Hello from the aftermath.
The Thunder are down 0-2 in the first round of the playoffs to Portland. It’s not where we wanted to be.
Last night was frustrating. Here’s the good and bad from game 2, plus the next steps for game 3.
- OKC started the game going straight for Portland’s collective gullet. After the tip, OKC was extremely aggressive on the defensive end, playing with a purpose and not making silly gambles. It paid off. In the first quarter, the Thunder held the Trailblazers to 26 points, miles better than the 39 they allowed in game 1.
- Paul George’s shoulder is fine. George spoke to media before the game, enormous shoulder ice pack and all, and said his shoulder was fine, but it was a bit hard to believe. It’s been bother him for a while now, and those things don’t just disappear into thin air. Through halftime, George had 16 points and a few celebrations making light of his supposed shoulder issues.
- There were a host of foul calls during the game, but the Thunder did well to go right at Enes Kanter and get him in foul trouble early, ensuring he doesn’t decide to transform into a demigod and put up 20/18 again. Much of this was Paul George’s doing. He went right at Kanter, then got a charge called on him toward the end of the half. Immediately out of the gate in the second half, George got his feet set and Kanter was called for a charge again. This was good, but the fouls went both ways.
- The defense didn’t continue. OKC has an aggressive trapping scheme, and when it works, its like throwing honeybees into a tea party. When it doesn’t, teams slice OKC up like deli meat. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are just too good to fall victim to the trappings forever, particularly after enduring it during last year’s playoff failure against the Pelicans.
- Russ shot horribly the entire game, including a wide open jumper from the nail that he airballed.
- Steven Adams shot really well from the field, and the Thunder still didn’t decide to run plays for him via post ups or P&R. That’s bad. The Blazers don’t have great rim protection with Nurkic out, and we failed to take advantage of that. Again.
- The whole team was awful — again — from 3. We are taking the right shots (outside of Russ’ boredom pull ups), but they just aren’t going in. Sometimes there just isn’t an explanation for this. It’s just the cards you draw. But the problem is, they haven’t been going in for a long time now, as OKC’s offensive efficiency, led in part by their inept 3-point shooting, is in the gutter. The Thunder don’t need to change anything here in terms of setting themselves up for the right shots. They can make these shots, and insisting they stop taking them is the wrong answer. But if they keep not going in? Then what?
- Jerami Grant was not a huge part of the offense, and he should is struggling when the team looks to him. He’s a valuable shooter and cutter and can even get his own shot from time to time, but if he isn’t hitting from the perimeter, he becomes a liability on both ends.
- CJ McCollum drug our defense through the city center, shaming and humiliating us. He was hitting tonight. It’s hard to know if this is a product of a defensive lapse or just CJ being hot. It sucks either way. For sure, Portland got the switches they wanted and their guards attacked our bigs off the dribble. With guards as skilled as Portland’s, that’s easy money. When our guards got into foul trouble, and Thicc Boi Raymond Felton was called on to guard Damian Lillard, Portland’s momentum crested. Portland’s final sequence at the end of the third, where only up 6, they effectively produced four 3-pointers in less than 2 minutes, highlighted by Lillard’s deep three at the buzzer, effectively ended the game.
- Piggy backing off that last bullet point, Portland’s high pick and roll with either Lillard or McCollum destroyed us. Their toolbox, replete with smart passes, stepback 3’s, elite shooting skills and tight handles ripped us apart.
- Billy Donovan never called an appropriately timed time out. He wouldn’t do that years ago. It’s still bad.
- Were it up to me, I would say to not gamble with trapping CJ or Lillard. Make them beat you, don’t just give it to them. They’re too good.
- Come out just as hot on defense and keep it up.
- For the love of God, give the ball to Steven Adams. Kanter is not a good defender, and there’s just no excuse not to let Adams eat. He is the only player right now effectively winning his personal match up.
- Stay grounded. For Russ, heated competition is good. But that competition with Dame can increase the likelihood for Russ’ frustration foul problem, to say nothing of his frustration pull up 3 problem. Don’t succumb, buddy. Hopefully this will be less of an issue back in OKC.
- Someone needs to remind Billy Donovan we have timeouts.
What can the Thunder build on in game 3?
This poll is closed
Stick with the defense; the Blazers back court won’t repeat their game 2 performance
Base offense should always involve Steven Adams
Jerami Grant needs to sit, even if it means giving Patrick Patterson a go
Westbrook needs to continue to distribute, even if his teammates’ shots aren’t falling
Other - write in below