By Addam Francisco
Hopes were high for Oklahoma City Friday night as Derek Fisher returns to the Chesapeake Energy Arena... As a head coach. Unfortunately he was the head coach of the opposing team the New York Knicks, and beat his former squad in a nail-biter 93-90. Had to be a great feeling for him but the Thunder falling to 7-6 on the season that's expected to be such a promising season has to be nothing but frustrating for OKC.
There were multiple problems displayed Friday night for the Thunder, most of which being a lingering problem all year. Defense, and ball movement seem to be the Thunder's biggest problem this year, along with inconsistent shooting. With this shooting issue, it seems like one game everyone will be hitting on all cylinders then the next game they'll shoot 38 percent from the field, like tonight.
Defense seems to be one of the major issues of this team thus far in this early season, the Knicks came into the Peake and only dropped 93 points, which to the average fan looks great defensively for OKC but what they tend to overlook is the fact that New York shot 45.8 percent from the field and even worse (for us) 60 percent from three point line. Yes, you read correctly... 12-of-20 from the three point line. Thats a a little more than a third of their points right there. In order for Oklahoma City to make any kind of run in the NBA, better yet the Western Conference, they are going to have to play perimeter defense on these teams. They have to stop letting players like Lance Thomas (former Thunder player) score 12 points on us. However, a positive side I saw from our defense was Dion Waiters. Along with his 16 points, he played outstanding on-ball defense, and he did a great job of jumping the passing lanes. That led to three steals and one forced steal. Oklahoma City needs Dion to play like this every game, along with Andre Roberson. It would be nice to see other guards play on-ball defense like those two.
Ball movement is a slight problem for the Thunder this year, just like it was last year when Kevin Durant was out for that extended time. OKC cant continue to rely on Russell to make plays, just seeming to wait for the ball to bounce off the rim perfectly for an offensive rebound. Although offensive rebounds are great, there are many times where they wouldn't have been necessary if someone would have made an extra pass or two. When watching other elite teams like Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland play, that seems to be the common denominator... BALL MOVEMENT. That's the key to offensive efficiency! Even though OKC is at the top of the league in scoring, imagine where it could be if there was more ball movement. Russell is known for taking a lot of shots, that's what is expected out of him but 34 points off 11-of-29 shooting is outrageous and there were at least 10 shots that he had to force because there weren't any players moving on the offensive end to get open for a good shot.
Although OKC outscored the Knicks in the paint 52-16, they lost the game. Thats weird, why? Well when the Knicks shoot 12-of-20 from the three point line and we shoot 3-of-29, that doesn't seem as crazy. As a team Oklahoma City only shot 38 percent from the floor and 10 percent from the three point line. Oh yeah, just to mention they missed five free throws. This shooting percentage however, ties back to ball movement. Those two things seem to go hand in hand. If you don't move the ball around to get an open shot, that causes for desperation threes late in the shot-clock, something that was obviously happening tonight. With OKC's diverse players like Serge Ibaka being an inside and outside threat you would think that there would be many options for open looks, but there isn't.
Oklahoma City falls to 7-6 and you can feel the tension due to frustration in the locker room. Not much interaction, no jokes like they normally do, just a shower, maybe an interview and that's it. Hopefully Kevin Durant's return on Sunday against the streaking Dallas Mavericks (9-4) will motivate this team to start playing like they know they can play, fixing these three problems, defense, ball movement, and shooting.