Is The Thunder Done? What OKC Must Do To Avoid Elimination

Thursday, May 1st 2014, 5:41 pm
By: News 9

This can't be the end.

Not this early. Not in the first round. Not to the No. 7 seed.

But unless the Thunder wins back-to-back games against the Memphis Grizzlies, it will indeed be the end of a potential championship season.

It would be the Thunder's earliest postseason exit since they lost to the Lakers in 2010. And after bowing out in the second round last season, it would be another step in the wrong direction for a team that graced the NBA Finals just two short seasons ago.

In order to prevent that, Oklahoma City is gonna have to fix something. Anything, really.

Countless poor shots. An obsession with the 3-pointer. Digging themselves into 20-point deficits like they did Tuesday night in OKC.

And it's not all Xs and Os. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both ice cold all series long.

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Durant is shooting 40 percent from the field on 25 shots per game, just 28 percent from 3-point range and only 72 percent from the free throw line.

In comparison, KD shot 50 percent from the floor in the regular season, 39 percent from deep and 87 percent from the line.

"He's a great shooter," Scott Brooks said of Durant. "I believe in all the work he puts in, I believe that he's gonna come back next game and give us another great effort and I believe that the shots will fall."

Then there's Westbrook.

It seems like half of Westbrook's shots have come off a failed pick-and-roll where he is forced to cross over, pull up and launch at the end of the clock.

No ball movement, no player movement, just contested jumpers.

Westbrook is shooting 34 percent from the floor on 26 shots, 18 percent from downtown. During the season: 44 percent shooting including 32 percent from deep.

A common theory is that the Thunder's pair of stars is pressing, or trying to do too much. Derek Fisher talked about that and what KD and Russ might be able to do to fix it.

"There are many ways to impact your team and help your team win games that doesn't always show up (or) other people might not give you credit for," Fisher explained. "So often times if you kinda shift your focus away from the things people can see to some of the smaller things people can't see, the bigger things become easier."

In this case, the bigger thing is taking and making higher-quality looks.

"We've got to continue to search and find better shots, Brooks said. "They're not making shots. We're going to go back and look at all of ‘em and see what we can do better."

One thing to do better: share the ball; find someone who's hot.

Maybe it'll be Reggie Jackson, who dropped 32 points on 11-16 shooting in Game 4. Or perhaps Caron Butler. Excluding a horrible Game-3 performance, Butler is 8-15 from deep in the series. Maybe even Fisher, who has scored more than 10,000 postseason points.

"We obviously have two phenomenal players in Russell and Kevin which teams are gonna game plan for," Fisher said. "So regardless of which five guys are on the court, we have to find ways to move the ball, move players around, give all five guys a chance to impact the game. We can be better in terms of offensive execution and making sure that we're moving the basketball, and I think that'll make Russell and Kevin's job a lot easier and they'll become more efficient than what they've been."

In other words, someone else has to help draw defense away from the Thunder's dynamic duo.

Serge Ibaka is shooting 59 percent in the series, but only takes 10 shots per game. If the Thunder can find a way to take four or five of Durant and Westbrook's ill-advised shots and give them to Ibaka, it could make a difference.

Regardless of who steps up or how they do it, the Thunder needs to scrape together a win on Thursday before worrying about a Game 7.

"It's not impossible to go on the road and win a game; any hopes of winning a championship require that anyway," Fisher said. "We won a game in Memphis a few days ago and we've now put ourselves in a position where we have to do it again. This is about us being better than we've been these first five games and we're very confident that we can be."

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