Wow...OKC Bench Stuns Mavs!

by Jeff Fogle 20. May 2011 00:52

Just when you think you've seen everything. On the verge of falling behind two games to none in the best-of-seven Western Conference championships, Oklahoma City let four backups join Kevin Durant on the floor for the fourth quarter...and that energetic, inspired lineup won the game.

The difference between the OKC backups and the starters is best seen in the plus/minuses. Remember that the Thunder won by six points...

OKC Plus/Minuses:
Maynor +18 (backup point guard...20 minutes)
Harden +14 (backup shooting guard...32 minutes)
Cook +11 (backup shooting guard...16 minutes)
Collison +10 (backup post...26 minutes)
Mohammed +5 (backup, but only 2 minutes)
Ibaka +3
Durant -2
Perkins -8
Sefolosha -9
Westbrook -12

Down at the bottom of the list, the player who needed to be humbled perhaps more than anyone. Russell Westbrook. He exited the court very late in the third quarter with that scowl we've seen on his face too many times. We've seen that arrogant glare aimed at teammates. This one was aimed at his head coach, along with a few choice words. From a 22-year old who's best helped his team in the playoffs BY STAYING OUT OF THE WAY of more consistent scorers. Perhaps sitting there while has backup helped engineer what may end up being one of the biggest wins in the franchise's OKC tenure will help bring some perspective. HoopData's expanded boxscore shows Westbrook's usage rate (ball-hogginess) was a ridiculously high 40.3 before he was benched. It was only 30.4 during that glorious Game Seven triple double against Memphis when he was more focused on the needs of the team.

It's frustrating following the Westbrook story because steps forward seem to be followed by steps backward. Just when you're ready to give him the benefit of the doubt, the immaturity rears its ugly head again. Fascinating that this continuing drama played out this way on this evening.

2-point pct: OKC 62%, Dallas 49%
3-pointers: OKC 7/18, Dallas 9/27
1's and 2's: OKC 85, Dallas 73

We talked about the issues Dallas was having with two-point defense in prior rounds. Clearly they haven't yet figured out what they can take away in this series. Oklahoma City is dynamic in all facets of play. Dallas isn't slowing down any of those facets.

TWO'S: Oklahoma City is shooting 55% on two-pointers, to 54% for Dallas. All those baskets Dirk Nowitzki made in the first game were followed by 10 of 17 tonight. Yet, OKC is still winning this stat.

THREE'S: Oklahoma City is 14 of 34 (41%, equivalent of 61.7% on two's), which is helping to neutralize what Dallas had hoped would be a big edge behind the arc. Dallas is 18 of 50 for 36% (equivalent of 54% on two's). That's more raw scoring volume for the Mavs, but on a lot more attempts.

ONE'S: Oklahoma City has more makes on more attempts...58 of 70 to 55 of 60. A better percentage from Dallas...but it's clear that Dallas is going to have trouble keeping OKC off the line (as do all OKC opponents!)

That's all there is...1's, 2's, and 3's. Dallas did create some dysfunction amongst the grouchy guys in the OKC starting lineup (Westbrook and Perkins). The Mavs were so surprised by the OKC bench taking command of the fourth quarter that there wasn't time for an effective on-the-fly adjustment.

Chess in sneakers. Except the rooks are pushing and shoving. And, one of the bishops turned around to yell before being sent to confession.

What do we have moving forward?

On the bright side for Dallas:

*It's still a series that goes every other day. That should favor Dallas. Is the OKC bench ready to do THIS every night?

*Dirk is still very difficult to stop, which is likely to matter late in close games no matter what city it's in. Don't assume OKC is going to sweep their home games.

*Jason Terry was only 0-2 on treys tonight, and 3-9 from the floor overall. He's going to be better than that most of the time.

*To the degree experience and maturity matters in the playoffs, that's likely to favor Dallas in later games. OKC was ironically helped by their blow-ups tonight. That's far from a sure thing to happen the next time there's a blow-up.

On the bright side for OKC:

*If sustained fatigue from the Memphis series was an issue, four starters were given extended rest tonight. That will help them deal with the every-other-day will what should be newfound confidence in the bench.

