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Durant's turnovers reveal Thunder's problems with small ball

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We figure out how OKC can get the ball to KD in the right spot.

One step too far!
One step too far!
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In a 98-95 win against the Sacramento Kings last night, Kevin Durant had a very up and down performance. The 20 points were a definite highlight, as well as the 10 rebounds and 6 points in the final 1:30. But there was also a very dark side to Durant's performance, and it comes in the form of 10 turnovers.

When you look at Durant's opponents, the turnovers make a bit of sense. The Kings were running ultra-small the entire game, as a result of the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein. Thus, Durant faced Rudy Gay at power forward, and even spent time against Marco Bellinelli and James Anderson. The Kings were constantly scrambling to double-team, and Durant was having a lot of difficulty moving the ball within the offense.

So, let's take a look at the 10 turnovers. Not to lambaste Durant, but to figure out what went wrong.

For full disclosure, I only found 9 turnovers in ESPN's play-by-play.

Turnovers around the screen (3)


KD tries to take the high Adams screen, but it was set in the wrong direction. Durant is going toward Roberson, instead of the open middle of the floor. As a result, Cousins was able to crowd KD and force the steal.


KD tries to take the Adams screen, but McLemore is on Adams instead of Cousins. McLemore is much faster than Cousins, making it easier for the Kings to trap around the screen. Durant should have noticed Morrow wide open with his hands up in the corner about two seconds earlier.


Rondo was bodying Durant for almost this entire possession. Durant tried to escape Rondo around the Ibaka screen, but Rondo was too quick. As soon as KD tried to dribble, Rondo had the ball stolen. This play was out of a timeout, so the Thunder might have optioned to a KD postup normally. Excellent defensive matchup surprise by George Karl.

Bad pass (4)


KD tried to find Adams with a cross-court pass, but it was intercepted. Given the number of Kings up the floor, it was simply too risky. Stuff like this happens every night though.


KD is trying to find Adams right here, but it's a fool's errand. Adams isn't even at the free throw line yet, and he's in mid-stride. The smart pass is the outlet to Russ so things can reset, because KD was easily stopped around that screen.


Durant is trying to thread one to Roberson here. But a split second after this freeze frame was taken, Roberson tripped and fell to the floor. That's unfortunate, but what was Roberson going to do with the ball there anyway? Both Ibaka and Roberson should be spacing the floor better.


Rondo was on Durant for this entire play. Westbrook tried to give Durant the ball in the high post. Given Rondo's stature, I'm puzzled as to why KD wasn't posted up. Anyway, Rondo tipped the pass to the high post. KD recovered the ball in the corner, as you see above. At this point, Durant tried to pass out of the double team to Adams, but it was too deep. Good thought by KD, bad execution. But really, the fault with the play comes back to the initial pass.

Stripped (2)


KD had a matchup on Darren Collison, and tried a rip move. I understand wanting to trade the two for one by scoring before it gets under 24 seconds. But a small forward can't rip move a point guard! PGs are too quick!


KD receives the inbound, and Rondo immediately strips him. Why didn't Westbrook get the ball?

Final Thoughts

Looking at all of these turnovers, I noticed two things. For one, the Thunder are very poorly spaced at times. When Durant is going around a screen, he needs to have passing options. Especially around a team that likes to pressure! For two, the Thunder need to get Durant the ball in the post more. That's difficult when the only other ballhandler on the floor is Westbrook. Simply put, a big lineup with Adams at center, Durant at small forward and Roberson at shooting guard is hard to play against smallball. The 10 turnovers are evidence of that. I point to Roberson's 1 of 7 shooting and 3 turnovers as further evidence against the Thunder's big lineup.

Obviously, there are reasons to go big against other teams. And even tonight, the Thunder were able to secure a serious advantage on the boards (62-41 overall). But I feel like the Thunder need to re-think their approach. OKC's half-court defense was superb, and their half-court offense was far from superb. Do Adams and Roberson really have to play together in this instance? Why not give more time to Morrow, Payne, or Augustin? It's not like the Kings could have punished us with size.

Anyway, the Kings are the least of our worries. If the Thunder want to be a contender this year, they must face the ultimate of all small ball lineups in the Golden State Warriors. The Kings aren't nearly as effective at doing it, and they took OKC to the brink. I'm not too worried yet, but there's certainly work to be done.

What do you think of the reasons for KD's turnovers? Drop a comment and let us know!