As most Oklahoma City Thunder fans didn’t like the final score today in the Chesapeake Arena, what can we take from this total domination by the Eastern Conference’s best Cleveland Cavs?
- Recognize that the Thunder must play a 48 minute game to have a chance to win against a Cleveland team. Regardless of shooting percentages, the NBA is a league of effort, by every player. Against inferior competition, teams like Oklahoma City, Golden State, and the Los Angeles Clippers, can win ugly, not playing their best, including stretches of the game where the effort is not totally grand. But in games between the best teams, a total effort has to be the norm, and today, as the Thunder went through their game sets, the effort didn’t show up. That goes especially with Kevin Durant, as his hustle was lacking, especially in the third quarter as the Caves ran the Thunder out of their own gym. A perfect example was a turnover by KD, followed by his dejection of not getting a call, allowing the Cavs to run the floor and get an easy basket. KD’s lack of getting his ass back on defense was telling. On another play Russell Westbrook broke for a great drive, dunking hard, exciting the crowd. On the next trip down the floor the Cavs 2nd string point guard Matthew Dellavedova, the victim of Westbrook’s great play, made an easy drive to the basket as Westbrook was watching, and delivered an easy two. One great play followed by lack of defensive effort and you are back where you stared. That will not win championships when that plays out over and over during a game, season, career.
- Oklahoma City is being marked by other elite teams as a soft team. Enes Kanter hit the floor at least five times trying for offensive rebounds in the second half. You could look for a missed shot and after a block out of Kanter was on the floor looking up. In the first half the Cavs carved up the Thunder defense for easy baskets around the rim, on drives or uncontested layup from the set piece. An example of dominating in setting their picks, running their offense, and doing whatever they please. J.R. Smith’s open threes the he knocked down were results of a hard pick set and Dion Waiters not getting to the shooter. Waiters played soft all game. Adams held his own in the first quarter, but as the game wore on, the lobs for dunks were working for the Cavs didn’t work for Adams. Serge Ibaka and Kanter are not playing winning basketball as their presence on the defensive end was not good. Ibaka has been turned into a shooting forward and not a rim protector and his defense and rebounding has suffered. Soft is what I call Serge. As what Indiana did earlier in the week, the Thunder bigs are being taken to the cleaners, especially on defense. The Thunder are very limited inside as Nick Collison is just a shell from what he had been a year or two ago. As for Mitch McGary, who knows. Coach Donavan seems to not like what he brings to the table. He is just drawing a paycheck. As for the new guy Randy Foye, I don’t expect much. Morrow, Waiters, Singler bring absolutely nothing to the table here. This has become a soft team.
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook might be the only two Thunder that can actually make this team better. It is not a hidden fact that the two Thunder stars are elite, so elite, that you could without much of an argument, say they are top five anywhere on the planet. Yet, for OKC to be the team that wins a title, the way they are playing this year is not going to even get close to seeing gold. Westbrook is the best player on the team in that he has the ability to get everyone involved in the offense. But as I have already mentioned, he is becoming a liability of defense because he takes possessions off. He can make the great steal but more often give up the easy two. As for Durant, he is playing some of his best overall ball in his career, and many times he scores without much effort. But for consistently, the two superstars can forget about the other three on the court, and there is a reason. Their supporting cast is not what GM Sam Presti thought it might be. As already mentioned, the Thunder have too many insignificantly mediocre player and in the course of a game they become a chain of fatal strangulation for the team. The fact is that the Thunder are just not quality deep right now.
- Coaching can be a deciding factor but right now Billy Donavan is still learning the pro game. You would think not. It does not take a lot to see some Thunder players that are just killing the team with their play. And to continue to play Dion Waiters while he screws up, misses shots and layups, and allows his man to light it up (Smith had 15 on him tonight while Waiters had 0 while Smith was playing him) is not working. Reward terrible play by giving more minutes? No, this is not college. Get messy Billy, and get tossed from a game….your players will appreciate that. Show that Russell emotion as a coach. It is a fact that Donavan is a coach that will always lay blame on himself and not his players. That can be a downfall for this coach. We have a coach more like Scott Brooks than we think. He cannot tell Dion, you smelled tonight. He can’t tell Russell, that effort on defense won’t cut it. That is the difference from a winning coach (Gregg Popovich) and a coach trying appease players.