What Went Wrong for the Oklahoma City Thunder
1. James Harden
- Harden’s nightmare series ended Thursday night with the Thunder’s Game 5 loss. After scoring double digits in every postseason game leading up to the Finals, James hit that mark in just 2 of 5 Finals games. His point totals from Game 1 to Game 5 are as follows: 5, 21, 9, 8, and 19. This works out to an average of 12.4 PPG. An average that is more than 4 points fewer than his regular season average of 16.8. In five games, Harden shot 18-for-48 for an average of 38%. His struggles were not exclusive to the offensive side of the floor, however. Defensively, he was able to hold his own throughout the series, but made crucial mistakes down the stretch of games. With a chance to tie the game, the Thunder needed a stop in the final 30 seconds of Game 4. Harden decided to body up Lebron at the top of the key and take his air space away in order to get the ball out of his hands. The crucial mistake came when he stepped in front on an attempt to draw a charge. Instead, he was called for a blocking foul and essentially handed the game to the Heat as Lebron drained to free throws to seal the deal. Harden also saw himself trying to guard Lebron in the post on many possessions of the final two games. He was simply overpowered and overmatched. The 22 year old, however, brought the same amount of energy every night, and this is worth noting as effort has never been the issue with this team. With an NBA Finals appearance under his belt, he will continue to be an Oklahoma City favorite for years to come.
2. Coach Brooks’ rotations
- On the heels of the latest news concerning Kendrick Perkins, Coach Brooks may find himself under the microscope for his questionable rotations. Reports have surface that Perkins played the final three games of the NBA Finals with a tear in his groin. This explains a lot. Perkins could not handle the Miami athletes. He was torched on the pick and roll constantly. If the Heat ran a two-man game with Wade or Lebron being screened for by Bosh, Kendrick did not have the lateral quickness to cut off the ball handler. If he was able to hedge and force Wade or Lebron to pick up their dribble, he was not able to rotate and recover to his own man quick enough. Some analysts will question why Brooks did not give Nick Collison heavier minutes, especially after Perkins suffered the injury. Collison was a lightning rod of energy off the bench. The scrappy veteran kept plays alive with offensive boards, drew charges, and provided consistent energy defensively. Collison surpassed the 20-minute mark on only one occasion. Collison would have provided the Thunder the opportunity to switch on every screen. His has the build and quickness to stay with multiple positions. Now, Brooks has always been one to be stubborn with his rotations, so it should be noted that although Brooks may become a scapegoat, his strategy actually got them to the Finals.
3. Slow starts
- The slow starts for Oklahoma City left them scrambling to catch up late in games. If you take out the Thunder’s 33-point first quarter explosion in Game 4, OKC was outscored 113-83 in the first 12 minutes of the other four games. As a young squad, deficits of this magnitude affect a team mentally more than anything else. It seemed to take them out of their rhythm offensively. Westbrook, Durant, and Harden all had stretches of games in which they forced up poor shots. Coupled with poor defense, it was obvious to see that they were forced to press offensively.
Thanks to our friends at Sports Media 101.