The overwhelming odds are long enough to make any sane person realize the Thunder's season will soon come to an end. Being as optimistic as possible, can we reasonably expect OKC to win three straight against a Memphis team that's won seven of eight? Perhaps. But not without Russell Westbrook.
But being realistic, none of us expected that without Russ this bunch would make a deep run. And while this series will likely end with Memphis winning in four or five games, the series is much closer than that. All four games have gone down to the wire. So although disappointed, I credit this Russ-less gang for fighting the Griz and the odds.
Game 4 was similar to Games 2 and 3. A call here, a bucket there, and it could've been different. What happened?
1. KD was 2-for-13 in the 4th quarter including 0-for-5 in OT.
2. KD was fouled and could've taken lead with 40 seconds—not called for second straight game. Don't diminish these horrible no-calls.
3. Horrible second half and late game execution. Unlike the pass-and-move and open-shot first half the second half dissolved into what we've become accustomed to seeing: Triple-teamed hero ball with everyone watching KD get stuck and not touching the ball. Hard to believe this is still a problem. Compare the first two quarters with the fourth.
4. Meantime, the Griz bumped OKC around inside and caught entry passes deep in the paint for buckets, fouls, or both.
5. Not being proactive and blowing a 17-point 2nd quarter lead and a 12-point 3rd quarter lead.
6. Another putrid third quarter (31.6 shooting in series & outscored 92-75). What's Brooks telling them? Say it in Swahili next time.
7. Not closing in crunch time.
9. Griz grabbed three offensive rebounds in final 90 seconds. Bounces mostly.
10. Oh yea. Russell Westbrook was in Oklahoma City.
A buddy just said if Westbrook had played OKC would've won the series in five games. Maybe a tad optimistic, but he has a point. Russ would give you more points, more looks for others, more fight, and more finishing power. Don't you think that in four games that went to the wire that those things would've made a difference?
So, as much as I hate to use these words—and as much as I hope I end up looking like a fool being premature—wait til next year. Sam Presti will surely amnesty the big man, find a good scoring option—assuming a deal is not made with an up-and-down Kevin Martin, the young players will improve, Reggie Jackson will provide a big boost, and with a hungry and more confident than ever Westbrook, this team will make a serious run at the Heat.
The one caveat is what management does in the off-season. But Presti didn't earn his current reputation making poor decisions, or no decisions at all. Make the right moves, keep Patrick Beverly away from Russ and this time next year the Thunder will be waiting on the Golden State Warriors to wrap up their series before those two meet in an incredibly entertaining Western Conference Final.