*Durant is just as difficult to stop as Dirk is.

*The refs have established that they're not going to favor the more veteran team in this series. OKC can expect to be rewarded for their aggression on a continuing basis. Especially at home. And, three of the next five games would be at home if it goes the distance (three of the next four as the crow flies). .

*The Thunder won rebounding in the first two games...on the road. That's usually a good indicator in a playoff series.

*They now have the courage to deal with Westbrook when he gets his "bull in a china shop who won't share the ball unless he absolutely has to" mentality.

No game Friday. Back late Saturday with numbers and notes from Game Three of this series in Oklahoma City. Chicago-Miami resumes Sunday.

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5/20/2011 10:04:47 AM #


you realize that a hundred other hacks wrote the same idiot article today right? you people are showing your asses and exposing to your readership that you're terribly uninformed on the subject about which you claim to be an expert. crap like this is an admission to your readership that you've rarely, if ever, watched the Thunder play before the Memphis series began. The real story here is the attempted character assassination of one the game's best young stars/teams. Thanks for going out of your way to try to ruin OKC. It's amazing how quickly you people turned on the Thunder.

matt United States

5/20/2011 10:26:37 AM #


Matt is exactly right.
I don't understand the need to stir up drama that doesn't exist. Next time, try writing about facts instead of turning your interpretation of a facial expression into a news story.

Rachael United States

5/20/2011 11:04:54 AM #


I'm pretty sure the story is that Westbrook sat the whole 4th quarter and not just a facial expression that he made.

Mike United States

5/20/2011 11:12:35 AM #


this article is a hack job. The most helpful thing Westbrook has done this playoffs is by staying out of the way? How short sited of a memory does he have? Does he forget how he dominated the Nuggets and won two of the games in that series or Westbrook's 40 point eruption in the triple OT against the Grizz? Sports writers like to stir up drama constantly and blow things way out of proportion. Westbrook was not upset about Brooks sending him to the bench, he was upset about the turnover and the lack of calls going his way. A minute later he was perfectly fine and cheering his team on, yet no mention of that. Great reporting. Kobe CONSTANTLY complains and moans on the bench as did MJ and other great players, it's called being emotional and actually caring about your job. There is no riffed between Westbrook and his team. They are all extremely close and Westbrook Durant and Harden are all great friends.

Matt United States

5/20/2011 11:22:41 AM #


If that's the story, then why add this: "He exited the court very late in the third quarter with that scowl we've seen on his face too many times. We've seen that arrogant glare aimed at teammates. This one was aimed at his head coach, along with a few choice words."?
If the story is that he sat in the 4th, then say that. I've yet to see anything telling me that Russ was angry with anyone but himself. He sat in the 4th because Scott decided to go with what was working. It was no more than that. I find it pathetic that writers like Jeff need to sensationalize stories to fill a column.

Rachael United States

5/20/2011 1:45:02 PM #


You're right, of course, Jeff.  This was a huge story.  Undoubtedly Dallas would have won if Westbrook had played the 4Q.

Carbonneau United States

5/20/2011 3:26:12 PM #


Westbrook was angry about his teammates failure to run the play, according to ESPN.  He wasn't angry at Brooks.

His demeanor during the 4th quarter was excellent--he was cheering on the team, giving high fives, etc.  I don't think he was sulking at all.

And afterwards, he said he was okay because they won.  He was fine because it was working!  If it had blown up and Maynor & co. had lost the lead, you can bet he would have been mad if he wasn't brought in at his normal time.

Westbrook did just fine, and I think the supposed "chemistry issues" are way, way overblown/manufactured for storyline.

DSMok1 United States

5/20/2011 3:54:33 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Thanks to all who responded. Appreciate the passion of fans and analysts. We'll have to let the story play out from this point forward. Westbrook is known to have a short fuse when frustrated. More clarity did come today regarding the blow up (please remember that these articles are written minutes after the games end rather than the next day...would have clarified that in the next article...but it was great to see people clarifying that here.

