It’s hard to point a finger on the one reason the Oklahoma City Thunder have been looking so bad on the court, regardless of who is missing. Reggie Jackson is doing a good job in the place of Russell Westbrook, but Kevin Durant needs more from what worked during the regular season – Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, who have been disappointing, to say the least, the Western Conference Semifinals so far.
We are hopeful that we get those same shots in the next game. The easiest thing to do is to blame shot making, but usually, reasons for two losses in three games and looking quite bad since the moment Westbrook was knocked out of the playoffs, run a little bit deeper than that. Yes, Serge Ibaka missed dunks and kept on missing open shots he made quite easily during the regular season; same goes for Kevin Martin, while Kevin Durant, a 91% free throw shooter, misses two of the biggest shots he’ll have all season. But the Thunder are simply playing bad basketball.
He is a great defender, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the Grizzlies’ team defense. I need to make the right plays for my team. I missed a few shots in the second half. No one likes to say someone shut him down. Kevin Durant can’t be shut down, but he can be slowed down, finishing with 25 points on 9-19 from the field, adding 11 rebounds and 9 assists. The habit of having Durant come up from the backcourt and be involved in almost every possession continued, but his drought in the third quarter while Allen was guarding him led to a 15 point quarter for the Thunder, shooting only 20% from the field.
While the Grizzlies are built to win game after game by grinding out wins, the Thunder are different. Yes, they have the size with Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to handle the Memphis Grizzlies and their fearsome twosome, but it hasn’t been working too well so far. In game 3 they did slow down Zach Randolph, but it didn’t help cushion the blow they received from Marc Gasol, who made all the right plays at the perfect time.
And it comes down to the shooting and decision making. Derek Fisher seems quite confident of getting more minutes than he should have if Westbrook was healthy, but launching a deep three from nowhere didn’t help his team in the clutch. Ibaka shooting 6-17 from the field and 30.8% so far in the series is something the Thunder can’t afford. Kevin Martin was huge for two games in the playoffs, but horrendous in 2 & 3, hitting only 28.5% of his 28 field goal attempts.
Durant isn’t giving up on his teammates, and isn’t trying to win games on his own. He isn’t that kind of guy to start shooting 35-40 times a game every time he’s out-there unless Scott Brooks asks him to. Frankly, trying to get Ibaka confident once again sounds like a good idea. The problem is the Grizzlies aren’t really helping the Thunder in their re-confidence plans, and their head coach, not to mention their own play in the clutch when it isn’t about Durant, isn’t really functioning either.