The Oklahoma City Thunder are a dismal 3-9 against the league’s top four teams– Miami Heat , San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets. With the playoffs just a few weeks away, this has Thunder fans concerned.
Why can the Thunder not perform well against the league’s premier teams? Is it just coincidence, or is there something about the Thunder that hinders their performance against good teams?
The argument can be made that the absence of James Harden is hurting the Thunder in late game situations. Last year, Harden would take over most late game situations by being such a great facilitator. A great example of this was in the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs.
Now the Thunder do not have Harden, the ball is being put in Russell Westbrook’s hands late in games. Westbrook has the tendency to get a little trigger happy, taking away shots from his superstar teammate, Kevin Durant.
The league is starting to become more aware of this recipe for success against the Thunder. More teams are doubling Durant on the drive and forcing him to make the pass to an open defender.
This strategy does not work all of the time for teams. Durant is so long and talented that he can still get to the rim or make a quick pull-up jumper off of a pass. Plus, some nights the Thunder just catch fire, and the scoring can be distributed throughout the entire team.
The thing that is troubling for the Thunder is that they are going super cold in their shooting against good teams so often that it is becoming a trend. It seems that whenever the Thunder start to fall behind in games, they rely too much on the jump shot.
Players like Westbrook and Durant should be thinking drive first, pull-up second. It is widely said that teams that live by the jumper, die by the jumper.