During the entrance of the third quarter, Andre Roberson drew a foul while taking a contested shot right under the basket. While at the foul line, Thunder fans from around the world held their breath, awaiting the indisputable fact that at least one of Roberson’s attempts would miss, leading to a normal two-point opportunity that would be put to waste. And to even our surprise, the worst possible outcome occurred. Roberson not only missed both free-throws, but air balled them consecutively.
A few short minutes later, Roberson would go on to miss a layup, the second missed layup opportunity of the game, marking the sixth point that was literally wasted by Roberson within three quarters. We aren’t talking excusable three-point or mid-range attempts, we’re talking two missed LAYUPS, and two consecutive air balls.
In response to this, with a little over seven minutes left in the third quarter, Head Coach Billy Donovan pulled Roberson out, and it wasn’t until there was 30 seconds left in the game that Andre would return.
This being said, we have a serious problem. Roberson is undoubtedly one of the biggest (if not the BIGGEST) contributors to OKC’s defense, and without him, the perimeter defense has obvious faults. But, if Roberson does stay in, 4th quarter opposing defenses have the ability to target Roberson for the simplest intentional fouls.
And like I mentioned, we can’t just take Roberson away from the defense. He and Paul George both have the ability to lock down any offense’s perimeter play, but if Roberson wants more than 30 minutes per game, something has to change. Berry Tramel of NewsOK said it best:
“I've defended Roberson's minutes, and his $10-million-a-year contract, because defense matters. But if you air-ball foul shots in the NBA, you can't play. Roberson's foul shooting is getting worse, down to 42.3 percent last season, and the air balls were his first attempts of this season.
Whoever is coaching Roberson on foul shots needs to stop. It's not working. Like I've said before, the Thunder needs a sports psychologist on the case. Or a new one. This is a total failure of the Thunder organization, for a player to regress like this in such a fundamental part of the game.”
Though we shouldn’t place all of the blame upon Roberson’s shoulders, as Andrew Wiggins final second three-point game winner was the actual nail in the coffin for OKC’s Sunday night loss, let’s make it clear: we really needed Robe’s D (defense of course) during the lasting duration of that fourth quarter, as well as many of the fourth quarter showdowns to come.