For a team that prides itself on its defense, the Oklahoma City Thunder played precious little of it in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
The 122 points were also the most surrendered by a Thunder team in a regulation game in the postseason, exceeded only by the 123 they gave up in a triple-overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011.
Yes, Chris Paul morphed into Stephen Curry in Game 1, hitting 8-of-9 from deep. But part of the problem was that Paul was getting some really wide-open looks. There were some problems that stem from the Thunder’s defensive system that created some opportunities the Clippers exploited.
But there also didn’t seem to be a whole lot of urgency displayed on the defensive end by Oklahoma City.
It’s part of a broader trend.
Since the All-Star break, including the postseason, opponents have scored at least 30 points in a quarter 72 times—72! That is in 27 regular-season games and eight postseason starts. So out of 140 quarters, not including any overtime periods, the Thunder have given up at least 30 points in more than half of them.
Is it any surprise then that Oklahoma City’s record in those 35 games is 20-15?
In the regular season, the Thunder surrendered at least 110 points in regulation 16 times—eight of them were in their 27 games after the All-Star break after only surrendering that many points eight times in their first 55 games.
They’ve given up 110-plus just once in the playoffs—Monday night—but the playoffs are generally a time when the pace of play slows because possessions are so much more valued than they are in a late February game against the Cavaliers.
But if anyone was looking for a sense of urgency from the team, keep looking.
Westbrook claimed Paul hit some tough shots and that there was nothing more the defense could have done.
“He wasn’t doing nothing crazy,” Westbrook said. “He hit eight 3s. You can’t do much but contest. He hit some tough shots and we’ll live with that.”
But a handy look at the video of Paul’s nine 3-point attempts tells a different story.
On the one attempt he missed, Caron Butler did a nice job of contesting, protecting against the drive by playing off the quicker Paul, but aggressively closing out when Paul picked up the dribble.
On the eight he made, however, three were pretty much Paul by himself in space and the other five had someone fly at him late with a hand raised … not exactly Gary Payton-like defensive work.
“We have another level defensively,” Westbrook said. “So it’s not something we’re worried about.”
It’s the playoffs, Russ. Maybe finding that level would be a decent plan before Game 2.