box score | Silver Screen & Roll
The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 108-104. In yet another “paycheck” kind of game, OKC demonstrated neither awareness nor urgency in dropping another game on their home court against a team that held a double-digit advantage with 1:08 left in the game.
This marks the 4th game in a row that the Thunder have lost in unspectacular fashion where their defensive identity was lost and their offensive competencies are waning. It also anchors them even more firmly in the bottom half of the playoff seedings; a week ago they were ready to surpass the Timberwolves for the 4th seed. Now they’re looking at potentially falling to 4th in their own division.
Right before Jordan Clarkson hit a three to put the Lakers up heading into the 4th quarter, I thought to myself how satisfied I’d be if OKC came out of this game with a 4 point win. That’s just cruel, basketball gods.
It’s rare that I’d question a coach’s game plan — they’re not that complicated, really, it’s more about execution — but this one left me scratching my head. For some reason, despite significant advantages with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams in the middle, OKC built their 1st half game plan around Carmelo Anthony. And that just doesn’t work — not for the trio, not for the team, and certainly not for Melo. He was awful, and it ground to a halt any of the advantages OKC might have had.
Once “Plan A” inevitably failed, “Plan B” was mostly ISO sets between Westbrook and George while ignoring Adams completely (he had 8 shots). And the thing is, it might have even worked — albeit in grotesque fashion — had OKC managed to play any kind of consistent defense against the lottery-bound Lakers. Yet LA shot nearly 50% for the game and 43% from 3-point range, many of which were the wide-open variety.
This end-of-half sequence, if you want to call it that, typified much of the afternoon. After OKC had cut the deficit to 2 points at the end of the 2nd quarter, they forced a Lakers turnover to get the ball back with 7.5 seconds remaining. Westbrook walked it up...that’s right...walked it up...and Steven Adams moved in for a high screen and roll for what ostensibly was a set for Westbrook to launch a three in the hope OKC would go into halftime with a lead.
Except Russ didn’t do that. With about 2 seconds remaining, he came off the screen and waited for Adams to roll to the rim. The problem was, there was only 2 seconds left, so there was no time for him to get there. Instead of Russ taking an easy (and open) 15 footer, he tried to force a pass into nowhere, bounced the ball off someone’s foot, and that was that. It was such an emblematic microcosm of OKC’s lack of situational awareness, ownership, or precision that I am having a difficult time actually describing how dumb it looked.
There’s no other way to put it - this game was bad. Really bad. OKC trailed for almost the entire duration, and it wasn’t even like LA was having one of those random NBA games where they morph into the Warriors. They simply hustled more, made open shots, and waited for OKC’s inevitable screw-ups.
I guess LA had the better game plan after all.