The reports seem to suggest that Westbrook had that scowl on his face and was mouthing off because he was furious at his teammates for not running the play properly...then furious at his coach for telling him to "run the play." This isn't the first time he's scowled at teammates. Let's notice how often Derrick Rose does that (or at his coach) in the Miami series for a point of comparison. Competitive fire is great. There's a point where it's a negative. Maybe fans of other teams can comment on how common this is. Kobe Bryant definitely does it, and has been derided for it. I know Boston sometimes bickers like brothers. Can't say I saw that too many times during the Spurs' long run under Popovich/Duncan.

Promised to give myself a night off from writing articles since there's no game. I'll put some notes here instead.

When Westbrook's usage rate is below 32.00 so far in these playoffs, OKC is 5-0. That includes both series finale's where he largely got out of the way so Durant could score 41 points on 27 shots vs. Denver, and 39 points on 25 shots vs. Memphis. Harden had 29 points on 17 shots in those games (Westbrook had 28 on 27 if you're interested).

When Westbrook's usage rate is above that...which means a couple in the mid 30's, and the rest in the high 30's or low 40's...the team was 3-5 heading into last night. When he's spending too much time with the ball, he's the most prominent reason a 5-0 team is turning into a 3-5 team.

He was at 40.3 last night before the benching. The bench played great without him and OKC won a huge game on the road.

Also, there seems to be an unexplainable blindness about his horrible shooting of late. Dallas WANTS him to shoot I went to get the numbers from his game log page here at the site so you could see why.

*Over the last 12 games, RW is 7 of 30 on treys. You don't want a guy going 7 of 30 on treys when Durant and other weapons are on the team.

*Over the last 10 games, RW is 13 of 46 from 16-23 feet. That's 33 misses in 46 tries from a jumpshooter's range. Obviously, this is INSANE on a team with other weapons.

*Over the last 14 games, RW is 9 of 30 from 10-15 feet. Again, a very poor percentage.

*Over the last 13 games, RW is 11 of 32 from 3-9 feet.

That's all the ranges outside of two feet. He's been horrible. Every shot he misses is one somebody else could have taken. Now, I understand that he gets saddled with some bad shots when the 24-second clock is running out. That wouldn't explain this staggering consistency from all ranges at this volume.

I think regular readers understand my point that the "combination" of ball hogging and scowling at his teammates/coaches is a red flag negative that's hurting the team. If you think I or others are overreacting to the scowling, then we can focus on the consistently horrible shooting from all over the floor over a sustained period of time on a team with other shooters.

OKC is undefeated 5-0 when Westbrook shares the ball. They struggle when he doesn't. Coach Brooks made it a non-issue with the benching. Hopefully Westbrook can return to a usage in the low 30's...with aggressive drives that draw free throws...and hustle in the areas of rebounds and assists. His best games are beautiful to watch.

Jeff Fogle United States

5/20/2011 7:40:47 PM #


The issue here isn't that you have the audacity to be critical of Westbrook, it's that you aren't being thoughtful or interesting in any way. The biggest criticism you'll find of him is this idea that he's incapable of involving his teammates in the offense. However, 3 of the 4 guys he typically shares the floor with are forever and always gonna be offensive black holes, don't handle the ball particularly well and/or can't spell the word "pass." Somewhere along the way it was forgotten that an assist requires that the person you pass the ball to be capable of putting it in the hole.

Absolutely, the last couple week's worth of statistics indicate RW needs to scale back the mid-range jumpers. Do me a favor: go back and watch the Memphis series and notice how impossible it was to get shots at the rim. The interior D of Memphis was positively suffocating and 3 of the 5 starters(and much of the bench) are only really capable of scoring down low.

The criticism here really belongs to Scott Brooks for his loyalty to Thabo Sefolosha. This is the smoking gun. You want to criticize someone for not making his teammates better and Russ' reliance on mid range jumpers of late? The Swede is the dude that should draw your ire. Unfortunately the masses don't want to hear about Thabo, right? Role players don't encourage click-thru's and are too easily torn down.

