After losing to a Jazz team led by rookie Donovan Mitchell in the opening round last year, the Thunder find themselves down 0-2 against a team that came into this year with 10 straight playoff losses. With Jusuf Nurkic not able to play and Enes Kanter slotted in as the center, it would appear that Portland might have some trouble. Yeah, well, nobody tell them that. They have had no issues.
When Paul George re-signed with OKC last summer at Russell Westbrook’s party, citing “unfinished business,” we expected them to make the postseason. And they did, but now they’re down 0-2. Life for this team is not good right now, and them sliding into the #6 seed for this postseason does not bode well. They have yet to crack 100 points in the series, and their star point guard is playing some of the worst, sloppiest ball we have seen from him all year. The lack of production from Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant is also not helping matters.
The Paul George struggles in the first game are what sunk the Thunder’s ship, as they managed to keep it close, but he shot just 8-24 as his bad shoulder limited his production. Billy Donovan decided to play him 43 minutes, however, and that definitely had him feeling sore as ever. Westbrook is continuing to pile up assists, and he’s grabbing rebounds as usual, but he is not able to knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. These two guys are supposed to be able to lead the team to wins, and both of them are struggling to do so.
The issues for them are happening because their star players are underperforming, and there is nobody to pick up the slack. Dennis Schroder plays way too many minutes because he is the only reserve that Billy Donovan trusts. He only uses Markieff Morris and Nerlens Noel for 10-15 minutes per game, that’s not right. So, do they have a chance to come back?
OKC has one of the best home crowds in the league, and with the series shifting to the Chesapeake Energy Arena, they are not dead yet. One thing they have to do is close out quarters. They can’t just let Dame Lillard cross Raymond Felton up for wild step-backs, nor can they allow him to continue to get space from 30 feet away. It’s clear that he loves to fire shots up from WAY downtown, and they have to cover him.
They have to stop CJ McCollum from going off, and they need to double when able. Those two players are the heart of the team’s offense, and if they want to have a chance, that is what they will have to do. Steven Adams is going to need to attack his fellow stache brother, Enes Kanter too.
On the other end, Jerami Grant needs to knock down his shots, Russ needs to be aggressive, and PG needs to score at least 35.