Late Game Decisions Cost OKC Second Loss In Six Days

On March 23, we raved about the Thunder’s defensive effort pushing them past challenging times against the playoff-bound Miami Heat en route a victory. On March 26, Billy Donovan perhaps lost the game for his team by not going with Jerami Grant late in the game. Most recently, on Thursday evening, March 29, the Thunder lost the game due to multiple problems. The most obvious reason, though, came late in the game when one of their most experienced members wasted two possessions on unwarranted desperation three-point shots.

OKC lost to the San Antonio Spurs 103-99, which evened the series at (2-2) and due to the Spurs 26-20 conference record being better than OKC’s 25-22 record, they jump them for the fourth playoff spot. Which happens to be the last spot for homecourt advantage through at least the first round, by the way.

There were three completely different narratives over a span of a week for OKC, and it draws major concern with just six games remaining in one of the tightest playoff seeding battles we’ve seen in NBA history.

Current Western Conference playoff outlook:

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 10.26.45 PM

As you see, there are just 2.5 games between the Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers who currently sit outside of the playoffs at ninth. This is obviously a very tense time. A time that everyone in the NBA expected OKC’s big three to rise to the occasion, despite an inconsistent regular season. It hasn’t been that way, at all. The inconsistencies from November have parlayed into the month of March and now OKC sits in their current position: fifth in the Western Conference, behind a completely depleted Spurs team.

What killed Thursday’s game? Unfortunately, Westbrook. Who surely made all of his critic’s day. After two mid-range makes by Westbrook halfway through the fourth quarter, it looked like he may have one of his clutch finishing performances again. But from that point on (3:17) Russell didn’t make another shot.

From the 3:17 mark on:

  • Westbrook turns the ball over to Dejounte Murray (2:29).
  • Westbrook airballs a 28-foot three-pointer (2:07).
  • Westbrook missed a two-point shot (1:47).
  • Another Westbrook bad pass resulted in another Murray steal (:38.9).
  • Lastly, Westbrook airballs another long, 25-foot three (:14.0).

To make the taste in your mouth sourer, nothing warranted Westbrook shooting those long threes whatsoever. It wasn’t needed at the time and with George knocking down six points during that final minute, it’s easy to agree that he perhaps should have had the ball in his hands during those moments.

Although this is a costly loss for the Thunder and a brutal ending for Westbrook, sometimes you have to live with these games because of this team and especially his ability to make up for everything in the next game.

Things won’t get any easier for Oklahoma City, who returns home for another highly important game against the (40-35) Denver Nuggets on Friday. Denver are fighting for the eighth Western Conference playoff spot.

About the author

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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