The All-Stars couldn’t make a layup. The MVP candidate couldn’t hold onto the ball. Nobody could keep the foul magnet off the boards. And the backup center couldn’t miss.
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the defending champions in the most bizarre way possible, going scoreless from over the final two minutes and making only 29 field goals. Here were the evening’s strangest events.
Maybe Stickum Would Help?: Every thinking fan knows that the Thunder rank last in the NBA by every possible turnover metric. That is only part of the problem. The larger issue is the nature of those Thunder miscues, which so often lead to opponent fast breaks.
Kevin Durant’s errors tonight epitomized this tendency. He coughed up the ball seven times, losing his handle on five different drives and throwing two passes to Dallas defenders. The Mavericks took each lost possession straight back down the floor, and only the young OKC legs hustling back on defense prevented disaster each time.
If Durant, Russell Westbrook (second in the NBA in both turnovers per game and per minute) and Co. were traveling or throwing the ball out of bounds, they could at least set up their defense after mistakes. Their propensity for forcing the action through ill-advised dribbles or passes makes their giveaways far more costly.
High-Percentage Shot?: The Thunder’s eight missed layups might be cause for alarm, were it a regular occurrence. Since the Thunder currently sit in a tie for first place in the NBA in at-rim field goal percentage (courtesy of hoopdata.com), the informed fan can rightly judge tonight’s inaccuracies an aberration.
In fact, the Thunder average about eight at-rim misses per game. They just usually attempt many more: 23.9 per game, with 16.1 makes. Tonight, as Westbrook and Durant struggled through miserable shooting nights (12-38 combined), impatience apparently made their trigger fingers itchy.
Should He Revive His Twitter Feed?: Tonight’s game featured three players with the dubious distinction of being in the bottom 10 at their position for per-minute fouling. Kendrick Perkins triumphed in tonight’s foul-off, being whistled only twice in 32 minutes while hauling down a season-high 14 rebounds.
Five days into March, Perkins already has more games (two) with double-digit boards than he did in December and January combined (one).
The giant front line of Perkins, Serge Ibaka, and Durant has been frequently ineffective this season. If Perkins can play with enough energy to make it a viable alignment, no Western foe could match the quality size.
And Who Might You Be?: Fans who enjoy that sort of thing were disappointed to see Brendan Haywood limp off with an ankle sprain on the game’s first possession, since it robbed them of a chance to see two of the league’s most foul-prone centers in an epic clash.
Fortunately, Ian Mahinmi – another notorious hacker – stepped in and provided an unexpected foil, with an unconscious shooting night (5-6 field goals, 3-3 free throws). Should the teams meet in the playoffs, one would hope that the Thunder’s Mahinmi scouting report grows a bit.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.