By Addam Francisco
Wednesday night the Thunder faced off with the Dallas Mavericks and we all know the game was an offensive clinic. After losing 135-131, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder aren’t happy at all. It’s a great sign that we scored 131 points against one of the league’s best, but giving up 135 points isn’t.
In this nail biting game, Enes Kanter, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Morrow scored 30-plus points. Dion Waiters added 19 points to that, not to mention another triple-double for Russell and another double-double for Enes. So the question is, how could a team have those numbers and still manage to lose a game? Well, giving up more than 60 points in the paint is an obvious reason, and that takes me back to the Kendrick Perkins trade. It is very hard to “not like,” the trade but many fans including me sure wish we could have found a way to keep that defensive presence down low. The trade helped the offensive game going from a player that averages six points per game to a player that averages 15 points and almost nine rebounds per game, but crippled the teams defensive game. When Kanter joined the squad, there was a clear understanding that he wouldn’t offer much defensively but was an offensive threat and he’s backed that up. Thunder management and coaching staff expected Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison to be the defensive threat to replace Kendrick, but due to regular season-ending injuries from Nick and Serge, that leaves Steven Adams to hold the entire paint down and he has held his own, but can’t guard two dominant post guys at the same time. Also, with the injury of Andre Robinson, our perimeter defense is down too. Looking at the lineup, other than Steven Adams we have no defensive players. We have a lot of scorers, but Wednesday nights game proves that defense wins games, and better yet, championships. You can score 131 points, well over your season average and still lose the game if you don't make stops.
This could really hurt the team going into the playoffs, even against the Golden State Warriors who don’t have any real “big names” in the post. Assuming the Thunder pretty much being a lock at the eighth spot in the Western Conference, barring a disaster from the Dallas Mavericks. In the event that we do move up to seventh in the West, we would have to play the Memphis Grizzlies that have a dominating front-court of Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph. This would be a scary and near impossible task for just Steven to control. Kendrick Perkins was the guy to usually get in Randolph’s head and take him out of the game. As fans, we just have to sit and hope that Serge, Collison and Robinson come back in the playoffs healthy and as strong as they were before the injury so they can perform in a seven game series.
“I think we just got beat on a lot of pick-and-rolls, and I think we just have to work on it,” Kanter said to ESPN.
This was the first time a team had three players score at least 30 points in a game since Russell, Kevin and James Harden did it on March 7, 2012. Also, Oklahoma City became the first team since Portland in 1997 to have three of more players score at least 30 points and lose. Dallas shot an astonishing 61.5 percent from the field, and made 52 of 76 shots inside the 3-point line. Russell did score 31 points, and have his tenth triple-double, but he shot 10 of 32 from the field and 2 of 11 from the three. However, Anthony Morrow had 32 points off 11 of 16 shooting. It’s hard to be critical of the Thunder’s offensive game, but if there is something to fix, it’s going to be Russell Westbrook’s shot selection. Oklahoma City will play the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, so they will be tested again in the post but hopefully they work out the problems and perform the way they’d like to perform.