The Oklahoma City Thunder are now behind in a playoff series for the first time since the Western Conference Finals last season vs. the San Antonio Spurs.
The Thunder lost Game 3 in Memphis yesterday afternoon 87-81 and the Grizzlies now have a 2-1 series lead.
You can’t really kill the Thunder’s defense yesterday. They may not have made all of the stops they needed to down the stretch and Marc Gasol was a killer, but the Thunder only scored 81 points and that is unacceptable.
The Thunder shot 36.4 percent from the field, 27.8 percent from three and 63.2 percent from the line.
What went wrong in Game 3?
Kevin Durant beginning to wear down
Durant was playing like a superhero ever since the Russell Westbrook injury. Literally, every game since then he was able to keep his efficiency with his increased workload, something no one should have expected.
In Game 3, we saw Durant brought back down to reality for a little. He ended up with 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists but it was the easy misses that stood out. He missed a bunch of bunnies by his standards after working extra hard to get the ball and then went just 5-for-9 from the free throw line including two crucial misses with 39 seconds to play and the Thunder trailing 85-81.
It’s easy to say that Durant is being asked to do too much but that is simply the world the Thunder are living in right now. There is no other option. Yesterday was just the first time that this really looked like a problem. There’s nothing wrong with this being a problem. You just have to win four of seven in a series to advance and that is still possible.
Serge Ibaka not stepping up
I wrote right after the Westbrook injury that Ibaka was going to be affected the most by Westbrook’s absence. Westbrook captured so much of the defense’s attention and Ibaka’s consistent open looks from midrange were almost always because of Westbrook’s chaotic driving.
I am disappointed to say that I was absolutely right about this.
Ibaka isn’t ready to step up and start posting up on his own and getting shots on his own. He never had to and is a long ways away from developing that in his game. It doesn’t help either that Memphis is one of the best defensive teams in the league and one that Ibaka isn’t going to be able to get a bunch of offensive boards against.
Ibaka took 17 shots in Game 3 and made six. This was actually a good sign because before Game 3, it was hard to imagine Ibaka even getting open enough to take that many shots. The Thunder are trying hard to get him going and his confidence just wasn’t there yesterday.
Not enough small ball
Even though the Thunder went small a lot more yesterday, they need to do it more. It was a great sign to see the Thunder commit to this more than ever in Game 3 and should give Thunder fans hope going forward in this series.
How much worse is Durant at guarding Gasol than Kendrick Perkins is? Not nearly enough to make up for how much better the Thunder are on offense small vs. Memphis.
I still feel like the shots Durant is getting aren’t that tough. This could be worse. With the small lineups out there, it makes it even easier for KD.
The cure is obviously to bench Perkins and hardly ever play him again, maybe five minutes a night. The rotation totally needs to be changed to have Nick Collison start in his place otherwise this won’t work as well.
That’s not going to happen though so this is just another thing the Thunder will need to overcome in this series.
The Thunder still have Durant. Durant is the type of player that will step up when his team’s back is against the wall.
The momentum of this series can change drastically when it goes back to OKC, even if the Thunder are down 3-1 at that point.
This series is not over at all. Just because it’s been ugly for the Thunder, that doesn’t mean they are done. Who thought it wasn’t going to be ugly anyway?
The Thunder aren’t getting blown out and they probably never will against the Grizzlies. They had their chances in both of the last two games and they’ll be there again in Game 4. We’ll see if they step up.