Now Comes The Hard Part
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Being able to gather yourself and bounce back with a proper mental attitude after an embarrassing and thorough thrashing may be one of the most difficult tasks in sports.
It’s made even more difficult in playoff situations when you have to again play the same team that just handed you your collective heads.
But that’s exactly the situation the Thunder find themselves in after an embarrassing 124-92 blowout loss to the Spurs in San Antonio that wasn’t even that close.
“We didn’t have that sense of urgency coming out of the gate for whatever reason,” said Thunder guard Andre Roberson.
Thunder fans could probably tell right from the start things wouldn’t go well. Kawhi Leonard got free for a slam 19 seconds into the game. LaMarcus Aldridge, who’d been held to just 14.5 points a game in the first round by the hobbled Memphis Grizzlies, hit 18 shots on the night, most everyone he attempted, good shot, bad shot, circus shot, went in.
The Thunder trailed just Aldridge and Leonard 45-40 at the half. Throw in what the rest of the Spurs were doing and it was 73-40 at halftime.
“We started slow. When you start slow against the best teams that’s what happens,” Serge Ibaka said.
What went wrong?
It would be much easier and quicker to say what went right.
Nothing. At. All.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook gave no hint as to the emotions and thoughts running through their heads during their postgame news conference with reporters.
“I’m not telling you,” Durant said when asked if he was mad or frustrated. “Cause it's over with. Move on. We'll just move past it and figure out what we need to do better. No crazy emotions. It's not like we're upset, screaming at each other in the locker room after the game. That's not going to make things better."
Westbrook indicated he and his teammates just have to do a better job, not that big a deal really.
"They do a good job of helping," he said. "Most of the time, it's help-side defender. Me personally, I never look at the guy in front of me. I look at the help see what's the next move. Not a big problem, just got to find ways to read the help a little bit better and make better decisions."
The Thunder have some experience picking themselves up after an embarrassing loss in these playoffs. After blowing out Dallas in Game 1 of that series OKC was beaten at home in Game 2 when no one thought the Mavs had a chance to win.
Billy Donovan talked about bouncing back from that game this week.
“We come out of Game 2 and the series is tied 1-1 and you’re sitting there and people are saying oh if they drop two down there they’re down 3-1 if they split they gotta get home court back, you got all this drama that gets circled around and to be able to pick yourself up off the mat in a playoff series I think is really important,” he said then.
Donovan then continued saying how important it was not to listen to whatever was being talked about or written about.
“Emotionally being able to keep things to a point of what actually is the truth. What do we have to get better at,” he said then. “Cuz listen coming out of that Game 2 loss the narrative was Kevin missed 26 shots and that’s just what it was and I didn’t think there was anything further from the truth. This is why we lost the game, yeah he happened to have a bad shooting night but these are the things that actually contributed to it.”
Durant (6-for-15) and Westbrook (5-for-19) again didn’t have particularly great shooting nights last night and no one else did either for the Thunder but as bad as the offense was it was the defense that lost this game.
At least in that loss to the Mavs the Thunder could point to a solid defensive effort, Saturday night in San Antonio the Thunder didn’t have anything working right.
Couldn’t defend the pick-and-roll, couldn’t defend the mid-range, couldn’t defend the perimeter and even when the Spurs missed a shot from out beyond the arc they were usually rewarded with free throws. The Thunder fouled a Spurs 3-point shooter four times Saturday night.
Of those 12 free throw attempts the fouls generated San Antonio hit 10.
So many things went wrong you have to wonder if the Thunder coaches even have time to address solutions that could work, Game 2 is tomorrow night after all.
Maybe it’s good to get a game like this out of the way. Hard to imagine things getting worse from here. Even Aldridge admits he’s not likely to come close to duplicating his 38 point, 18-for-23 night.
"It was just one of those nights," he said. "I can't take credit for it. I was just trying to play confident and ended up making some plays that I probably won't make the next game. It was enough for me tonight."
The Thunder would certainly agree with that.