Friday, November 7, 2008
Thunder storms back but comes up short in Utah
The Thunder walked into the half down 29 points to the Utah Jazz and if I weren't writing a recap of the game, I would've turned it off.
I'm glad I didn't.
Because if I had flipped over and started watching Mythbusters, I'd have missed a real character-building, possible turn-the-page kind of game for the Thunder. These guys absolutely played their butts off in the second half in 104-97 loss to the Jazz.
The Thunder outscored the Jazz 68-46 in the second half and clawed their way back into it. And honestly, if the rake across Kevin Durant's arms would've gone OKC's way with the Thunder (1-4) down 12 in the fourth, the game might have ended up much closer. Well, closer in the sense that Utah (5-0) might not have gone on that 9-0 spurt to essentially lock the game away.
But holy crap, had they not played like a middle school jayvee team in the first half, things could have been different. Not only did Oklahoma City go 8-38 in the first half (21 percent) but it looked like the team had quit in the second quarter. Jeff Green looked like he was busting his butt in the frame but honestly, the rest of the group that played the last five of the second looked like they were thinking about their flight tomorrow morning. Every stinking loose ball in the second the Jazz picked up. They couldn't hit a shot. They threw the ball away constantly. There was no reason for anyone to think this team was going to ratchet it up and plays like that in the second half after the first. But boy did they ever.
Two guys got them going after the break. Earl Watson and Desmond Mason. OKC came out of halftime on a 14-3 run. And then followed that one with another 7-2 spurt. As Coach Peej goes to sleep tonight he's going to be wondering, "Why didn't we play like that in the first half?" I have an answer maybe - Utah was getting bored and let up a little. But they sure shouldn't have because this Thunder group didn't lay down and wound up giving the Jazz everything they wanted.
And they just kept plugging. Dez went crazy. He was knocking down jumpers, blocking shots, looking great. Down eight with 5:50 left, it was time to go back to Durant and the starters. This was his time. But like a punch in the nose, the Jazz knocked the lead right back to 15. It happened so fast it was hard to understand. "So wait, Kirilenko had a dunk... then Boozer had one... then I thought we scored? And then Ashton Kutcher hit that three... Wait, how are we down 15 again?" Quite simply, the Jazz realized they were about to crap one away and the Thunder ran out of gas. It's tough to pull off that kind of comeback. But the good thing is they still didn't quit. Green knocked down back-to-back treys and easily played his best game of the year scoring 22 on 6-13 shooting.
Just like Wednesday against the Celtics, the Thunder started hot scoring the first eight with Durant hitting two quick jumpers. Things were looking good. I was nodding my head in approval as I thought the group was going to validate my prediction of a good offensive night. But after only 29 points in one of the worst offensive halves I've ever seen, I was clicking around trying to figure out how to delete this blog. Utah went on a 22-0 run and OKC missed 10 straight shots. Russell Westbrook finally ended the pain by getting to the stripe. But luckily the guys bailed me out with a second half explosion of 68 points.
As for Durant, he scored 24 on 9-15 shooting in just 34 minutes. And before we get upset about his minutes, we have to realize that the group on the floor was bringing the team back led by Dez so KD just had to sit and wait. As for Westbrook, tonight wasn't his best night (6 points in 17 minutes on 1-8 shooting). These type of things happen to rookies. Plus, Watson was playing his best game of the season so it was tough for Russell to get on the floor.
Here's some application to take out of this: This offense is just so inept when they aren't knocking down jump shots or running the floor. If the jumper isn't falling, they aren't scoring. That was the difference in the halves. In the first, OKC shot 21 percent. The second, almost 60 percent. The Thunder ran the floor, upped the energy and started hitting shots. Right now, that's the key for this offense - shot making.There's just no other option. Westbrook brings the run to the rack, but other than that, there's really no Plan B. It would definitely help to have a post-scorer. And as seen tonight, the goal for next year: Get Carlos Boozer. He's like, good.
Utah was the first team to go over 100 on OKC (which shows the defensive improvement) and this was the first time the Thunder has gone over 90 (which shows a step forward on the offensive end). Strange to see so many good things out of a game where the team was down 31 at one point, but there are lots of positives to come out of this one. Let's not forget, this Jazz team is a favorite to win it all this year.
The Thunder gets tomorrow off and then returns to the Ford Center to take on unbeaten Atlanta. Let's all hope for four quarters of solid ball Sunday.