I usually go into quarter-by-quarter recaps, but I can’t do it here. I’ll end up stewing yet again.
The Thunder defense in the last 15 minutes of the game made me absolutely sick. It’s easy to watch Gerald Green drop 41 points when standing around and watching is exactly what you’re doing. Hell, Green had 25 points in the 3rd quarter alone. He’s had some 30+-point games already this season. You disrespect Green by not defending him, and he will obviously make you pay for it. It’s fairly obvious that the Thunder failed to do their homework on this man.
Green wasn’t the only one taking advantage of their “deer in the headlights” stupidity that evening. Goran Dragic poured in 22 points, and Channing Frye added 11. I guess letting three starters combine for 74 points wasn’t enough of an embarrassment, so they went ahead and let the Morris brothers combine for 39 off of the Suns bench (Markieff: 24, Marcus: 15).
The most telling stat of the game is how the Thunder had given up 101 points by the start of the 4th quarter. And sadly, the Thunder had a 16-point lead in the 3rd at one point. The game ended with a128-122 final that drops the Thunder to 46-16, while lifting the Suns to 36-25.
It’s not like we were hurting too bad offensively. Russell Westbrook’s 36 points led all scorers, as he seemed to be the only one who could hit any shots at all down the stretch. Kevin Durant dropped 34 points, but was having real trouble getting decent looks towards game’s end. Why? Because unlike the Thunder , the Suns were actually playing defense. Serge Ibaka dropped 18 points, but was having the same troubles as Durant in the 4th.
Although I will admit I liked what I saw out of new acquisition Caron Butler. He dropped 14 off of the Thunder bench, doing so via 4-of-8 from downtown, and adding two free throws.
You can blame poor shot selection down the stretch, as with 2:22 to play, the game was tied at 118-all. Leave it to the Thunder to brick an unnecessary 3-ball, and give up 2 points at the other end. No big deal. 2 points would still tie the game. So they opt instead to go for another unnecessary 3, and give up the 2 points that sealed the deal for the Suns. The deal was sealed because with the way our defense looked like swiss cheese, a 4-point lead with only 45.9 seconds to play proved to be insurmountable.
Though most of the blame needs to be shouldered by the defense as a whole. I don’t see how they expect to win if standing around and watching opposing players drain shot after shot is what “Thunder Basketball” is turning into. An NBA Finals trip will certainly be a pipe dream if they can’t fix their defensive issues. This is the 3rd out of the last 5 games where the Thunder have given up 110 or more.
Although the next game is against the Lakers this Sunday. This is the team that allowed 142 points from the Clippers (Although to be fair, the Clippers managed 125 against a Thunder defense that was actually playing pretty tight that day.). If the Thunder can’t get it done at Staples Center against a mightily struggling (mainly due to the sheer number of injuries their squad has taken) Lakers team, then they should find themselves very concerned at that point. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Nick Young are all listed as out, while Jordan Hill is still day-to-day himself. Although it’s becoming obvious that the absences of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins are affecting this Thunder squad significantly, especially defensively. The Thunder-Lakers match-up is scheduled for a 2:30pm CST tip-off, and will be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal, and ABC.