Ah, the agony of defeat. By definition Agony means, “extreme physical or mental suffering.” The Oklahoma City Thunder went from the elation of victory on Sunday to the agony of defeat on Wednesday and the gauntlet of emotions is quite extreme. More than happy to vent frustrations and relive critical moments in the Thunder’s 102-95 Game Two loss, fans have turned to social media, local radio, and to each other to discuss what went wrong.
While there’s certainly plenty opportunity to points fingers there are three primary factors that contributed to this series being knotted up 1-1. Just you can’t call out a specific player, situation, or even an officiating decision, but the reality is that these three factors outweigh just about everything else and must be fixed before OKC takes the floor in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Beaten On The Boards
One thing that people may not realize about Wednesday’s night’s loss is that the two teams were pretty equal on the stat sheet. Utah shot 41.7% from the floor, Oklahoma City 40%. The Jazz were 31% from three-point range and the Thunder shot 31.4%. OKC actually had fewer turnovers than the Jazz (16-13) but the game-changing category was the rebounds.
Derrick Favors honestly looks like an older brother toying with his younger sibling with this rebound: pic.twitter.com/n4fuYW775g
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) April 19, 2018
The Jazz won the battle of the boards by a double-digit margin (65-54) allowing them to capitalize on second chance points and limit Oklahoma City to one-shot possessions.
Rudy Gobert (15) and Derrick Favors (16) grabbed up 31 rebounds between the two of them. Meanwhile OKC’s starting five only had 30 combined rebounds. Yup, the Thunder’s starting line up was out-rebounded by two guys.
Let Down In Bench Production
The Thunder received just 21 points and 10 rebounds from the bench. Bill Donovan only wen’t four players deep but two of them failed to produce anything…at all. Patrick Patterson two rebounds in an assist in ten minutes of play and the only stats that Alex Abrines managed to record during his 15 minutes was three fouls.
THUNDER ON THE HIGHSIDE! THANKS JERAMI GRANT! pic.twitter.com/0LnSAWxUDb
— 𝙏𝙝𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙁𝙞𝙡𝙢 𝙍𝙤𝙤𝙢 (@ThunderFilmRoom) April 19, 2018
Jerami Grant led Oklahoma City’s bench 13 points, and six rebounds, in thirty minutes of play but he also tied Paul George and Russell Westbrook with for a team-high three turnovers.
Settling For The Jump Shot
I get it…I really do. Gobert is one of the best in the business at protecting the rim and the Thunder couldn’t miss from outside on Sunday night. The problem is that they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat on Wednesday but that didn’t stop them from trying…35 times.
Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony in Game 2: pic.twitter.com/N0ZSr2VbDp
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) April 19, 2018
The Big Three shot a combined 19-of-58 from the floor and 8-of-24 from three-point range. Most egregious is that Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook only combined for two points in the final quarter. The Thunder were outscored 28-16 in the final twelve minutes of the game.
The Silver Lining
The good news is that as bad as things were Wednesday night (especially the fourth quarter) everything is fixable. Oklahoma City out rebounded Utah 52-46 in game one. Abrines was 4-of-7 from the floor, for 11 points, in 21 minutes off the bench, and Playoff P blistered the nets for a franchise playoff record eight made 3-point shots.
Everything that went wrong in Game Two could absolutely go right in Game Three. That’s what’s great about this series. The two teams are so evenly matched that every little detail matters and the small things can make a big difference.