Friday, December 5, 2008

Thunder plays better this time around, but still comes up short against the Magic

It doesn't happen very often that a team can go 1-6 under a new coach and you still think, "Boy, they sure are a lot better under this new guy." Clearly, you have to be pretty bad in the first place (and Oklahoma City was) but the improvement under Coach Scott Brooks is obvious.

I know, I know. Another loss for OKC (2-18) tonight in Orlando (15-5), 98-89 to the Magic, dropping the Thunder to a dismal 2-18, but considering the way the first matchup went, this team is different. Completely, 100 percent, totally, different.

The most OKC trailed by tonight was 11 (compare that to the first meeting where the Thunder trailed by as much as 32). The spread was consistently four to eight all night. When you stay close like that, you're going to get some wins. With the way this group is playing under Brooks, there's no way they only win nine games.

The Thunder did some things very well to stay in the game, but also did some things very poorly that cost them.

1. Forced turnovers - Oklahoma City forced 16 Orlando turns, and cashed those in for 16 points.
2. Did much better against Dwight Howard - Howard still got 21 points and 23 rebounds, but he wasn't nearly the same force he was a month ago at the Ford Center.
3. Russell Westbrook - A complete line tonight for Westbrook: 19 points, nine boards and five assists. He also ripped two steals and I counted, got his hands on the ball eight times defensively tonight (tips, pokes, steals, etc.).
4. Johan Petro - We had a a Johan sighting and he played excellent. 15 points in 19 minutes on 7-9 shooting. Nice work off the bench.

1. Free throws (again) - OKC went 14-21 from the line (66.7 percent). When you're not a good team, you just absolutely cannot give away free points.
2. 16 turnovers - And most of those coming in the second half. Down the stretch there were multiple bad decisions and forced passes.
3. Perimeter defense - The Magic started the game 1-8 from the three-point line, but after that went 12-19. It seemed like the Thunder wasn't getting the hint: Hey, Orlando hits threes. Cover them. Like, get on Keith Bogans. He wants to shoot that.

1. Kevin Durant and Jeff Green - Durant had 16 and shot the ball poorly (5-18), but played solid defense and grabbed 10 boards. Green just never really could shake free and had just nine on only seven shots, but did a nice job on the glass and helping on Howard.

Other than the game itself, I can't help but wonder what's going on with Nick Collison. Last year he averaged 28.5 minutes a game but tonight he saw just four. Against the Bobcats, he had six. He's been completely unproductive this year, so I understand the slash in minutes, but why? Why isn't he playing better? Last season he busted his butt and averaged nearly 10 and 10. Now he's seeing under five minutes a game. Is he disgruntled? Hurt? What's the deal?

Two other things I have to say:
A. Brian Davis makes me hurt. I just can't help it anymore. He's trying so hard, he just overdoes it. First of all, there's no way that is his normal voice. There is no way that when he's blessing a meal or asking for a napkin that he talks in the forced, pretend, announcer voice. Well, it may be his normal voice now, since he's probably trained himself to talk like that, but he seriously sounds like when you or your friends act like an announcer with that thing. Second, enough with saying "Wow." when anything happens. If ANYTHING of note happens that unusual or cool, all he says is "Wow." Bogans hit another three late and he just said, "Wow." The ball got stuck between the glass and the rim and he just said, "Wow." And on top of that, don't say "triggers" every single time someone shoots a jumper. Mix it up. I swear there were four straight jump shots he said, "Durant triggers," "Nelson triggers," "Green triggers," "Nelson triggers." I know it's a catchy, fun and different way to say "shoots" but just mix it up. I appreciate the effort Brian. You're doing your best. I definitely enjoy your upbeatness or upbeatability or whatever you want to call it about the team - but just tone it down a little.

B. I cannot look at Scott Brooks without having a quick, five-second mental debate of "Does he look more like Michael J. Fox or Eric Murphy from Entourage?" You be the judge. I think I'm settling on E.

