OKC Thunder in the news: Bad time to be losing, Melo bench-gate

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 20: Carmelo Anthony
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 20: Carmelo Anthony /

With five games remaining and four losses in the last five the OKC Thunder have hit a wall at the worst possible time.

Body language of players leaving the court after the OKC Thunder overtime loss to the Nuggets spoke volumes. Clearly the players are frustrated, some are angry and others look simply despondent.

Watching Paul George exit was the most disconcerting. And, arguably his game play during these last five games is also serving up reason for concern. Granted, this year was the first time I’ve watched George play every game, so maybe my previous take is skewed. My assessment of his play came from years of watching him go mano a mano versus LeBron James. Or, almost single handedly dragging his Pacers past the Raptors.

Frankly, this PG13 is foreign to me. I’m baffled by his reluctance to make cuts and move the ball. I suppose this is part and parcel of what the OK3 have dealt with all season.  Yet, as the season draws to a close the preference would be for OKC to enter the postseason on a high. Rather than looking like they’d rather be anywhere but together on the court.

Bench-gate Melo Mystery:

To that end, the end of the regulation offered up some oddities. First of all, for a coach whose shown reluctance to use his bench over the stars it was strange Donovan picked a night when Melo was rolling offensively to sit him throughout the fourth quarter.  As Stephen Dolan poignantly observed in the game roundup– no one expects Melo to be a defensive stalwart. It begs the question why Donovan didn’t attempt this copious times in season when Melo didn’t have it offensively.

Following the game the combination of comments was similarly odd. Carmelo Anthony said he didn’t understand why he wasn’t utilized in the fourth. But, Anthony also added it was his decision not to re-enter the game once Jerami Grant hit a three pointer.

We’ll forever be dissecting the coaching decisions of this season, but at the top of the list will be why Donovan refused to use his bench, give them consistent minutes or attempt to develop some form of chemistry with them during the season.

Movement has to be key focus:

As per the above video the lapses in decisions in clutch time surely won’t bolster the troops belief in themselves. Again, this comes back to the fact the OKC Thunder haven’t made ball and player movement a priority this season. Inconsistency has plagued the squad throughout this campaign and when they find themselves in trouble the natural tendency is to revert to Russ watching.

Westbrook is getting killed for his decision making and in fairness part of the blame does fall on him. However, if you pull up every piece of film from this season when the OKC Thunder have lost 99.9 percent of the time the four players on court are standing in place – – watching Russ.

When OKC is in this mode  all the opponent has to do is spread out to stop his drive and be in position to close out on catch and shot opportunities.

In games the Thunder have dominated or where their offense has been lethal (Warriors and Raptors to name a few) the team is in constant motion and the ball is moving.  With just five games remaining it’s difficult to know whether the Thunder can use these final games to consistently establish the ball/player movement option. Bottom line, if they don’t the offseason could arrive much earlier than anyone anticipated.

Other teams recognize issue of emulating MVP Russ:

More from Thunderous Intentions

Haley O’Shaughnessy, scribe for the Ringer recent article points to other teams issues with just having one star (or one primary player a team relies on for the majority of their key plays). Like the OKC Thunder of 2016-17 when everything depended on Westbrook other teams are going through a similar situation this season.

And, like that iteration of the Thunder, those teams are recognizing how large the load can be for the superstar. As O’Shaughnessy points out the Pelicans are living it with Anthony Davis, to an extent the Wolves with Jimmy Butler (via his two way dominance)  and most pronounced the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"Last season’s MVP was Russell Westbrook. He was Oklahoma City’s ball handler, and its outside shooter, and the one inside crashing the glass, and, arguably, the one calling the plays. The only duty not attached to Russell Westbrook with an and was benchwarmer, because when Westbrook did rest—like for six minutes in Game 5 of the first round against Houston, for example—Oklahoma City’s power cut out."

The truly interesting aspect of this, is aside from Davis the other teams have better talent than the Thunder had on last year’s squad. Which only adds to the lore of Westbrook.

Westbrook Hosts Charity Why Not Bowl? Event:

On a lighter front, with this week’s down time for the team Russell Westbrook used the opportunity to host his annual bowling tournament.

Like all of his philanthropic events this falls under Westbrook’s charity Why Not? and in this instance it was tied to children’s literacy.

As Oklahoma’s News 4 highlighted in their review the night was a success and son Noah was even on hand. By clicking the above link you’ll notice Noah is growing up and looks like he’s taking after his father in the looks department.

Steven Adams apparently decided to forgo the typical bowling shoes to don flip flops as the video/tweet below demonstrates.

That’s it for OKC Thunder in the news, March 31. Moving into April and the fool who you should watch out for Sunday. Make a point to drop in for the game day preview, power rankings update and of course our typical content on your favorite team.