What To Do...What To Do
By Randy Renner
We still have a couple days left to chew on and stew over what's happened to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first two games of the Western Conference playoffs.
Game 3 isn't until Sunday evening by then the Thunder will have had time (hopefully) to come up with a plan that works. Most fans and most media members (including me) are talking about changes to the starting lineup.
The man who will pull the trigger on that (or not) has generally been one to simply say, "we just need to play better."
That usually doesn't sit to well with anyone outside the Thunder bunker these days but guess what?
Scott Brooks is exactly right.
His players HAVE to play better and yes he HAS to coach better, otherwise we might as well quit wasting time on this series with the Spurs and go ahead off on vacation.
The Thunder have been crippled by Serge Ibaka's injury, but Serge not being out on the court can't shoulder all the blame for what happened in Game 2. Game 1, sure, guys getting used to some new roles, adjusting on the fly all that.
Game 2 should have been better, not dramatically worse.
From now on the Thunder superstars, NBA MVP Kevin Durant and All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook have to play like superstars again, especially Durant.
Those two have to bring back the "Oooh" and "Awww" and "WOW!" moments and stay away from all the "Oh S--t" moments.
KD didn't turn away from some of his problems on the defensive end in Game 2.
"I messed the game up at the end of the second quarter," Durant admitted during the post game news conference. "I got hit on the screen and Danny Green got open for a three, I over helped, and he got another three and then (Manu) Ginobili hit the three. All those plays was on me. It was my fault and I take full responsibility for it. Wish they wouldn't have happened. I can't get them back now, but I'll take that one. As I said, we shouldn't have been down that much at halftime, but I made three bonehead plays."
On offense neither Durant nor Westbrook could get anything going. 13-for-40 shooting and practically no trips to the free throw line (10 for the entire game for the entire team).
No matter what Brooks does or doesn't do with the starting lineup, that HAS to change. KD and Russ HAVE to have big games, at this point they probably both have to have great games. Durant going off for 40 and Westbrook with another of his playoff triple doubles.
They have to be aggressive and they have to hit shots and they have to have some help from everyone else.
And despite what Russ said after Game 2, "offense wasn't a problem tonight, man. They just scored points," offense WAS a problem. The Thunder scored 77 points in Game 2, unless you're playing Milwaukee and the Bucks are having an off night, 77 points will get your butt beat every single night in the NBA.
So yes as Coach Brooks would say everyone needs to play better and they have to do it on both ends of the floor and in order for that happen there probably needs to be a starting lineup change.
Whether it's a change that's happened before (Caron Butler in and Thabo Sefolosha out) or something really radical like starting either Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb (6-for-8 in Game 2) for Thabo at shooting guard, putting Perry Jones in at power forward and Steven Adams in at center, or something in between, a change is needed and is almost certainly on the way.
The Thunder did not have an official practice yesterday but pretty much everyone showed up at the facility anyway. Coaches have been huddling with each other trying to come up with a game plan and today the team will start to practice whatever the new look (assuming there is one) will be.
All isn't lost yet.
But if the Thunder can't solve their issues by the start of Game 3 on Sunday night, all may very well be lost by the end of Game 4 late Tuesday night.