NBA Playoffs 2012: 3 Things That Could Doom the Oklahoma City Thunder
And, even though the Thunder have always been one of the favorites to win a title this year, there has long been a sense of doubt shared with many of the so-called experts as to just how ready this team is to win it all.
Oklahoma City has not been the same since their six-game winning streak at the end of March leading into the beginning of April, which ended with a blowout win over the Bulls and included wins over the Lakers, Heat and Clippers.
If Kevin Durant and company hope to celebrate a championship in 2012, there a few areas that need immediate improvement.
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For the Thunder, turnovers have been a huge issue for the better part of two seasons now.
Oklahoma City averages 15 turnovers per game while only forcing 14.5. In comparison, the Spurs turn it over 10 times per game, but force their opponent into 16 turnovers.
Rarely will you see an NBA champion with a negative turnover differential. The Thunder will need to find a solution to their turnover woes if they plan on winning a title this season.
Before you go blaming Westbrook, keep in mind that since the All-Star break, Kevin Durant has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate. In the playoffs, that trend has continued.
In Game 2 against the Mavs, Westbrook only turned the ball over twice. In that same game, Durant struggled with more than just his shot.
He also struggled holding on to the ball, turning it over seven times.
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Charles Barkley said it best when he explained that the downfall of the Thunder will be their desire to take so many jump shots.
James Harden should teach the rest of the squad what he already has figured out; you have to take the ball to the basket.
Both Westbrook and Durant are easily sucked into the trap of being forced to settle for jump shots. That works out just fine when they have the hot hand. In fact, the Thunder are absolutely unbeatable if they both have a hot shooting night.
The problem is that there are many nights that neither of them are hitting jumpers and that gets you beat by playoff teams in the NBA.
Harden has a great ability to get to the rim and has also mastered the art of getting fouled on his way. Not even an elbow to the back of the head could keep the bearded one from driving the lane.
But, for some reason Westbrook has gotten too comfortable on the outside. There are very few players in the league that have his ability to penetrate and he needs to take advantage of it.
As for Durant, he too tends to fall in love with the outside jumper. It's hard to disagree with the three-time scoring champ who has also increased his field goal percentage from a year ago.
But, with his height and length, he could do some real damage closer to the rim. When he shoots inside of 10 feet, he is pretty much automatic.
Scoring Off the Bench
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Arguing that the Thunder lack the scoring punch off the bench that they need, may sound crazy considering they have the best sixth-man in the NBA.
The truth is, Harden plays starter minutes and is on the court in starter situations. Through two games in the playoffs he is averaging 34 minutes per game. That's just about one minute less than Westbrook.
That tells me that Scott Brooks feels like Harden is every bit as important to have on the court as Westbrook.
The problem is that the rest of the bench is not picking up the slack left behind by the absence of Eric Maynor. The playoffs is where you can really see how much this team is missing their backup point guard.
It's not just that the Thunder miss his 4.2 points per game in just 14 minutes of play. It's his 3-1 assist to turnover ratio that made such a difference.
Maynor was also a big threat from behind the arc shooting just over 38 percent from the three-point line. That matches Durant and surpasses Daequan Cook who is supposed to be their sharp shooter.
With Cook still struggling with his shot and Maynor being out, Derek Fisher is the only other scoring option off the bench. This leaves the Thunder a little thin in an area that was thought to be a strength coming into the season.