Last night the Oklahoma City Thunder dropped game five to the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime by a score of 100-99. Some people will point to Joey Crawford going crazy for no reason and ruining Kevin Durant‘s free throw rhythm. Others will blame the refs for missing a clear foul on Serge Ibaka on the final play of the game. Personally, I blame the Thunder and their constantly relying on the three point shot.
The Thunder shot the ball 31 times from beyond the arc last night, making 12 of them. When they were down 1 in the final couple of minutes in regulation, they shot threes. They weren’t even open threes, because that would mean that OKC ran a play and not just went one on one.
Oklahoma City is shooting 28% from three in the postseason, third worst of the 16 teams who qualified for the playoffs. They shot 36% during the regular season, which placed them 14th. They took an average of 22 threes during the regular season. They’ve upped that number to 26 during the playoffs.
Durant and Russell Westbrook alone take 8 threes per game. Durant is shooting 28% from beyond the arc while Westbrook is shooting 18%. Those numbers should tell both guys to stop shooting the three so much. Westbrook is one of the most explosive and athletic point guards in the league. When he wants to get to the basket, there’s little that can stop him. Durant is the best scorer in the league. He doesn’t have to rely on three point shots. He’s good enough to get to the high percentage scoring areas.
Westbrook and Durant have turned into predictable offensive players. If they miss a three, they have to keep shooting until they make one. And when they finally make one, they’ll shoot another one because they think they’re hot. OKC fans have lived with this with Westbrook, because for all his flaws, he’s still an outstanding player who can change the game. Durant has always been the rational one to balance out Russell. Now Durant has become irrational as well. One irrational confidence guy, you can live with. Two and you’re doomed.
Kevin Durant has taken more threes than free throws. Like me type that again. Kevin Durant, who led the league in free throw attempts with 805, over 100 more attempts than the second closest player, has taken 39 free throws and 42 threes in the playoffs. Westbrook is even with 38 free throws and 38 threes.
Then there are guys like Caron Butler and Derek Fisher, who provide little offense outside of standing beyond the arc and waiting for the ball to come to them so they can, you guessed it, shoot a three. Ibaka isn’t afraid to take a three, Reggie Jackson has improved his range this season, even Nick Collison will take an open three. Pretty much the only player on OKC who won’t shoot from that range is Kendrick Perkins, but let’s not give him any ideas.
Part of the problem is Scott Brooks, who doesn’t have an offensive playbook and allows his star players to do whatever they want on the court. When there’s no discipline from the coach, there’s no discipline from the players. Ultimately, it falls on the players, though. Durant and Westbrook have to be smart enough to know the situation. When you’re down one, you don’t need three. You especially don’t need a contested three after no offensive movement.
Charles Barkley says it every postseason, “you don’t live by jumpers, you die by jumpers.” That’s always been his criticism of Oklahoma City in the playoffs. Instead of proving him wrong, OKC continue to prove him right. And if they don’t fix things by Thursday, their Championship dream will be dead once again.