Following a 115-111 loss in Game Two to the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder now find themselves in quite the hole facing a 2-0 deficit. It has become clear how much of an issue the bench will be for the Thunder throughout the rest of this series. Halfway through the third quarter Russell Westbrook went to the bench to rest as the Thunder held a 12-point lead. This is where things got ugly for them.

With Russ on the bench, the Rockets immediately went on a 9-0 run to bring them within three points. Regardless of Westbrook hopping off the bench yelling at Billy Donovan to put him back in, Donovan chose to keep him on the bench to end the quarter. Once the fourth quarter started the Rockets seemed to be in the driver’s seat the rest of the way. Westbrook was getting zero help from his teammates and tried putting the team on his back, however he could not get the job done going 4-18 from the floor in the fourth.

Thunder at Wizards 2/13/17
The Thunder had a hard time all night finding offense anywhere besides Westbrook’s 51 points. It is no secret he has carried their offense throughout the whole season, but servicable contributions from the rest of the team usually does enough to keep them in the game offensively. The Rockets are the best three point shooting team in the league. Although the Thunder outshot them in Game 1 from beyond the arc, the Rockets will not have many poor shooting nights like that, as we saw in Game 2 when they were lights out in the fourth quarter.  Victor Oladipo has to do better than score 11 points if they want to keep up with the red-hot Rockets offense. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter usually carry their weight providing scoring in the paint as well as second chance points. However, the two combined for only 9 points in game two. Andre Roberson is the defensive catalyst of the team and a notoriously bad scorer, yet in both games he has been the team’s second highest scorer. This has been a nice surprise, but these points should be coming from more reliable players who can do this night in and night out.
Thunder at Wizards 2/13/17

Frustration in the Frontcourt

Billy Donovan found himself in a predicament tonight not knowing which big men to play tonight, given that none of them were producing on the floor. Steven Adams found himself in foul trouble throughout the game. Taj Gibson seemed nonexistent during his minutes on the court. Domantas Sabonis came in the game and quickly missed every layup he took. Enes Kanter has been too much of a liability on defense this series, so Donovan was hesitant to give him too many minutes. Jerami Grant, who is a stretch-four at best, has been their most productive in their front court providing hustle, rim protection, and just sheer athleticism to stretch the floor. Coming into this series I predicted that the Thunder would have to dominate the paint and take advantage of their size if they wanted to win but they have been doing almost exactly the opposite of that thus far.

Figure out how to score

The Thunder need A LOT more production from everyone not named Russell Westbrook going forward in this series. It is easy to say how bad the rest of their team looks now that they are down 2-0, but they managed to win 47 games this year with the same team. The gameplan is simple – give Russ the ball and get out of the way. However, they need to figure out how the hell to get buckets in the few possessions when Westbrook is not scoring. The Thunder have a lot of work to do between now and Friday when they play Game 3. I do not know exactly what the answer is for them going forward, but if I could offer Billy Donovan one piece of advice, Kyle Singler is not the answer.

 

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