Russ needs to be aggressive and IS among the best scorers in the league. He's the same player he's always been. You want a freakin medal for just now noticing?

matt United States

5/20/2011 9:30:13 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Appreciate your additional comments Matt. We do have the data for shots at the rim in that series. You may find some numbers in there that back up your points.

Westbrook's playoff game logs:

OKC's playoff game logs:

If you scroll down on each you'll see the shot location data.

I'm showing in the Memphis series (did this quickly by hand so I apologize in advance if there's an error)...

At the Rim vs. Memphis:
Westbrook: 30 of 61 for 49%
Rest of Team: 99 of 144 for 69%
No RW/Durant: 74 of 109 for 68%

One issue may be that "being the same player he's always been" is a problem against playoff defenses in high intensity games. What you can do in the regular season against lesser teams, or quality opponents pacing themselves, doesn't work out so well against defenses playing at playoff intensity. Food for thought...  

Jeff Fogle United States

5/20/2011 11:58:20 PM #


Matt, I thought you were an OKC fan.  I shouldn't have to tell you that Sefolosha is not a Swede.  

Carbonneau United States

5/21/2011 1:30:49 AM #


Carbonneau thanks for adding nothing to conversation.

to someone who lives thousands of miles away, who's never been any closer to Swizterland than Germany, in the midst of a passionate discourse, I assure you, there's no difference between Switzerland and Sweden. There are even crosses on their respective flags. Smile

I am so far beyond done with Thabo that I couldn't care less about getting my Sefolosha trivia correct. Dude has completely forgotten how to play.

When I first saw him with Chicago he was a slasher and competent scorer who looked something like a legit starting g/f. Then he forgot how to score and became a defensive stopper; an intense, kickass, unquestionable stopper.

This year he's brought nothing to the team. He's dead weight. Just hangs out beyond the arc missing threes. Once or twice a game his size and/or dumb luck will result in him doing something marginally impressive. Elsewise he's been a burden to the point I would rather have his rapping brother in the OKC rotation.

Re: Jeff
the "...problem against playoff defenses..." is his 3 teammates in the starting lineup other than Durant; and to some extent Durant himself. I don't understand how KD seems to be exempt from criticism. If anything is maligning RW it's this.

Memphis concurrently clogged the lane very effectively and made every Kevin Durant touch a nightmare. Durant exacerbated this issue by only attempting to get the while standing motionless, 5-10 away from Russ, beyond the 3-point line. Perk and Ibaka have each been hobbled and chose to stand back watch on the offensive end. Let's not forget, the corpse of Thabo Sefolosha was hanging out beyond the arc trying to teach himself to play "My Humps" on an Alpine horn.

The above is what OKC did on nearly every set, run by the starters, versus Memphis. The bastard child of John Stockton and Steve Nash couldn't gotten anymore out this set of circumstances.

My point is not Russell Westbrook = infallible, greatest player ever. Rather that the Thunder's failing are team-wide(Brooks I'm looking at you). The national media and every joker with a cable modem though, would seem to want the world to believe Russell Westbrook has made the conscious decision to piss away the Thunder's chance at the title, so he can "get his." Or worse, that he's too stupid to know his limitations.

Put Cook or Harden in the lineup in place of Thabo OKC very well may have steamrolled Denver and Memphis rather than just barely eking consecutive series victories.

matt United States

5/21/2011 1:32:38 AM #


*attempting to get touches the while standing motionless

matt United States

5/21/2011 1:33:07 AM #


*5-10 feet

wtb edit button

matt United States

5/21/2011 2:59:38 PM #


Sadly, Thunder fans have been watching this offensive ineptitude by the starting lineup all year long.  Games genuinely start the same; 1st unit puts them in a large hole down by 10 or more.  The bench brings us back.  3rd quarter, the 1st unit again puts us in a large whole that Harden and KD have to bring us out of.

We have been hoping, begging and praying that Brooks would see this pattern for a while now.

Good coaches love to see offensively inept players such Thabo in the game because they can double team off of him.

This is why if they choose to play DeShawn Stephen on KD it actually helps us double team Dirk.

Who would you rather shoot?  Dirk or DeShawn

I think its obvious.

Brian United States

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