The Thunder faced the tall task of coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the first round of the playoffs. OKC came out ready to play, and definitely put forth their best effort of the series in game 5.
Despite an excellent performance from Paul George, Tuesday night was all about Damian Lillard. He flat out exposed the Thunder’s defense all series long, but it was most evident in game 5 where he went for 50 points.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 24, 2019
Despite leading for the majority of the game, the Thunder collapsed on multiple occasions and allowed Portland to get back into the game. That being said, each time the Trail Blazers fought back within reach, the Thunder had an answer.
Oklahoma City led by 15 points with 6:55 to go. At this point, Thunder fans were already making plans for game 6 on Thursday night. Portland slowly cut into the Thunder’s lead, until finally a series of bad plays from OKC put the ball in Portland’s hand with a few seconds to go. That answer I was talking about from OKC was there all the way until the buzzer beater from Damian Lillard. He hit one of the greatest shots in playoff history to officially end the Thunder’s season.
— NBA (@NBA) April 24, 2019
As someone who watched all 87 games, the ending to this series was in fitting fashion. I mean, you cannot better describe the Thunder’s season than you can with game 5. The Thunder put their entire season out on display. Whether it was the good (unstoppable defense and solid perimeter shooting), or the bad (playing lazy on defense and mental breakdowns), this team showed it all on Tuesday night.
Where Do This Team Go From Here?
There’s not a worse feeling out there than knowing you didn’t play to your potential. That’s exactly what the Thunder has done for the past two seasons. At this point, you got to go back to the drawing board. Whatever your approach has been, it’s got to change.
The Thunder’s strategy of being a “defensive minded” team, or “physically more aggressive” than your opponent isn’t producing enough wins. It’s time for the front office to go find some shooters to be around Russell Westbrook and Paul George. I’m not saying let’s tear this thing down, but OKC desperately needs one or two “knock down” shooters.
Defense is always an important part of the game. However, you’ve got to be able to run an offense and shoot the ball more efficiently than the Thunder did this season. This starts with Paul George and Russell Westbrook. These guys definitely didn’t shoot the ball well enough either. Focus on having a healthy off-season. I think the small injuries these guys have had during the summer in recent years has played a huge roll in their ability to get into a rhythm during the season. Stay healthy, stay in the gym, and go back to the drawing board.