The Thunder were up by four points at half time and it seemed like Oklahoma City were on their way to another improbable win. The Thunder’s swarming defense had blunted Memphis’ attack and the Grizzlies’ offensive rhythm had been broken. However, Memphis were able to fight their way back into the contest in the third quarter and rode that momentum home to a routine win.
The difference between the first half and second half performances are pretty stark. In the first half, the Thunder were slick and precise. The rotations into the middle from the help-side caused turnovers and led to easy transition buckets. The offense in the half-court was also pretty solid; the hand-offs and cutting managed to create looks inside for the Thunder.
The start of the third quarter was fast, frenetic and aggressive. Oklahoma City turned the Grizzlies over repeatedly and built a double-digit lead. The lead evaporated when the Thunder started to turn the ball over. Instead of settling down into half-court actions, the offense became panicked and rushed.
There were quite a few unnecessary turnovers and head-scratching possessions. Theo Maledon had a rough night from the field and he ended up chasing the game in the second half. Maledon had a score-first approach which is not his natural game. This is the first time this season that I have seen him really struggle.
For Theo, the second half will be a learning experience. He does not need to score to positively impact the game; his playmaking and control of pace is vital to the Thunder’s offense. When he starts to hunt his own shot, the offense stagnates and Oklahoma City start to depend too much on outside shooting.
Svi Mykhailiuk was also inconsistent. Mykhailiuk brought value on defense but he was also guilty of forcing his own offense. There was a possession where he drove straight at the defense without even trying to run a set in the half-court. Svi is still learning his craft but it was a pretty poor decision.
Despite the offense falling apart in the second half, there were a few positives to take away from this game. Moses Brown has hit a rich vein of form and had an excellent game against the Grizzlies. Brown had 19 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Moses impacted every aspect of the game and was a rock throughout the game.
Brown plays with a maturity on the court that is rare among young players. Moses focuses on grabbing boards and running the floor. He is not trying to shoehorn himself into the offense; Brown is taking what comes and making an impact with his defense.
Brown is very good at protecting the rim. He has the timing and hands to swat shots away but Moses is also comfortable using his body to make shots difficult for the opposing team. In this game, his impact can be seen in the boxscore but even when his contributions are not recorded, he is still making an effort on the less glamorous end of the floor.
The bench unit played well and contributed 46 points on the night. The combination of Ty Jerome, Svi Mykhailiuk, Kenrich Williams and Moses Brown seems to have gelled nicely. The Thunder’s bench unit provides a jolt of energy and scoring when they hit the hardwood. Kenrich is always good for a few mid-range jumpers and the same can be said for Ty Jerome’s proficiency from downtown.
Coach Mark deserves a lot of credit for finding ways to get the most out of his bench. Before the season started, the bench unit was expected to be pretty weak and yet, the bench has won games for the Thunder this season.
This was a bad loss for Oklahoma City but the Thunder do not have time to dwell on this game. The reeling Boston Celtics roll into on Saturday evening and they will be desperate to put their poor run of form behind them.