The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, 115-103. In a game where the Thunder struggled to maintain any sense of organization or focus for a solid 40 minutes, it was the Grizzlies who were more mature, better disciplined, and carried the win from nearly start to finish. The loss, OKC’s 11th in 17 games since the All-Star break, plants them at the bottom of the West again, likely a full game behind the 6th seed Jazz, and making the possibility of a best-case scenario of moving into the 5th seed to face the Trail Blazers all the more unlikely.
As I was thinking about this game earlier today, the prevalent thought in my head was, “Tonight feels like a loss.”
And not one of those, “They’re cruising along, I think they might be overconfident” kinds of expectations. But rather, a quick survey of some of the most agonizing losses even over the past 2 weeks tells you all you need to know. The Thunder seemingly fall behind by double digits to just about everyone. It is unsurprising to me at this point to call up the box score 2⁄3 of the way through the 1st quarter and see them facing a 12 point deficit, giving up 70% shooting to the other team while shooting sub-35% themselves.
Put another way, if by some nightmare scenario the Thunder were to face off against the Rockets in the 1st round, I have little doubt 4 out of the 5 games would start with OKC down at the end of a quarter, 40-25, or thereabouts. Little doubt, because say what you want about Houston, they approach the game with a very singular focus in mind as to what they want to do, and that focus is ripping teams to shreds when they lack a plan of their own.
If it’s a visual you want of OKC’s 1st quarter offense, here you go.
I have no idea what OKC’s offensive game plan is at this juncture. Not even a basic clue what they’re working to accomplish, even if their plan might fail. Without a basic plan, there is no elite rebounding, there is no time to set up for good defense, there is no transition offense and therefore no easy shot opportunities, while in the recent words of The Oklahoman’s Brett Dawson, it’s not so much that the Thunder defense defends as they are simply escorting the other team to the rim.
(Speaking of Brett, I’d encourage you to take a run through his post-game Twitter feed. Lots of observations on point about tonight, along with oddly honest comments from Donovan)
Did the Thunder have something to play for tonight? By their performance, you could scarcely have guessed it. The overriding sense I got throughout was the same one I had during the losses to the Warriors and Heat — that this team doesn’t seem to know how to put itself in a position to succeed right now. Their offense was abysmally lazy for most of the game, save about a 6 minute stretch in the 3rd. Paul George, MVP-caliber most of this season, did a pretty good “Bad Russ” impersonation by taking shots early and often, but never working with his teammates to find good openings.
What does it say about a team when, competing against a lottery team missing 7 rotation players, it was the lottery team that featured 5 out of the top 7 players on the court? Small props to Dennis Schroder, who found good looks, and Terrance Ferguson, who should have been given twice as many. Everyone else was outplayed in a variety of ways too numerous and fatiguing to recount.
Aside — I found this interesting. I’m kind of wondering if the Thunder are thinking the same thing. Has Markieff moved the needle at all in the positive direction?
Markieff Morris has to be wondering what he signed up for. Thunder looked like one of the best teams in the NBA when he signed.— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) March 26, 2019
In another part of this season, or another year entirely, this game would be the aberration, and I’d feel bad about it for 2 days and move on. But it is becoming increasingly clear the Raptors win was likely the aberration, and with only 8 games remaining, the bloodletting is not yet complete. I don’t see more than about 3 wins in this team’s future this spring.