Turnovers and Chalmers too much for OKC
By Addam Francisco
Monday night was the tail end of a back-to-back for the Oklahoma City Thunder in what was supposed to be a good bounce back win against their biggest rival the Memphis Grizzlies. That didn't go exactly as planned with the Thunder losing their second straight game 122-114.
Honestly this was a good game for OKC, with the only major problem being the 20 turnovers leading to 19 Grizzly points. There were many possessions where thunder players looked lost and out of control at times. Also (especially in the first half), there were players standing around on offense waiting for Russell Westbrook to make something happen offensively, which I think contributed to his eight turnovers. Not eliminating all blame from Russell for the turnovers, because there were instances where he made the wrong pass but more than often it looked like his teammates weren't ready for the ball, or didn't match the intensity from the defense when receiving the ball from Russ. The game-plan for Oklahoma City was to increase interior defense against two of the leagues best post players in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph but Mario Chalmers decided to add a perimeter threat to the Grizzlies arsenal, scoring 29 points off 6-of-13 shooting and 4-of-7 from three point range which is what caught Oklahoma City a bit off guard.
This is looking a lot like the tail end of last season when Kevin Durant was out. It's the Russell Westbrook show at times. It's like Oklahoma City's supporting cast doesn't know what to do offensively at unless Russell and Kevin are both in the game, and even then sometimes they look for those two to make plays. That's not going to fly in big games like this, especially playing teams in this tough Western Conference.
Russell had another great game though, scoring 40 points off 13-of-19 shooting, 5-of-8 from three and adding 14 assists to that. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams also had a great game, both offensively and defensively holding Randolph to 12 points and at least containing Gasol who scored 17 points, and more importantly not letting them get anything easy inside as they only shot a combined 11-of-29 from the field. Enes added 16 points shooting almost perfect, 5-of-6 from the field along with collecting 7 rebounds and Adams scored 14 off 4-of-5 shooting. Good things seem to happen when those two are in the game at the same time. Serge Ibaka also added 18 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double. Here in these last few games Serge really looks like the Serge of the past, less finesse, more power. Hopefully it will last the rest of the season because that's one player that can't be stopped if he's dominant inside, along with being an perimeter threat. It was nice to see rookie Cameron Payne knock down his first career 3-pointer at the half-time buzzer, in his hometown. That's always a nice feeling. Payne also got 12 minutes of playing time which is good, and something that should continue so he can get his confidence up.
What's weird is the fact that two of the four players on the Thunder who had a positive plus/minus stat were the two most criticized players so far this season in Anthony Morrow and Kyle Singler. Morrow's plus/minus was plus +9 and Singler at +1. Another weird statistic behind that is combined, those two scored only two points and shot the ball VERY poorly combining for only 1-of-9 shooting. This proves that you don't have to score or put up big numbers to be effective.
Speaking of players that don't put up big numbers but are clearly effective on the court, Andre Roberson who didn't play due to flu like symptoms sure was missed today as the Grizzlies main perimeter players, former Thunder star Jeff Green, Mike Conley, and new addition Mario Chalmers in just his third game with the Grizzlies combined for 71 points... With Andre's length and agility, he could have guarded any of those three players and shut a lot of that down. Lets just sit back and realize that those three players only average a combined 29.2 points a game.
With this loss Oklahoma City falls to 6-5 on the season, going into their three game home-stand. They will play Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans (1-9) Wednesday night. Lets hope OKC eliminates turnovers, improves perimeter defense, and gets some movement on the offensive end other than Russell.