The Oklahoma City Thunder were competitive through most of the game, but faded late and lost to the Golden State Warriors, 121-106. It was the Thunder's sixth game in nine nights, as well as the second night of a back-to-back. OKC's fatigue showed as the Warriors were able to blitz them for a 39 point fourth quarter. Steph Curry led an effective Warriors attack, scoring 11 fourth quarter points as well as 33 on the game.
Klay Thompson also had an effective night for the Warriors, scoring 21 points on 52% from the field. But Andre Roberson was actually an effective defender against Thompson in most situations. Klay scored over half of his points in transition, and most of his half-court points came in mismatches. I'm not trying to diminish Klay's accomplishments. Instead, I'm trying to clear Roberson's name.
But the real heroes of the night are Golden State's secondary offensive options. The Warriors had 33 team assists, four above their league-leading average of 29. Harrison Barnes had 14 points on over 50% shooting, with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Draymond Green had 14 points on 60% shooting, with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Shaun Livingston had 11 points with 8 assists and 3 steals. Marreese Speights had 10 points on 80% shooting.
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OKC's Small Ball Failure
Why was Golden State able to pass so effectively? The Thunder just couldn't effectively pressure the ball and force turnovers. Coach Donovan had the Thunder double players around screens a lot of the time. But the Warriors were able to pass out of double-teams with ease, finding the open man or the right mismatch. Donovan countered this by going centerless, making OKC's defense more versatile. For the last six minutes of the second and the last 10 minutes of the fourth, neither Steven Adams nor Enes Kanter was in the game. However, for all of the defensive versatility it brought, this lineup adjustment made the Thunder less effective at defending the paint. The Thunder allowed 12 points in the paint during their second quarter stretch of small ball, and 14 points in the paint during their fourth quarter stretch of small ball. Here's an example, with Ibaka unable to protect the rim:
Even Andrew Bogut was able to score on OKC's small lineup. Here's a play where nobody was able to meet Bogut at the rim, because Ibaka was on the perimeter doubling Curry.
OKC's small lineup fails again, with nobody in the paint to defend the Curry drive:
Hate to beat a dead horse. But Draymond Green gets a mismatch with Foye, and Ibaka isn't able to help out at the rim:
If the Thunder had a bit more size in all of these situations, the Warriors might not have scored as much as they did. I will admit that the Thunder played good three point defense all night, forcing the Warriors to shoot just 32% from distance. But that's just a tad under Golden State's average of 41% from three. So the good three point defense really didn't make too much of a difference. Besides, the Warriors shot a ridiculously good 67% from two, and committed only 8 turnovers. By all measures, the Warrior offense was clicking, and the small lineup didn't do OKC any favors.
Nevertheless, it's hard to argue that OKC's centers were effective themselves. Steven Adams certainly helped protect the rim, but would struggle in mismatches. Offensively, Adams only had 3 points in 24 minutes of action. The Warriors loaded up the paint on the Adams-Westbrook pick and roll, disrespecting OKC's shooters. But Adams was almost always on the floor with Roberson, who kills floor spacing. So Adams didn't get much of an opportunity to score.
Enes Kanter, on the other hand, never got time with a point guard. The time Kanter spent on the floor was shorter than usual, at just 12 minutes. Out of those 12 minutes, maybe two were spent with Westbrook. Payne saw no time tonight, so Kanter only had the trio of Durant, Foye, and Waiters to feed him the ball. Kanter is a player that relies heavily on good ball movement to score, so I think this was a major mistake by Billy Donovan. Kanter finished the night with just 6 points, all of them coming in the first half.
One more note: Speights success on offense was entirely driven by Adams and Kanter's sheer presence on the floor. All of Speights' points were jumpshots outside the paint, and no other players would give him that much room. Still, that happens, and I don't think Speights would have seen extra minutes if Donovan had gone to his centers more frequently.
OKC's late offensive collapse
I think it's important to remember that the fourth quarter wasn't a total loss. With about six minutes to go, the Thunder had battled to within two points. Before that point, the Warrior lead had been as much as 8.
But the bottom really fell out for OKC in those last six minutes. And I'm talking about offense specifically. Three missed threes from Westbrook. All of Westbrook's attempts from three were off the dribble, and well defended. Example:
Westbrook made three shots, but they were all well after the game had been decided. Durant had no shot attempts, and had the ball poked away by Livingston on the perimeter. Here's KD's turnover:
Ibaka rimmed out an open jumper, and turned the ball over. Ibaka's turnover saw Ibaka throw the ball directly to Livingston, as he mistimed a cutting KD. Roberson had an open three rim in and out. Foye missed a tough layup in the paint.
Really, OKC's offense didn't know what it was doing. Russell Westbrook's effectiveness was largely neutralized without Adams on the floor. Durant couldn't get the ball in ideal position. Ibaka couldn't get the separation he needed, because the Warriors kept pressuring the pick and roll. And Foye and Roberson weren't offensive factors all night long. Honestly, I blame a lack of familiarity with this lineup specifically. We haven't seen it too much before, as Waiters and Adams are usually the ones selected for late game situations.
What did the Thunder do right?
Even though this was a dispiriting loss, I think it's important to remember that the Thunder had the lead through three quarters. Heading into the fourth, Durant was shooting 64%, and Ibaka was shooting 70%. Durant was having a lot of success off of high screens, and in transition as well. Here's one of KD's high screen shots:
Ibaka was spacing the floor, and the Thunder had found him twice in the corners on swing passes. Here's one such example:
Kyle Singler was also a surprising factor through the first three quarters, scoring 9 points on 4 of 6 shooting. Some nice shooting, transition play, and a strange cutting hook shot from Kyle.
But Russell Westbrook was a putrid 4 of 16 from the floor, Foye was 1 of 5, and Roberson was 1 of 5. Again, I cite the Thunder's lack of a center, the Warriors keeping tabs on Foye, and Roberson's lack of shooting skill.
So half of OKC was chugging along offensively, but there were clearly some parts of the offense that weren't working. Thus, it's not surprising that Golden State was able to zero in on Durant and Ibaka during the fourth, making OKC's offense ineffective.
- The Thunder shot just 20% from three point range. Russell Westbrook was at the forefront, shooting an abominable 1 of 8. Randy Foye wasn't much better, going 0 of 3. The Warriors had tabs on Foye all night, and he couldn't space effectively. Andre Roberson was 0 of 2, missing his wide open attempts. Worst of all, Kevin Durant, the team's most reliable and frequent three point shooter, took only one three pointer all game. It was Durant's lowest three pointers attempted all season. To summarize, the Warriors made the Thunder take some really bad three point attempts.
- Dion Waiters had a -24 plus/minus ratio, not sure what that's all about. Waiters continued to make good decisions on offense, but he is more prone to be wiped out by screens on defense. But Waiters is expected to be the primary scorer off the bench, and he didn't get enough opportunities considering his role. Way too many plays where Waiters was just standing in the corner, unguarded.
- Prince was at the game, with a cane and gloves. I just thought that was worth mentioning given how many times we've mentioned the pancake story.
- Durant played 39 minutes, barf.
- Cameron Payne didn't play at all, barf.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 32 points and an assist away from a trip dub. (Don't mind the 9 turnovers.)
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, who recovered his shot after a disastrous outing against the Clips
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, 1 of 8 from three
Thunder Plunderer: Steph Curry, master of the off-the-dribble shot. Also, don't expect him to stop chucking if he's cold, because he'll get hot late.
Next Game: At the Milwaukee Bucks, Sunday, March 6th, 2:30 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!