Good day Thunder Nation!!!!
The sun is out, I assume a bird is chirping somewhere, and the biggest game of the season, thus far, looms just hours away.
As any Thunder fan knows, OKC is coming off two very disappointing road losses in which the team ran out to big leads early and then squandered them away. Currently Kevin Durant is listed as questionable having missed the Warriors last game against Brooklyn, but Golden State is dangerous with or without him and the Thunder will need a complete 48 minute effort if they want to treat Loud City to the first Warrior defeat here since game four of the WCF’s in 2016.
As disappointing as losses are to the fans, it is important to remember that the players and coaches they support feel those losses even more acutely. Anyone that has ever participated in sports knows that helpless feeling as the lastseconds tick away in a losing effort. They aren’t fun. Believe me, these players want to win more than we want them to.
Two weeks ago, the atmosphere in interviews after a tough loss was much more relaxed. The eyes are the mirror of the soul and anyone with an ounce of sensitivity can tell from the player’s eyes in the interviews after the loss to the Pelicans that frustration is beginning to creep in:
I know we want to look close at the issues our Thunder are having, but honestly, this is too close....
Reminds me of old home videos when Mom ran the camera. Close-ups of Grandma’s cleavage, long looks at the floor or ceiling....
Time to Fix the Record
Back before DVD’s, CD’s, MP3 players, or iPods, there was LP’s. Old fashioned vinyl that required care and cleaning. Carelessness invariably led to scratches and sometimes skips that would play the same few seconds of the record over and over and over.
When a LP developed a skip, there were two option, replace it or repair it. Most people didn’t know about the second option and record stores didn’t volunteer the information for obvious reasons, but that is the only option available to collectors today.
The Thunder face a similar dilemma to today’s LP connoisseurs . Their record is skipping (losing games in almost the same fashion), and all the record stores are now gone. They have to fix the problem.
Sometimes the use of a simple wooden toothpick can fix a skip. Sometimes it takes a series of simple steps to resolve and the Thunder’s skip issue will require the latter.
The good news is, like the steps required to restore an LP, the fix isn’t difficult, but it will require diligence.
R.K.’s Simple Steps to Fix the Thunder
The problem with most thoughts about the Thunder is that their problem will take care of itself if they do this one thing or that one thing. It’s not just this or that, it’ both this and that and that and this. As Steven Adams said, it’s a lot of little things.
1. It all starts with Russell Westbrook. Let’s face it, with all the flaws one might name, he still single handedly led the Thunder to the playoffs last season. The team could have been renamed “Russ and the Boys” and been completely accurate. It’s laudable that Russ wants to get his new teammates involved, but rather than it happening naturally, he is trying to force it to the point he is no longer truly playing his game. Paul George is here as the result of a trade, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, and Patrick Patterson are here by choice. They came to play with Russell and he needs to honor that. A good place to start would be shot location. Here is Westbrook’s shot chart from the Pelican game:
Westbrook’s cotton shot should come from the nail, not two or three feet out. Take that shot correctly from the red circles and those misses will start turning into makes. And just 3 drives to the rim? SMH
Westbrook’s game is attacking and breaking down the opponent’s defense. If the Thunder want spacing, that comes from moving the defense and it all must start with Westbrook.
In his interview, Russell said everyone needs to stay on the same page and put in the work. What he needs to understand is the opening paragraph on that page is some variation of Russell attacking the opponent’s perimeter.
2. Steven Adams mentioned two things that stood out, discipline and continuing to run plays. He’s right. We’ve seen what the Thunder can do when they run plays and it is beautiful. What the Thunder need to remember, and all those in the interview mentioned it, is that they have to continue running plays the entire game, that is where the discipline Adams talked about comes in.
One of the more interesting sections of the interviews was Melo’s response to what other teams are doing to alter how the Thunder play. He was stumped and for a good reason. Other teams aren’t changing what the Thunder do, they are doing it to themselves. This is the NBA, teams go on runs, bad calls happen, and the teams that generally come out on top are those that remain together, stay the course, and keep forcing their will on their opponent.
3. Stop ball watching. Keep moving. Pay attention to details. Especially the Thunder’s best shooters.
As Zach Lowe put it in this Grantland piece in July, 2014:
Great shooters have a gravitational pull, and they can shift the range of that force around the floor as they move.
Look at a play against the Pelicans:
Even after he passed the ball, Paul George posed a threat that Anthony Davis respected. That is the pull Lowe was talking about, but when George opted to watch Melo work and failed to recognize that Davis was in a position to block, it negated Melo’s advantage.
Rather than drifting out, all PG had to do is take two aggressive steps to the top of the arc and Anthony gets distracted long enough to get Melo’s shot off. Those are the little things that can win and lose games.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not picking on just Paul George. I just had good footage and he was Johnny on the spot. Everyone is guilty. Russ could be eating popcorn for all the involvement he showed on this play.
Both he and George can’t stagnate when Melo has the ball. When they do, the defenses job becomes very easy and the Pelicans aren’t a good defensive team.
Stop pressing the Warriors tonight and the Thunder may well find themselves on the bad end of a single digit scoring quarter.
4. Possibly the most important quick fix of all is my last one. Don’t forget about Steven Adams in the second half, and especially the fourth quarter. If two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two, then four heads are off the chart. One shot per game in the fourth quarter is a total waste of a valuable 7 foot resource that is hitting 67% of his shots this season as well as over 70% of his free throws.
It isn’t just a coincidence that the teams overall shooting percentage drops as the number of possessions Adams touches the ball diminishes. The OKC 3 aren’t the only players that can exert gravitational force and create space.
The Thunder are starting to show signs of frustration. What is your level of frustration Thunder Nation?
This poll is closed
Cool as the other side of the pillow.
Getting really frustrated.
Hide the dog, I want to kick something!!!