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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Brooks

Why OKC is struggling in the playoffs

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Oklahoma City is down 3-2 headed to a Game 6 in Memphis. If the Grizzlies close out at home, it will be a disastrous result for the Thunder who haven’t had a healthy playoff exit since the 2012 Finals and who would be forced to celebrate Kevin Durant’s MVP in a press conference, 2007 Dirk Nowitzki style. If they get through the Grizzlies, this series and losing 2 games at home already, doesn’t bode well for them in the 2nd round and beyond.

What is happening? Scott Brooks is getting the biggest blame, Russell Westbrook as always has his detractors and Kevin Durant’s disappointing numbers, possibly from fatigue, haven’t helped. There’s also the fact that the Grizzlies may just be one of the 4 best teams in the league with the Heat, Spurs and Clippers and sometimes, you just get took by an even bigger dragon.

My explanation for the Thunder’s problems and why I never expected them to get out of the first 2 rounds heading into these playoffs, can be explained in an 7 word sentence:

They don’t move the ball well enough

Ball movement is crucial in the postseason. When I envision most of the great playoff runs, I see teams who are surgical dissecting the opponent’s halfcourt defense. By moving the ball they pressure the defense into exposing an open shot sometime in the 24 second shot clock. From the stars to the shooters to the big guys, if a team is smart and patient enough they can find the shots. The phrase “read and react” is important when understanding how great offenses beat great defenses.

For having one of the best records in the league the Thunder are not good enough at this. Whether it’s because of Russell Westbrook’s erratic of play, Scott Brooks lack of an offensive system, the insistence to play non-offensive threats like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, or a combination of factors. They are not a team who patiently dissects the opponent or excels at read and reacting. Instead of working the body to weaken their opponent, they just throw haymakers and hope they land.

Consider the example of the 2011 Mavericks, one of my favorite recent champions. Offensively they gave the opponent a no-win situation. If you didn’t cover Dirk with more defenders, he annihilates his matchup. The moment you put extra defensive attention on Dirk, the Mavs supporting cast used their passing skill and basketball IQ, to find one of their many open 3 pt shooters or bigs at the rim. They at once had the most unguardable one on one scorer in the league and a team masterful at taking advantage of it once you left other defenders open to guard him. The combination meant there was practically nothing teams could do except hope they missed good shots.

Ideally the same could be built around Durant, but with an even more talented star. But right now the Thunder are not a skilled or smart enough team, or are not getting the right message from the coach, to play a read and react style or to master their opponent tactically. The Thunder are losing for the same reason John Calipari’s Kentucky only has one national title so far, despite having the most talented team virtually every season. In the tournament Kentucky’s age and less refined style of play, usually catches up to them. The difference is Cal’s team’s warts come with the territory of building rosters around often raw freshman. In OKC’s case, they can build whatever type of team they want and have just chosen this path.

Written by jr.

April 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

8 thoughts on the Thunder’s elimination

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Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders at ...

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1. For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder exit the playoffs in a way that leaves us all excited for the future. One of the biggest turnarounds in history last year to get to the 1st round, now they get to the conference finals. They remain precocious as hell, and short of some major blow up in the off-season, I expect they’ll be the favorites to win the Western Conference next year, as well as to be the dominant team in the West going forward.

2. I think people need to keep some perspective though. This was a Thunder team that achieved their record in the regular season largely by beating mediocre teams (they struggled against the elite), and that were very fortunate that instead of having to face the best team in the conference in the second round (as a #4 seed should), they played an 8 seed. And even then, they only beat the 8 seed with the help of home court advantage. It’s wrong to talk about the series with the Dallas Mavericks as if it was the gentleman sweep that a 4-1 victory implies – the Mavs had to turn it on completely and get a bit lucky just to win 2 of 3 home games. However, the fact remains that after getting a fortunate draw, they managed only 1 win when faced with a true contender.

Bottom line is that no one should look at this Thunder team like one that took the playoffs by storm this year.

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From the bad coaching files: Scott Brooks leaving Thabo Sefolosha in

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Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach...

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

If you were watching Game 4 of the Dallas-Oklahoma City series last night, you saw one of the biggest 4th quarter collapses in NBA Playoff history. The Thunder were leading by 15 with under 5 minutes left and lost in overtime.

The turning point was James Harden fouling out, of which Dallas went on a 17-2 run immediately following. But for me what really sunk the Thunder was Scott Brooks. Specifically, Brooks leaving Thabo Sefolosha in the game the entire last 5 minutes and overtime.

If you’ve watched the Thunder regularly, you’ll have seen the team strugging offensively with Sefolosha is in the game. The concept is simple – Since Sefolosha is a virtual non offensive threat, the man defending him usually leaves him to go play a free safety role on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Compounding this, since the C position is usually played by Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collision, the Thunder are left playing virtually 3 on 5 with Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka. When 2 of 5 defenders are free to double team without repurcussions, it makes the offense disastrous. Read the rest of this entry »