OK, so the shot Westbrook took.
I personally didn’t have a big problem with it. That might be because I’ve been conditioned for it, and knew it was coming the moment Westbrook got the inbounds pass from Domantas Sabonis. But in the situation, down two with 11.5 seconds left, Westbrook with five fouls, the Thunder trying to claw their way for stops by going to the Hack-a-strategy, I just didn’t see a way to win in overtime.
So Westbrook had a shot to win it and make everyone happy. The issue to take, is the kind of shot it was, a leaning 25-footer that was moderately contested. Westbrook concedes he probably should’ve drove. Billy Donovan says he “trusts Russell.” But either way, it probably could’ve been a better look, or at least a more organized one.
Instead, it’s a second consecutive loss for the Thunder and a missed opportunity at a strong statement against the very good Clippers. If we’re being realistic, this was an excellent sign for the Thunder in this — what are we officially calling it, rebuilding? Retooling? Reworking? Reorganizing?– season. Westbrook honestly didn’t play that well, outside the last eight minutes where I thought he was spectacular, sans one shot attempt, and they hit 16 3s, which ties a Thunder record. They maybe should’ve beaten the Clippers and showed signs of improvement in the meantime.
Really, I walked out of the arena tonight encouraged. A win would’ve been nice, especially bouncing back from Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors, but there’s plenty to take away in this loss. There’s also plenty they clearly need to improve on. Like I’ve been saying, expectations and aspirations have been adjusted, or at least should be if you have any common sense. It’s a new process of evaluation with this team and all in all, this wasn’t a bad sign.
I’m not going to try and tell Russ that, though.
- Rematch the last eight minutes. Westbrook was excellent. Took smart shots, setup teammates — the pass to Oladipo for 3! — and even tried to find cutters instead of forcing shots with 90 seconds left. It failed, because Andre Roberson couldn’t handle a couple passes, but still, I view it as a good thing.
- Oladipo started out really aggressive. He was hitting 3s, and attacking. And then he dropped off, missing 3s and not attacking. I’m not sure what to think of him quite yet. Point blank: If the Thunder want to be decently good, like top five in the West good, he’s got to play better. That was the expectation at least.
- How about Domas Sabonis. This rookie can play. Nobody expected this kind of shooting, but again, his feel and IQ is obvious. He’s well positioned defensively and knows how to keep cycling and moving the ball on offense. By the end of the season, he may be Westbrook’s favorite target.
- Really, at this point Sabonis might be the Thunder’s third best option. That’s not a good thing, by the way.
- Enes Kanter went for 13 and 11 in 21 minutes. Should he have played more? Probably a little, but Donovan wisely used the Hack strategy to get Kanter off the floor defensively and back on offensively. DeAndre Jordan hit five of six at one point which hurt, but it wasn’t all bad.
- Oladipo took three free throws, one being a technical. His attempts per game are down, and he had one moment where he had a big collision with Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter. It turned out to be a rather large five-point swing. “I just got tackled,” Oladipo said. “I told ’em if y’all want me to go out on the football field and wear cleats, I can do that. Nah, I mean they thought one thing. Everybody makes mistakes so maybe they saw something that I didn’t feel. At the end of the day it’s the game of basketball and I can’t go back and change it. That’s what they felt was the best call so that’s what it is. Just gonna keep attacking and hopefully they’ll start calling some calls for me.”
- Watching Alex Abrines try and guard Jamal Crawford was sad.
- I actually really like what I’ve seen from Abrines. He can clearly shoot and he’s getting a little more comfortable putting the ball on the floor. Defense is where he has to catch up, but on top of that, he really needs to learn how to move better without the ball. He should watch some Redick tape and try and emulate a little of that.
- I’m a little disappointed in Steven Adams’ lack of offense. I just thought there’d be more of him as a threat in the pick-and-roll. He got a couple buckets tonight, but six and five in 32 minutes isn’t great production. Good defense, sure, but Adams needs to produce more than that.
- Billy Donovan yells “Move it!” all the time when Thunder players have the ball and hold it for a second. The one player he never does it with: Russell Westbrook.
- You guys, Thunder fans cheered Blake Griffin and he threw down the upside down horns. READ INTO THIS.
- Semaj Christon looked more like an adequate backup tonight. I like playing him with Westbrook, too. Makes sense.
- The bench, plus Oladipo and Sabonis, wasn’t a trainwreck to start the fourth. Actually it was, pretty decent. Encouraging sign.
- Andre Roberson hit 3-6 from 3. That’s pretty neat.
- I don’t know how I feel about Westbrook’s haircut.
- No Joffrey Lauvergne. More of a matchup thing than anything else.
Next up: Home against the Magic on Sunday