Oklahoma City Is In The Sunken Place Without Roberson
By: A. Suave Francisco
Who would've thought that losing Andre Roberson would be the defining moment of the season for Oklahoma City? A significant portion of the Thunder fan base was ready to part ways with last year's NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection after the first round playoff series loss to the Houston Rockets. Now, fans are mourning losing him for the season and feel the effect of a Dre-less defense.
Sunday against the Lakers was OKC's fourth straight loss since losing Roberson and their fourth straight performance where everyone except Paul George looked completely aloof on defense. Sadly, that poor defense effects the offense and that's been the biggest problem.
In Oklahoma City's 108-104 loss, they displayed no heart until the final two minutes of the game. The lack of awareness defensively is troubling and their energy level is very unsatisfactory. Starting the game, the Thunder let the Lakers get off to a 12-4 lead, where OKC simply couldn't shoot the ball. Los Angeles also out-hustled Oklahoma City, looking like the young, scrappy team the Thunder were eight years ago. In the opening quarter alone, the Lakers outscored the Thunder 8-0 in second-chance points.
The game was back-and-forth through the next three and a half quarters. OKC's highly criticized bench brought the team back for the third time in four games during the second quarter but that was short lived as it appeared that OKC couldn't maintain the energy.
It wasn't until the final 2:17 that the Thunder started showing some real signs that they could possibly win the game in a comeback effort. During that time, they played with an energy and an urgency that they simply didn't play with through the previous 46 minutes. However, by that time the mountain was to steep to climb. They simply couldn't get past the Lakers. It was too little too late.
Roberson is the defensive anchor of this team and it's obvious. They need him for more than just defense and it shows. Not having Roberson on the floor hinders the team's growth. It alters the chemistry, the team's rotations, which is vital to a well-oiled NBA team and rhythm on both ends of the floor. Yes, offensively as well. He may be a 22.2 percent three-point shooter and a 31.1 percent free throw shooter but his slashing ability opens up more options for Westbrook and helps the offense flow a little bit better.
The loss of Roberson may be what breaks the season. Especially if general manager Sam Presti can't ink a deal, bringing a worthy substitute to this Thunder squad in the coming days (deadline Feb. 8). They've lost four straight and have a daunting matchup on the road against the Golden State Warriors tomorrow, the second most electrifying offense in the NBA and one of the best defensive teams. Considering they've given up an average of 112.8 points during this losing streak, who are we to think they'll come to some huge revelation and hold Golden State to anything less?