OKC ThunderDome

Beyond…Waaaay Beyond…

Game 23: Thunder at Timberwolves

Tipoff 8:00PM EST

Previous game stats

Previous post-game analysis

Key injuries:

Darko(!) – DTD
Martell Webster – OUT
Anthony Tolliver – OUT

Tonight is the rematch from Game 14, where the Thunder cruised to an easy win.  At least they should have, if not for falling apart early in the 4th.  Kevin Love is playing like Moses Malone, but hasn’t got much help anywhere else.  Both teams are coming off of losses and are looking to rebound.

How can the Thunder continue their winning streak (seven in a row) against the Wolves?

What I liked from game 1:

  • Excellent ball movement early in the game.  The Wolves are not a good defensive team, and the shooting percentages they’ve yielded this year bear this out.  They don’t pressure on the perimeter, and neither Love nor Darko offer much resistance on the inside at this point.  I liked what I’ve seen from Durant the last two games – lower shot totals, and a bigger commitment to playing closer to the rim.  The Wolves won’t offer much physical resistance to Durant, so he should be able to get decent positioning in the post.  And if he gets pushed out, or a double team comes? Swing that thing around and hit Green on the other block and let him do the same thing.  The key for Durant though is when looking for shots, bring it toward the rim, and avoid the fadeaways and leaners.  Green and Durant can get better shots than that.
  • Excellent defense on Beasley.  Durant’s buddy can fill it up on any given night, and it was good defense in game one that took him out of his offense.  He isn’t a great scorer off the dribble; spot-up shooting and post-moves are his strength.  By pushing him out high, either by utilizing Durant, Green, or Ibaka on him, they can continue to force him to utilize his 3rd-best offensive stuff.
  • Strong 4th quarter play.  The Thunder surrendered the lead they had been carrying most of the game to go down by six mid-way through the 4th.  Instead of buckling though, they bore down and combined key stops with good offense, and were able to stretch the lead back to 10 for a final victory margin.  It’s puzzling how they can play so focused in three quarters and yet appear completely disinterested in the remaining one, but we have a collection of games thus far which keep bearing it out.

What needs to improve from game 1:

  • Westbrook’s point play has slipped.  This has more to do with the recent performance than game one, but it is probably the most important one.  I’m not saying at all that Westbrook has allowed recent accolades to go to his head.  He appears to be well-grounded, just like the rest of the team.  What I do think is happening though is that he has had to press his offense a little bit, especially with Green and Durant missing multiple games, and it has led to an uncertainty as to when he needs to force the issue and when he needs to play set-up.  The biggest thing holding him and the team back is his amount of turnovers.  You’d expect four TO’s per game from a player like Dwight Howard or Al Jefferson; ball-handling is not their top skill.  But Westbrook is the primary ball handler, and he currently leads the league in turnovers.  Four TO’s per game means that the team is on average giving up six to 10 points each game simply out of carelessness.  It is what makes blowouts close and close games losses.  Even if he has to take his game down a couple notches, this is is an area that must be fixed soon.
  • Team defense.  The Wolves’ points come from the paint; the Thunder bigs need to pack it in and stop them from dominating in the post again.   Take away what they do best.
  • Defend the point.  Luke Ridnour is not flashy, but he is a competent PG who can hit outside shots and distribute the ball.  He runs a lot of screens and rolls well with Love, and Love is capable of extending his shooting range out to the 3-point line.  Ridnour is not particularly quick or agile though, so it would be beneficial to see the much stronger Westbrook play him physically on the perimeter.

Tonight’s mantra: Four Quarters.  I’d be pretty happy about that.


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