Image courtesy of William Bennett Berry.
Hello again Thunder fans! I’m sure that you slept horribly last night. There’s no way that you could sleep well after the Nuggets totally creamed the Thunder at home. With the loss, it’s still uncertain as to whether the Thunder can seal the Northwest Division, much less the #2 seed. OKC is still in control of it’s destiny, but Denver holds the advantage and hasn’t lost this month.
But let’s take a look outside of our immediate bubble for a second. The Thunder are a team with very powerful strengths, but also very powerful flaws. Part of being a flawed team is accepting that some players are just going to destroy you on every single night. I’m not talking about the LeBrons of the world, who will destroy everybody regardless. I’m talking the other guys. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 of the Thunder’s biggest headaches. I’m gonna need a pizza after this.
#5: LaMarcus Aldridge
Times Seen This Season: 2
Normal Averages: 21.1 Points, 47.9% Shooting, 8.8 Rebounds, 2.6 Assists
Averages Vs. Thunder: 27.5 Points, 47.9% Shooting, 13.0 Rebounds, 1.5 Assists
I know, LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star, so he should probably be exempt from this list. But his performances against the Thunder are hard to deny. The numbers above are pretty consistent over the past couple of seasons, and the reasons why should be obvious. The Thunder have lots of trouble guarding bigs who can shoot well. This was pretty apparent against the younger Dirk Nowitzki, who pretty much single-handedly destroyed Oklahoma City in the 2011 West Finals with lots of turnaround jumpers. Not only that, but Aldridge has an excellent back-to-the-basket game. This would be fine and dandy if he was going against Kendrick Perkins, who’s really solid at holding his ground. But against the more wirey Serge Ibaka, he’s able to back into him and create more space, thus creating more scoring opportunities. If Aldridge was playing power forward on a more competitive team, he’d be public enemy #1 in this town.
#4: Jerryd Bayless
Times Seen This Season: 2
Normal Averages: 7.6 Points, 42% Shooting, 2.1 Rebounds, 3.3 Assists
Averages Vs. Thunder: 17.5 Points, 56.0% Shooting, 2.5 Rebounds, 5.0 Assists
This is one of the more strange cases I’ve seen. Bayless didn’t get a lot of burn against the Thunder until this year, but he’s done an excellent job against them in two matchups so far. But the reason Jerryd Bayless succeeds against the Thunder is pretty obvious, once you look at all of the points he’s made. He’s a point guard who’s willing to work off the ball. That is, he doesn’t give up on a play once he passes the ball away, and he does a good job of moving into position after the fact. Because the Thunder like to pressure the ballhandler so much, Bayless was often open for easy buckets.
#3: Vince Carter
Times Seen This Season: 4
Normal Averages: 13.2 Points, 44% Shooting, 4.0 Rebounds, 2.2 Assists
Averages Vs. Thunder: 18.7 Points, 48.7% Shooting, 3.3 Rebounds, 2.0 Assists
The Half-Man Half-Amazing is a far cry from what he used to be, but against the Thunder, he’s golden. Vinsanity is basically a product of the Thunder’s poor defense at the backup guard positions. He’s usually on the floor when the bench comes in, and he capitalizes on weaker defenders like Kevin Martin or Derek Fisher. He’s also excellent at getting the Thunder to throw the wrong defender at him. That is, sometimes he’ll get a slower big man to guard him one on one, allowing him to pull up for an easy jumper against the slower defender. Of course, this also means that he’s bad at performing when the starters are out, which is a huge contributing factor to the Thunder being 4-0 against the Mavs this season.
#2: J.J. Barea (Stats Taken From Last Season)
Times Seen Last Season: 3
Normal Averages: 11.3 Points, 40% Shooting, 2.8 Rebounds, 5.7 Assists
Averages Vs. Thunder: 21.0 Points, 51% Shooting, 5.0 Rebounds, 8.7 Assists
If you’ve followed the Thunder for a couple of years, you know that J.J. Barea is a huge pain in the rear. Westbrook can defend really well when he wants, but this is the one guy he can’t defend at any point. Barea is simply too quick for Westbrook to follow into the paint, and can often fool him into going in the wrong direction. (In technical terms, we call this “breaking the ankles”.) Moreover, he totally destroys any backup guard the Thunder have, especially the slow-footed Derek Fisher. There’s not much more to say than that, but believe me, he’s not as good as you think he is. Unless he’s playing against us.
#1: Some Random Dude on the Nuggets
Times Seen This Season: Too Many
Normal Averages: Blah
Averages Vs. Thunder: Maximum Profit
Yeah, I’m still burned about the Nuggets game last night. It might seem like Ty Lawson is a Thunder killer, given that he hit a clutch shot in the last matchup and did well here, but he’s actually worse than usual overall against the Thunder. Really, our problem with the Nuggets is that we can’t keep up with the variety of scoring options that they have. We’re a great scoring team because we have 2 (well, 4) guys who are capable of dominating opponents night in and night out offensively. The Nuggets are that way because they have 9 guys who are capable of doing that. Obviously, they run into problems some nights, because nobody can be relied upon consistently. But against the Thunder, some random guy will always pop up and give us fits. Last night, it was Ty Lawson. On March 1st, Wilson Chandler dropped 35 points on us, despite his 11.8 PPG average. On January 20th, it was Corey Brewer, who scored 26 despite his 11.7 PPG average. The January 16th game was a Thunder blowout, but you get the picture. I don’t want to see the Nuggets in the playoffs.
Random Thunder Highlight of the Week:
This is just silly. You make a man fall down over his own feet, and you miss the shot? Comeon, KD.
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