Well, at least the turkey and dressing was great and I got to meet my little niece for the first time and enjoy watching the grandkids faces when they opened their presents. Then the game started and things went downhill from there.
The recurring issue of Serge Ibaka not boxing out led to an offensive rebound and second chance basket for the Chicago Bulls within 30 seconds at the start set the tone. Then Steven Adams gave Enes Kanter fans a present when he picked up his second foul in the first minute and a half and they got their wish to see Kanter with the starters. In less than five minutes, the Bulls five-point lead ballooned to 12 so I hope it was everything they had hoped for.
Interesting thing happened with 5:31 left in the first quarter. Billy Donovan brought Nick Collison in for Ibaka who had already given up the second chance basket, missed two jumpers and a putback layup and the Thunder finished the quarter +6 from that point. Mr. Thunder may not be the player he used to be, but he makes Kanter a better player when he is on the floor with him – if you call giving up 32 points in a quarter better, but it could have been worse if not for the substitution. So much for the 'Ibaka will be able to cover for Kanter's defensive weakness' myth.
(On a side note, my five year old granddaughter took a tumble, fell down an entire flight of stairs, crashed face down at the bottom, and popped up and said, "I'm OK!" Keep that in mind when you watch the game film tomorrow... Taj "I got a Boo-Boo" Gibson... I detest flopping.)
The Thunder battled back by halftime playing aggressively and with much better focus in the second quarter. By the end of the half, the Thunder had cleaned up the rebounding deficit, nabbed eight steals and while still down by two, went into the locker room with all the momentum.
Seemed like they left it there – the third quarter was a complete disaster and the bench was not the problem.
Within two and a half minutes, the Bulls had regained a double digit lead and eventually won by nine. (OK, whose mom brought the leftover turkey sandwiches to the locker room for snacks? Because these guys came out of the locker room twice like they were in turkey induced comas!)
Two observations from the opening minutes of the second half. Adams grabbed an offensive board off a Durant three-point miss 40 seconds into the third quarter. He is in perfect position to post up Pau Gasol and go hard to the basket for the high percentage putback or dunk but casually kicks the ball out instead. That has to stop, Adams is too strong to not take advantage of that position and he does it way too often. The result was another three-point attempt and an empty possession.
The second observation comes at the other end. Andre Roberson had Jimmy Butler on lock coming around the three-point line and Ibaka leaves his man looking for the block, actually impeding Roberson and leaving Taj "I got a Boo Boo" open for an easy dunk. An unnecessary risk and why Ibaka is not a good option to be on the floor with Kanter. Ibaka and the Thunder would be better served at that point if he stayed with Gibson, put a body on him and let Roberson do his job, then look for a rebound.
After a timeout, Russell Westbrook went on the attack. He dove to the floor after Derrick Rose deflected a Durant pass and took on three Bulls to maintain possession. When the Bulls rebounded on the Durant miss, Westbrook came from the other side of the paint, around the baseline and blew up the rebound by deflecting the ball off of Butler's shoulder out of bounds to give the Thunder another chance to cut into the lead. He inbounded the ball to Durant who bounce passed to Ibaka who nailed the jumper for the Thunder's FIRST POINTS OF THE HALF!
The rest of the team didn't respond and in the end, the Thunder never regained their end of half momentum and were down by 18 by the end of the third quarter. Too many defensive lapses, poor shooting beyond the arc and an anemic 69.6% effort from the line helped the Bulls end a three game losing streak and end the Christmas celebration at Loud City with a disappointed thud.
Last Adams observation, someone please stress to him how important it is to have a set routine before he takes his free throws. He does something slightly different every time he steps to the line. It is subtle, but sometimes he spins the ball with one hand, sometimes with two on the ball for example. Again it is subtle, but it will make a difference if he would clean that up.
Once again, your action news reporter in the booth at the gym, covering the disturbance at the basketball game. Pardon me, sir, did you see what happened?
Yeah, I did. Half time, I's just goin' down thar to get Ethel a snow cone. And here he come, right out of the cheap seats, dribbling, right down the middle of the court. Didn't have on nothing but his PF's. Made a hook shot and got out through the concessions stand. I hollered up at Ethel, I said, "Don't look, Ethel!" But it was too late. She'd already got a look at the BOX SCORE.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Not one Thunder starter finished on the plus side. However, three of the five rotation players did with another breaking even. The exception was DJ Augustin. In 30 games, Augustin has only finished on the plus side 10 times. He is the biggest problem the Thunder have. Even Kyle Singler has 10 games on the plus side. It's time to expand the rotation to eleven and get Cameron Payne's 17.9 PER some playing time.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder
lost stunk up the joint?
Zero energy at the beginning of either half, poor shooting beyond the arc and free throw line, and a back up point guard that just isn't getting it done.
(side note – burn those jerseys)
Thunder Wonder: KD gets the edge because he was perfect at the line and I HATE MISSED FREE THROWS!!! AAAAAARGH, they just drive old RK up the wall.
Thunder Down Under: (dual award) - Westbrook because he was the only starter with a pulse throughout the entire game and "The Fastest Gun in the West" Anthony Morrow, for a 50 percent effort from beyond the arc and being the best teammate on the bench this season.
Thunder Blunder: Steven Adams, -24? C'mon, you're better than that, Funaki!
Thunder Plunderer: Taj "I Gotta Boo Boo" just because I wanted to say it one more time. It has a nice ring, don't you think?
Next game: Denver Nuggets, Sunday Dec. 27th at 6:00 PM CST