Another game, another night when the shorthanded Thunder have only enough to play competitively, and not enough to win.
Oklahoma City did a commendable job slowing down Golden State on Sunday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena, but couldn’t get enough buckets or stops in the fourth quarter for the umpteenth time this season and fell 91-86 to the Warriors.
With the loss, the Thunder fell to 3-12 on the season, keeping them alone in last place at the bottom of the Western Conference. OKC has now lost six straight games.
In what has become a repetitive and painful thing to watch, the Thunder struggled to score at important junctures and found itself looking to the likes of Andre Roberson for critical jump shots in the waning moments of the game. With all that scoring and lineup flexibility on the end of the bench in street clothes, OKC just has very little scoring to turn to in a pinch when the defense takes away primary and secondary options.
The Thunder was able to at least give itself a chance to win by managing to keep Golden State in the halfcourt. Oklahoma City didn’t crash the boards on offense and concentrated on getting back to prevent the break, and limited the Warriors to only six fast-break points and slowed the game down.
But unfortunately for OKC, the Warriors halfcourt offense is a very good one. The Thunder even got the benefit of an off night from Stephen Curry, who took 15 shots to get his 15 points and was limited to only two made 3-pointers. Still, the Warriors worked the ball around the floor and found open men often enough to rack up 26 assists, double the Thunder’s total. It helped Golden State survive a poor shooting night, especially by their standards, shooting only 36 percent from the field.
Reggie Jackson continued to be simultaneously the Thunder’s most threatening weapon by far and also overwhelmed, needing 26 shots to get his 22 points and settling for an ill-advised long, pull-up 3-pointer with less than a minute left and the Thunder down by four points. He finished only two assists shy of a triple-double and was the only man standing between Golden State and a blowout win, but he continues to struggle to find an efficient approach as OKC’s leading man.
It’s getting harder to see what any silver linings might even be enjoyed as the black cloud over the Thunder’s 2014-15 season continues to get larger and darker. Hopes that the Thunder would learn to move the ball more and play smarter basketball in the absence of their two shot-creating superstars have remained hopes, with the Thunder unable to muster more than a few minutes of competent, ball-swinging offense in a row. The Thunder aren’t learning to win close games as a unit because they aren’t winning close games. None of the role players can really be said to be gaining confidence as almost all of them struggle in one area of the game or another, and because it’s hard to feel confident about anything when you have the worst record in the conference.
It was reported this weekend by The Oklahoman that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have eased back into practice. Hopefully for the Thunder, that’s a sign the calvary is coming and that they can stop the ship from sinking. But despite the best efforts of their teammates — and by and large, that effort at the very least is indeed there — time is running out fast.
- Good things continue to happen when a defender charges Nick Collison on the 3-point line. For the second game in a row, Collison shook the defender with a ball fake and drove to the basket. Sunday night featured a two-handed dunk on the finish. /swoons
- Also for the second time in two games, Jackson had a fairly nasty dunk on a strong drive to the rim.
- Searching for offense, the Thunder spent a chunk of the third quarter going to Steven Adams in the post. It had mixed results. Adams showed some sharp moves and quick thinking a couple of times, and looked more like a fawn learning to walk on its long legs in others. Those flashes are still there, and Adams scored in double figures again.
- On what was probably the most critical possession of the game for the Thunder, down three points in the closing seconds, Roberson was one of the guards sent out onto the floor. Scott Brooks doesn’t have many options right now, to be fair, but that seemed an odd choice when you need a 3-pointer (or maybe a quick two and a foul — but with no timeouts left, in this case probably a good look at a triple was the priority). Sure enough, the Warriors left Roberson wide open in part of their attempt to clog the lane and were happy to let him shoot. The Thunder swung the ball to Roberson and he shot without hesitation, but it caught nothing but air. Game over.
- Roberson is 1-12 on 3-pointers for the season.
- Another of the few bright spots is that Anthony Morrow had a double-double — his first in more than four years. But his shot continues to be not quite what the Thunder were hoping it would be.
- Oh, and Serge Ibaka had another good night around the rim with four offensive rebounds and five blocks, but a poor shooting night hurt his overall game.
- Marreese Speights just smoked the Thunder all night. In 25 minutes he had 28 points, and it felt like more.
Next up: Wednesday at home against Utah.