Thunder Can't Close Warriors Out
By Randy Renner
To paraphrase what Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said to start his postgame news conference, could you guys just read the last few game stories so I can go on home and pop a top?
Okay, for those of you still with me I will tell you this game against the Warriors was much like most of the others in this 3-12 start to the season. So much so that Brooks began his postgame news conference by saying, "can we just play the last four news conferences over so I don't have to do this again?"
Sorry coach, if I have to write, you have to talk.
"I thought we did a great job of competing and playing a style that gave us a chance to win, physical, tough, gritty determination, all the important winning words you can use. Unfortunately we came up short, we missed a couple of shots."
Once again great defense played by a bunch of guys who can't seem to shoot straight.
The Thunder held Golden State to their fewest points of the season and their worst shooting percentage of the season and still managed to lose 91-86.
The Warriors hadn't scored less than 95 points, nor shot less than 44.0 percent until Sunday night when they scored those 91 points on 35.5 percent shooting. They hadn't won a game in Oklahoma City either since December of 2008 until Sunday night.
That 2008-09 season is also the last time the Thunder started a season this badly.
The thing is, this Thunder team, this patched together bunch of backups and backups to backups, has played its collective butt off in every game except that debacle in Brooklyn earlier in the month.
Yes they're 3-12 and solidly in last place in the Western Conference but they've had a second half lead in 13 of those 15 games and are playing defense at an elite level.
The offense though...oh the offense.
This game came right down to the last seconds but consecutive air ball threes from Andre Roberson and Lance Thomas ended their hopes.
So why were two guys in there at the end who aren't exactly known for their shooting?
"Thomas was on the floor for inbounds passes, the guys who usually do that aren't available and he's been good at that and with Golden State switching up everything (on defense) we wanted Dre out there for his offensive rebounding. The ball found him and he stepped up and took the shot."
The Warriors had left Roberson unguarded so they could harass Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow and the strategy worked. Jackson drove and dished to Roberson who was wide open out beyond the arc. Roberson missed his open look look and finished the night 1-for-4.
Jackson ended the game with 22 points but it took him 26 shots to get there. He grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out eight assists so he just missed a triple-double. Morrow came off the bench to score 16 on 5-for-11 shooting and Serge Ibaka also had 16, but Serge struggled shooting too, making just five of his 17 shots.
Overall the Thunder held the Warriors to 35.5 percent shooting but OKC managed to shoot only a tenth of a point better at 35.6 percent.
The Thunder held the "Splash Brothers" to reasonable numbers, 20 points for Klay Thompson on 6-for-20 shooting and Steph Curry had 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
The guy who killed them was Marreese Speights, who dropped a season-high 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting.
"Mo Speights was ridiculous, he carried the load for us offensively tonight," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
The Thunder had hoped to keep their heads above water while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healed up from surgeries and their defense is good enough this team could be right around .500 if just a handful more shots had fallen.
Now though, with the reality of 3-12 staring back at him Brooks admitted Sunday night he's started to think about just how deep a hole the Thunder can dig themselves out of when KD and Russ return.
50 wins is usually what it takes to make the Western Conference playoffs, once in a while 47 or 48 might do it. To get to 50 the Thunder will have to go 47-20 the rest of the way and we still don't know for sure how many more games Durant and Westbrook will miss, plus when they do return it's doubtful they will play every game the rest of the way.
So the margin for error is starting to get really skinny.
Brooks, always the optimist, looks at it this way, "it sets us up for a heck of a ride, an amazing regular season run."
A run that better start pretty soon.