Hey Russell, when are you coming back?
I can’t remember the last time the Thunder got beat like this. This kind of loss was simply something that just couldn’t happen last year, or over the last three seasons or so.
It was a kind of perfect storm last night. Rick Adelman was on top of his game with a veteran Timberwolves squad. That offense can be really tough for young players to defend and they abused the Thunder newbies. They hit open shots, made tough shots and quite frankly, just played harder.
I’m not usually one to go with the whole, “one team played harder than the other” routine, but that’s exactly what last night felt like. OKC’s body languish didn’t look good, they seemed a step late to everything, and Minnesota was locked in from the tip.
Kevin Durant got in foul trouble early and had to come out of the first quarter with about three minutes to go. That didn’t help matters but some of that is on KD for picking up those fouls. Minnesota doubled KD and ignored the other four players literally at all times. Reggie Jackson didn’t make them pay as he went 0-for-5 from three. Thabo Sefolosha went 0-for-2 and 1-for-8 from the field in all. Serge Ibaka was 1-for-4 from three and 3-for-13 overall. Some of that was the Thunder having to rely on guys to take shots from spots they’re not good from. But a lot of those shots were very makeable.
Durant finished with 13 points, which feels like the least he’s ever scored in a game. He didn’t play much either or in the fourth at all. It was a far from perfect game for him as he was frustrated all night for a number of reasons. He can play better and he will, but the problem was the players around him.
We’ve seen Ibaka struggle from the field in the first two games. If he was in midseason form, he knocks down at least half of his shots last night. I am always fine with Ibaka shooting a jumper. He’s a great jump shooter and that’s where he will be most efficient. He has a lot of work to get more comfortable finishing around the rim. Some of the shots he’s taken through two games this season are shots he very rarely has taken in his career so far. It will take time, but him working to develop the ability to score in more ways is something that needs to happen. We’ll have to live with some growing pains.
Sefolosha is a worry because despite his good percentage from three the last two years, you never feel great about him shooting from the outside and a night like last night is exactly why. He’s just always in slow motion and really can’t do anything off the dribble against a capable NBA defender. A quick rant on Thabo: he has to be the worst entry passer in the league. He has such a hard time getting the ball to Durant on the post or coming off screens. It is just so annoying. I know KD isn’t the best at creating space for a passing lane when he is moving off the ball, but how hard can it be to lob the ball into a 6-foot-11 guy with that kind of wingspan? Proof of Thabo’s horrendous ability to make these passes came two years ago when Harden had absolutely zero problems getting the ball to Durant in these situations the entire season. This has always bothered me so much about Harden, and it’s a bigger problem now more than ever with the margin of error so slim for the Thunder.
Jackson was probably the biggest problem last night. He has a very low basketball IQ and relying on him to run the point and start is a problem in a lot of ways. He misses KD all of the time, like ALL OF THE TIME. It clearly frustrates KD, who pouts when he doesn’t get the ball, he shouldn’t do that, but it’s also somewhat understandable. I know Jackson is young, and he can overpower certain defenses with his athleticism, but he’s really a clueless player most of the time. His confidence almost feels like a bad thing because of how often it results in him looking off KD, and then casually acting like that is something that is okay to do.
Jeremy Lamb finished with a career-high 16 points, but this was far from a career game for the second-year pro. I like him shooting almost all of the time. He’s been rushing a lot of looks, but he will get the hang of the speed of the game eventually. Defense is where he was just awful. Kevin Martin abused him and so did anyone else he tried to defend. The game is just going 100 miles per hour for him right now. The problem is that Brooks hates playing someone that is as bad as Lamb is right now on the defensive end. This may make it tough for Lamb to get minutes and possibly even result in a hit to his confidence. But who knows, because it’s impossible to know what he’s ever thinking with that same looks he keeps on his face at all times?
I have no problem with Perkins or Collison or Fisher or Adams or Jones from last night. They all did what they could. Jones is basically playing out of position on the perimeter all of the time and was forced to take a lot of open outside shots and went just 1-for-7 from the field. Adams produces and played instead of Hasheem Thabeet. Fisher can’t create anything but is the only backup point guard on the roster until Westbrook returns.
This loss was embarrassing. If the Thunder had made some of the shots that they are capable of making, it could have been a lot closer. It was a real cold shooting night for them, but they are lacking in the shooting department right now. This game will certainly serve as a wakeup call, and it’s probably a good thing it came so early in the season, because there’s no way around it, the Thunder have a lot of work to do.