shooting just 1 of 4 outside the paint. So really, Durant and Westbrook were the only players that had anything going.
And for all my whining and crying about how OKC didn't move the ball in the fourth, the stats are actually in their favor. The Thunder shot 45%, outrebounded the Rockets 14-9, and had 5 assists to 3 turnovers in the fourth quarter. The only thing that allowed Houston to take control was their greater three point percentage, as they were 4 of 11 during the fourth while the Thunder were only 2 of 10.
Why was Houston able to shoot better from beyond the arc in the fourth? They took their shots from the corners. Both Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley were able to nail open shots provided to them by the ball movement of the Rockets offense. Meanwhile, the Thunder didn't take a single serious three from the corner during the entire second half.
So, here I sit back at the same conclusion. If the Thunder had players in the corners ready to hit threes, maybe they would be walking out the door with a victory.
Billy Donovan had to match up with the Rockets' small ball rather early. With the Thunder down three in the first quarter, Donovan decided to insert Kyle Singler for Steven Adams. As a result, the Thunder went on a 12-4 run to close the quarter. From that point on, Donovan's lineups were almost exclusively small, save for a couple of minutes at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third. This meant no time for Nick Collison at all. Anthony Morrow also found himself the odd man out, getting only five minutes of action. Morrow's dis inclusion was likely because of his defensive shortcomings.
The effect of Donovan going small was a loss of defense inside. The Rockets shot 66% in the paint on 21 shots during the second, third, and fourth quarters. Normally, the Thunder's rebounding advantage would have made up for that. But as mentioned earlier, OKC's offense just couldn't get anything going in the second half, and KD and Westbrook were forced to carry the team late. You just can't give the Rockets so many easy baskets and expect to win.
- Enes Kanter is best when he's finishing the pick and roll, gets good position, or gets an offensive rebound. Kanter is not good when taking shots outside of the paint, or when he's trying to back down his defender and play 1 on 1. However, his defense of Howard is superb. Would be curious to see how he does against a Drummond or Cousins.
- D.J. Augustin is a smart decision maker, but he just didn't have the physical tools to deal with Ty Lawson. It's as if Augustin got a bunch of confidence going against Patrick Beverley early, but then found himself up against Lawson and tried to do too much. It doesn't get much worse than 0-4 with 3 turnovers and no assists during the third quarter.
- Serge Ibaka is good at stepping around and shooting, not flying at the rim. What happened to the Ibaka we saw in Denver, constantly able to evade his defender for easy mid-range shots? His defense was superb though. I especially liked Ibaka's surprise block on Ariza in transition, and ability to guard James Harden on switches.
- Andre Roberson hit a corner three!
- Steven Adams was solid against Dwight Howard, and hit a crazy bank hook shot over him at one point. But a quiet night overall.
- Kyle Singler should never ever shoot off the dribble.
- Westbrook and Beverley got into it tonight, and it was really entertaining to watch. At one point, both got called for a double technical and gave each other a staredown.
- Corey Brewer was getting pretty hyped up, talking to the refs about this and that. I don't know if I've ever seen a player that animated!
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, who was sooooo close to tieing this game with a clutch three
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, master of clutch shooting
Thunder Blunder: D.J. Augustin, just because he did way too much with the ball in the third quarter
Thunder Plunderer: Hames Jarden, dunno who that is
Next Game: Versus the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday, November 4th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!