Kevin Martin's Streaky Jumper Will Be OKC Thunder's Undoing

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 08: Kevin Martin #23 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 8, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Thunder defeated the Bulls 97-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder ran into a 6-6 Boston Celtics team on Friday night.

It's easy to reason out that the Thunder have an advantageous position with the scoring power and athletic defenders against an older, struggling Celtics team.

Of course, what we know and what happens are usually two very different things, and that's just what happened in the Thunder's 108-100 loss to the Celtics.

Oklahoma City was unable to deal with a struggling Celtics team for many reasons, even though most of their team played a good enough game.

It was troubling that they gave up 108 points to a team that isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse in comparison to the rest of the league.

Of course, it's hard to take a look at just one game in an 82 game season and call it a microcosm of the season as a whole.

In the grand scheme, it's easy to take this game at face value.  Call it an off-night for the Thunder on a night when Boston made the shots necessary to win, and that's about the long and short of it.

Boston is a very dangerous team when they are hitting three-pointers, when they have action off the bench and when Rajon Rondo is passing the ball well (which is pretty much every game he's ever played in).

However, what did this game tell us about the Thunder?

Well, let's take a look at it.

Taking the defense out of the equation, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were both able to play a normal game, scoring 29 and 26 points respectively.

Serge Ibaka piled on a nice 17 points on 7-11 shooting, Thabo Sefolosha scored 10 points on six shots and Kendrick Perkins scored five, which is about as much as you can ask him for.

The big problem came beyond the starting five, as the bench scored just 13 points, making only five of 17 shots combined. Nick Collison accounted for eight of those, which means the rest of the bench had just five points.

Obviously that means that Kevin Martin had an ineffective game, and he did, scoring three points and making just one of his seven shots.

The problem that arises there is that one of Oklahoma City's biggest weapons is suddenly no longer there.

Martin can come in and torch a team's second unit, but when he's not shooting well, he's invisible.

That's something that just didn't happen very often when James Harden was Oklahoma City's sixth man.

Harden was a scorer, whereas Martin is a shooter. Harden might have a poor shooting night every once in a while, but to render him ineffective is much harder than it is to make Martin miss shots.

Of his 13 games this season, Martin has shot 40 percent or worse just five times.

Of those five games, Oklahoma City lost three, and nearly a fourth as they struggled with Detroit, winning down the stretch thanks to a flurry of scoring from Westbrook.

The point here is not that the Thunder are helpless without Martin, but it's obviously a disadvantage when he isn't shooting well.

Martin's presence on the floor helps the rest of the team immensely, but only if he's viewed as a legitimate threat on any given night.

When he's rolling well, Oklahoma City is able to space the floor much better and defenders have to give him respect as a shooter.

This gives Durant and Westbrook fewer situations where they have to deal with a defender, cheating their way to help out.

When he's struggling, Martin has no other real contributions to this Thunder team.

His defense in comparison to Sefolosha is a no contest, and running a play for him off the dribble makes no sense when Durant and Westbrook are two obviously better options.

It's easy to look at the Thunder and say that they just have too much firepower to be much worse when one player isn't playing well, but that is definitely the case early in the season.

And as we saw in the finals, one player struggling (like James Harden) is sometimes too much of a disadvantage for them to make up for.


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