I'm glad I got those things off my chest. Again, solid effort tonight. I love the way the team is playing under Coach Scotty. Improvement is happening and the effort it better. I think Brooks is making a pretty darn good case to get that "interim" label dropped.

One more game in Florida as OKC takes on the Heat (10-9) tomorrow in Miami - at roughly the same time as the Big 12 championship. I like DVR.


Joe said...

upbeatness or upbeatability.

Couldn't find those two words in my Funk and Wagnalls


Sam said...

At what point do you stop lauding the Thunder's improvement after every loss? You've been pulling this ridiculous "Thunder lose, but show signs of improvement" routine since like five games into the season. OK, fine, they are improving. But so is EVERY other team in the NBA - it's what tends to happen as a season progresses and players work themselves back into shape. The problem is that the Thunder aren't improving relative to other teams - hence the continued losing.

On the bright side, you have a 25% chance of getting Blake Griffin.

Royce said...

Well, considering the last time OKC played Orlando, the deficit at one point was 32 and the Thunder lost by 17, I'd say this was an improvement.

I don't know if you watched, but this team is better by far than they were three weeks ago. The game was close throughout - something that wasn't happening a month ago.

Sure other teams are improving and OKC definitely is - the problem is we are at least a month behind because of what we had going on at the beginning of the season.

Sam said...

Keep telling yourself that. You're going to be writing about "improvement" all the way through April and the Thunder's 74th loss.

Oklahoma City Thunder Attendance said...

The thing that the Optimistic Okies fail to realize is that other teams are now getting into the doldrums of the season, and are 100% aware of how much the Thunder suck. They know they can come out flat and likely still pull out a win in the 4th quarter.

Earlier in the year (November to be specific) the NBA season is still very "new" and no matter the team, guys are excited and fresh and ready to play.

The Thunder losing by 10 these past 2 weeks isn't really any better than losing by 20 the first 4 weeks.

You yokels just think it is because you don't know anything about the NBA yet.

Crow said...

Brian Davis is part of the Clay Bennett pattern- guys with resumes ( since he is big on pedigree) but are relatively quite cheap. Brian Davis, PJ, Brooks (even Presti)

Crow said...

Presti's top draft picks hint at a preference for pedigree, i.e. top schools. And his salary cap moves show a preference for cheaper (at least for now). Seems like Clay and Sam are compatible or maybe Clay's influence guides Sam to a larger degree than might be the common outside perception.

Crow said...

Do Clay / Sam try to build the long term team with fewer than average top salaries or a bit lower than average salaries for top players (in part by staying young in the core as long as possible)? I think it is likely they are going to "try". San Antonio did this for as long and as far as they could. Can the Thunder do that in OKC? I don't think it is going to be easy. If the team isn't winning a lot it will be hard to retain or attract, especially at efficient or squeezed pricing. It takes a near perfect storm to pull it off. Having this philosophy or "culture" is the easy part, accomplishing it is very hard.

AD said...

Who ever invented DVR ought to win a Noble prize of some kind...

Anonymous said...

Thunder are showing great signs of improvement in Miami tonight. Losing of course, but only by 13 so far!

Anonymous said...

They are getting really good at losing. You would have to be a dumb Okie to understand why that is good.

Martin said...

Hey, I'm hoping you guys can help me out. I'm a lifelong Thunder fan who is looking for a really well-written Thunder blog with an active discussion/comments section. Yes, the team is terrible, but it would help me get through the season if there was a place where hardcore Thunder fans like me could commiserate and share our insight. Do you guys know of any blogs like that?

Anonymous said...

way to tell someone else to "tone it down". you write like you could very well be brian davis. and i'll wait for the predictable/shameless thunderguru self-promotion following this comment shortly.

Steve H said...

Hope everything is OK with Royce. No posts for Saturday's Miami game, nothing for tonights with the Warriors. If there is foul play involved, I'm thinking the investigation should start with the trolls.