The Oklahoma City Thunder lost their third straight home game last night. This time, it was to the Cleveland Cavaliers who were coming in off a back-to-back and three straight losses themselves.
Overall, it was once again not a strong defensive performance. But it was in the fourth quarter that the Thunder lost the game as they were outscored 42-28 in the final period. The first three quarters weren’t perfect either, but they were good enough to have the Thunder leading at home and you can’t ask for too much else.
So what happened in the fourth? Where did the breakdowns occur?
The Thunder started the period with a Jackson-Fisher-Lamb-Collison-Ibaka lineup. Nothing wrong with this lineup and they began the period getting Lamb two good looks from three, one of which he made. Then Ibaka made a jump shot a few possessions later.
What hurt with this lineup out there and caused Scott Brooks to burn a timeout was the transition defense, which has been a huge problem for the Thunder the past few games. Jackson and Lamb each were blown by Dellavedova on occasions leading to layups for the Cavaliers. That was four bad points to give up.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant returned to the game with 9:33 left. The Thunder had a couple of good halfcourt possessions, one in which Westbrook drove and kicked out to Fisher for an open three which he made and the second, a KD-Russ pick-and-roll resulting in two free throws for Durant.
Kyrie Irving started to come on with about eight minutes to go in the game. He hits a three at the end of the shot clock and then pushes in transition after a missed pull-up three by Westbrook and finds Anthony Bennett for a midrange jumper. Both of those possessions the Thunder can live with.
The next possession for the Thunder was bad. Thabo Sefolosha had come into the game for Jackson while Fisher remained in the game, presumably because Jackson was not playing well at all. A set is called with Fisher handling the ball in the pick-and-roll, normally this is Jackson, and Fisher can’t do anything, he turns it over badly leading to an Alonzo Gee dunk. Timeout Thunder.
So far, we’ve had two really bad instances of transition defense leading to four points for the Cavs, a really bad turnover by Fisher leading to two more points, and also there was some really weak help defense by Durant leading to an easy layup for Zeller. That’s eight points that basically shouldn’t have happened and there’s still seven minutes left in the game.
From the seven-minute mark to about 3:30 left in the game, the Thunder go from down 86-90 to down 97-98. Everything that happens during this stretch is basically fine. The Thunder have some really good offensive possessions and defensive ones, but the Cavs have made some big shots (a deep three by Kyrie, two free throws by Kyrie, and a corner three by Jack) to remain ahead.
The Thunder were pretty bad overall from this point on. After a Westbrook missed jumper and offensive rebound, Durant misses a three in the face of Luol Deng, which Thunder fans have to live with. Then in transition, Sefolosha inexplicably leaves Kyrie, who hits an open three to make it 101-97 with 3:35 to play. There is no excuse for Sefolosha doing this, just made no sense.
Spencer Hawes made a pair of runners a little bit after this. Those are tough shots that occurred because the Thunder did a good job running him off the three-point line. But the second runner came when Ibaka just got lazy and did not box out Tristan Thompson with 2:39 left for an offensive rebound. This made it 105-99 Cleveland.
Durant misses a three next. After a steal, Ibaka misses a layup. Then Kyrie basically ends the game backdooring Westbrook and finishing with an and-1 layup.
- The Thunder were in perfect position to close out a game at home.
- Three times they were terrible in transition leading to seven Cleveland points.
- Jackson was taken out because he was horrible, leading to Fisher having one really bad turnover that led to two more points.
- Ibaka gives up a weak offensive rebound leading to two points.
- The Thunder were not executing enough in the halfcourt. Durant and Westbrook both pulled up for long jumpers multiple times and missed every time.
- Kyrie made Kyrie plays that you have to live with from one of the best players in the league.
So you have to blame Jackson and Lamb for being lazy early in the quarter. You blame Durant and Ibaka for being pretty soft once each. Then Durant and Westbrook for pulling up for long jumpers when they should have run through the offense more.
That’s a lot of problems to have in one quarter. Give Kyrie and the Cavs credit for playing well and making tough shots.
The Thunder have looked lethargic over the last three games. This happens to NBA teams, but we’re just not used to seeing it from the Thunder. The problem does not have to do with Westbrook, that’s for sure. This has just been a really bad stretch. They’ll probably figure it out soon.