Oklahoma City Thunder: 3 Takeaways From Game 4 Loss
The Oklahoma City Thunder succumbed to the Houston Rockets 113-109 in Game 4 Sunday, falling behind 3-1 in the series.
After leading the majority of the game, the Thunder gave up 40 points in the fourth quarter, led by Nene Hilario‘s 28 points on 12-of-12 shooting, tying an NBA playoff record. Oklahoma City’s attack was more balanced in Game 4, as four starters scored in double figures for the Thunder.
And yet, it still wasn’t enough as Houston hit tough shots down the stretch, captured every loose ball and made the plays the Thunder did not.
Though it was ugly basketball down the stretch by both teams, Houston was able to manufacture enough offense and stave off Oklahoma City to take a 3-1 lead in the series, heading back home with a chance to close out the series.
The Thunder improved some facets that were plaguing them, but there certainly is still room for improvement. Let’s dive in to what Game 4 told us about Oklahoma City.
Use Andre Roberson As A Screener
Down the stretch, James Harden went into full NFL safety mode, playing center field in an attempt to muck up any Oklahoma City offense. Harden more than ignored Andre Roberson, who was unable to make him pay.
However, after a few possessions, head voach Billy Donovan wised up to the strategy and began using Roberson as a screener for Russell Westbrook drives. The move not only put a weaker defender on Westbrook, but forced “The Beard” to be pulled away from his zone around the rim.
In addition, Westbrook is devastating enough in 1-on-1 situations, let alone with a head of steam and attacking an off-balance defender. Roberson also is a phenomenal cutter, so rolling to the rim or attacking off the catch is a modified version of those straight line cuts.
Jerami Grant Is Going To Get More Minutes
Because of the Hack-A-Roberson strategy that was implemented late in Game 4 and that it worked so splendidly, the Rockets will be sure to come back to that any time the Thunder begin a semblance of a run.
Grant played well in Game 4, going 5-for-5 from the field for 10 points in 14 minutes, but his struggles on the road for the Thunder are well chronicled. His spark was noticeable in both Games 3 and 4, but that’s going to have to carry over if the Thunder stand any chance in Game 5.
OKC’s supporting cast’s Net Rating & True Shooting % home vs road. Huge differences. Young players struggle big time. pic.twitter.com/501xhpBHSx
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) April 23, 2017
When Houston goes back to the strategy in an effort to get Oklahoma City’s best defense against Harden, Grant will be called upon. Hopefully he’s ready to bring it on both ends.
Feed Abrines and McDermott
The jarring statistic is not the makes or percentage, but the lack of attempts. The two most accurate shooters on Oklahoma City, placed on the floor for the exact purpose of shooting the ball from range managed five attempts in the game.
Floor spacing remains the Thunder’s biggest Achilles heel, but if McDermott and Abrines play a similar minutes total, they should each hoist up a minimum of five treys, with the potential for many more.
McDermott is shooting an astounding 58 percent on 3-pointers this series, a signal he should be fed more. Abrines is lower at 30 percent, but the threat of him still warrants a hard closeout and his defender staying home.
The Spanish rookie has shown the potential to rain shots from deep at a high volume, with two games this season of five or more made 3-pointers.
If the Thunder use Roberson as a screener and get funky with him on the offensive end, Jerami Grant plays in Houston like he does in Oklahoma City and Abrines and McDermott bomb away from deep, the Thunder just may steal Game 5 and stay alive. Stay tuned.
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