Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 9:00 PM
This past Saturday Night’s Oklahoma City/Houston game gave sports bettors their first look at the Thunder without Russell Westbrook. As they take the floor Monday Night in hopes of finishing off a four-game sweep of the Rockets, we believe the Thunder will be dealing with these issues. And, they are issues that will only become bigger against better competition.
*An over-reliance on Kevin Durant. It’s one thing to rely on him. It’s another for the whole team to jump on his back and expect to be carried through the playoffs. Durant had a tremendous first half Saturday Night, fueled by the emotion of the situation. He obviously ran out of gas in the second half. His shooting form failed. Durant was very fortunate to hit a late go-ahead shot…he missed it so badly it bounced way up then fell in! If Durant got this tired after a half of carrying his team vs. fading Houston (who ran out of gas themselves a couple of weeks ago), what’s going to happen against the survivor of the Clippers/Grizzlies series, or the Spurs?
Check out this ratio of shot taking:
Durant: 30 shots
Other Starters: 30 shots combined
Bench: 27 shots combined
No way Durant can be putting up a third of the team’s attempts night in and night out through a successful playoff campaign given that he’ll now be the main focus of opposing defenses.
*Lack of consistency from Kevin Martin. He’s supposed to be the guy who helps make up for the loss of James Harden. And, every so often, he DOES have a great shooting game that allows the Thunder to win easily. He was only 3 of 11 from the floor Saturday, and the Thunder were outscored by 7 points when he’s on the floor. Can Martin have FOUR big games in each remaining series? Looks more like 1-2 right now…which won’t be enough to beat top competition.
*Lack of confidence in Reggie Jackson. He’s definitely in over his head as a starting point guard. Jackson played 25 minutes Saturday Night and only had one assist. He did make two clutch free throws in the final seconds. That speaks well for his mental toughness. But, he needs to have a bigger impact in the future. Remember, the Rockets don’t really have a point guard of significance right now with Lin injured. Future opponents will have quality at that position.
*Poor coaching. Scott Brooks has a mix of strengths and weaknesses (much like Russell Westbrook in that regard). His strengths allow his talent to dominate lesser teams, and to maximize what Durant and Westbrook bring to the table. But, when it comes time for X’s and O’s, he’s often exposed. We saw that in the Finals last year vs. Miami. We saw it this past Saturday Night when the Thunder blew all of a 26-point lead and were lucky to get a win. How can you play Durant 47 minutes in a game you led by 26 points! OKC’s hopes dim the more future games become chess matches rather than tests of athleticism.
Oklahoma City is a short favorite once again Monday. If they can’t wrap up the series here, they’ll be prohibitive favorites to do so in the next meeting. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and Houston sure doesn’t look like they’re capable of making history unless made treys start raining down from the heavens. JIM HURLEY will be watching tonight’s game very closely because lessons learned will pay off time and time again in later rounds. You can already see how much was learned from watching that first game without Westbrook.
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Back with you Tuesday to talk about either Game Five of Golden State/Denver, or Game Five of Memphis/LA Clippers. Coverage continues daily through the playoffs here in the NOTEBOOK. And, the best plays on the board will keep coming to you daily from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!