Series: Utah leads 3-1
Time: 8:30 CST
Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC
Broadcast: FSOK, NBATV
The Thunder welcome the Jazz to the ‘Peake for what should have been a pivotal game 5, but instead we are now left wondering if tonight is in fact the beginning, not only of the end, but even greater and more drastic tectonic shifts in the offseason. OKC has one game...one game...to decide if they want to continue this facade of a season.
There are two general levels of failure going on. One is individual, the other is systemic. No Thunder player is playing to his potential so far, for certain. As Utah has seen multiple players — their backcourt, to name two — outperform to their own standards in this series, OKC has seen none. If you were to go down the list and rank all participating players by impact, OKC’s highest is probably Paul George, and he still is sitting somewhere around #4 or #5. Decent, but not actually impactful. Westbrook is behind every Jazz starter, taking away as much as he’s providing.
Collectively though, this is where the real warts show up. Zach Lowe did a deep analysis on the issues that are plaguing the Thunder, and it is well worth a read. The Thunder are running sets, or should I say, ‘sets,’ that are simply baffling, as they make no attempt to capitalize on any comparative advantages they might have over the Jazz. The Utah defense, as good as it is, barely even has to work to force bad shots. Cumulatively, this means that they have even more energy and focus on the other end, which is obvious as their offense is humming along and OKC is floundering. But more than that, these two quotes from Lowe give me pause:
In that clip above, Anthony doesn’t bother bumping Gobert. Perhaps he assumes Westbrook, on Ingles in the corner, will do it. Westbrook, vacillating as usual on defense between inattention and misguided hyperactivity, does nothing. Perhaps he expected Anthony to do the work early. In the end, nobody did. This happened again and again. This is the kind of basic stuff -- communication, scheme, general coherence -- you are supposed to work out by Thanksgiving.
In other words, it is basically too late. These defensive sets, the switching, the coverage, they aren’t going to suddenly get structurally better tonight even with their season on the line. They can play better at what they’re already doing, but the problems are so systemic, from a design, personnel, and implementation standpoint, it’s hard to see how things can be corrected even with a higher level of passion and performance.
Which leads me to this other line:
...Billy Donovan -- and by the way, do we have any idea yet what Donovan stands for as an NBA coach?
No, we really don’t. If he were empowered to do everything he wanted to do and the personnel he needed to do it, fully maxed out on everything, what would it look like, and would it actually work? We’ve been asking ourselves this question for three seasons now, and we’re no more near answering it than during Donovan’s very first press conference.
Finally, here is an inartful question: do I even want the Thunder to win? Because right now it feels like a tooth infected with a cavity that needs to be extracted. Yes, not getting that tooth pulled means you don’t have to get it pulled, and that makes today a little bit better. But ultimately, that tooth has to come out, and there is no benefit to waiting any longer. Extracting the tooth will bring a bit of pain, but in the long run it’s the only way for the deeper pain to subside and relief to finally return.
The times this past season when I’ve been most down on the team are the times when they surprise us all. Here we go again. Smile.
Who do you think will win game 5?
This poll is closed