When you look at the transition offense the Oklahoma City Thunder had during the regular season, the best in the NBA, and what they’re trying to pull off now, you suddenly realize why Russell Westbrook is so important, despite his obvious shortcomings. Kevin Durant is trying to do everything for his team, but it doesn’t seem to be enough, and it’s not certain he has anything else to give.
This is a broken record, but I know we can hit shots. I’ve seen the ball go in the basket many, many times with our team, and I have confidence that will happen and hopefully soon. We realize the only thing missing right now is us making shots, and that’s something we’ve been doing all year.
Scott Brooks and the Thunder are sure that everything they’re missing from being 2-1 or even 3-0 up in this series is making open shots. It might be the way his offense is playing, moving away from transition offense, not having the kind of point guard who can run it quickly and well enough with Westbrook out injured and Reggie Jackson/Derek Fisher picking up the slack, instead option for more pick & roll, which they aren’t preforming well because the Grizzlies are doing a great job in reacting to it, while getting more and more spot up shooting from their players, doing better at it because Westbrook is gone, but the Grizzlies don’t mind the Thunder sticking to simplistic offense instead of actually thinking with the ball.
Kevin Durant isn’t LeBron James. James took awful Cleveland teams through a very strong Detroit Pistons side straight to the NBA finals, by simply doing everything and more in 2007. The Grizzlies need that kind of performance from Durant, probably every night, but they need it to be about more than stats. Durant is averaging 32 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in the series so far, shooting 50% from the field; seems alright from a distance.
But Durant isn’t making the plays when the Thunder need them the most. It happened in game 1, but the he missed free throws (5-9 in game 3), and insisted on trying to get Serge Ibaka going again by feeding him to those mid-range jumpers he loves so much, but Ibaka, having a terrible series and wasting every bit of energy he has on stopping the Gasol-Randolph tandem on the other side of the court, is shooting 30.8% from the field in the series, and it’s not going to get any easier.
What did work for the Thunder in game 3? Transition offense and isolation, with Durant scoring 1.43 points per possession on isolation plays. While transition is hard to create with Reggie Jackson pushing the ball and the Grizzlies being very good at keeping it, getting Durant to take less care of the ball while dribbling it up the court, saving his energy for one on ones against Tony Allen and Tayshuan Prince, might be the better way to go about it. The Thunder aren’t going to become a motion offense with multiple screens all of a sudden, and they need to make the most of the only exceptional weapon they have.
When LeBron James starred for the Cavs, he knew he was their only option, so a player going down here and there didn’t really change anything. He only reached two conference finals anyway. The Celtics, the Magic and the Pistons stood in his way. Durant might be the more gifted scorer, but he is refusing to pick up all the scoring Russell Westbrook left on the floor on his own. If he wants to be referred to as the best, he’s going to start playing like one. The Memphis Grizzlies are a very strong team, maybe better than the Thunder in their current shape, but the best player in the league wouldn’t care about that. He’d stop complaining about not making open shots, and start hitting them.