Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Did the Thunder Chokety Choke Choke, or Nah?

Welp. That Western Conference Final was difficult to characterize. To use a well-worn boxing analogy, it was a contest between knockout specialists, and an incredibly entertaining one. Both landed shots and took them. Both wobbled. Both recovered. I cannot recall a series where my “feel” for a given game at a given moment was so inconsistent with the score. Both teams had substantial leads that didn’t feel substantial. Both had slim leads that felt a lot bigger. Then at times both kinda crapped the bed.

I’m not a big fan of the “choke” label, though I don’t begrudge its use. It’s an eternally-contested concept, which means it has no established definition. It can be defined and re-defined to suit the user’s purposes, like “political correctness,” “draft bust,” “crunch time,” or in a recent addition, “ball movement.” So anyone can make a case for a choke job whenever they like, and it might even be insightful. (This is not.) Sometimes, the moment really can be too big. But, I’m not enamored with morality play analysis that turns every poor play or missed shot into a character flaw. I’m also not to into analysis that over-weights end-of-game scenarios. Put it this way, consecutive blown (uncontested) layups by Speights and Green with about 6 minutes to go, a questionable blocking foul on Green, a Green turnover and another near-turnover, could have been all been utterly condemnable gaffes. These plays are indistinguishable from anything anyone on OKC did late in game 6 or 7. Green was well on his way to crapping of the proverbial bed, and a summer of merciless replays of Adams posterizing him, but for the body blows Golden State’s 3rd unit landed to close out the 3rd quarter. That flurry of shots put Steph in a position to close things out with transcendent play in the 4th quarter, while Durant and Westbrook had to be perfect. Consider that OKC had mostly owned the ends of 3rd quarters throughout the series.

My synopsis? Basically, OKC didn’t really have enough 3-point shooting. For several games it looked like they might, but they came back to earth hard in games 6 and 7. When OKC can get even reasonable 3-point shooting–a must against Golden State–they are in a position to win. In their four losses, OKC shot 28% from 3 and in games 6 and 7 they’d have killed for even that. They shot 13 and 26% respectively. (In their wins they shot over 37%.) OKC’s “issue” is structural, not a character flaw. And it’s the same as it’s been for a while. They need a versatile and consistent (not prolific) weak-side scorer. Kevin Martin should have worked but that dude fell off a cliff when he got there. I thought they should have been in the DeMarre Carroll market, but it’s not like they haven’t tried to address the issue. I’ll be almost as interested in OKC’s off-season as New York’s.

64 comments on “Did the Thunder Chokety Choke Choke, or Nah?

  1. thenamestsam

    I don’t think they choked. I thought they played pretty great for the most part in games 5 and 6, and while last night wasn’t the prettiest game, all things considered (the stakes, the atmosphere, the devastation of that game 6 loss) I thought it was a remarkably resilient performance. They just played a really bad 3rd quarter against a team that gives you no margin for error. Both of those teams are really, really good and played like it for the most part in this series, but one of them still had to lose.

  2. Brian Cronin

    I think that we should give the Warriors more credit than we give the Thunder blame.

  3. DRed

    Game 6 was a game the Thunder win a bunch of times if they take the exact same shots. But the Warriors winning 2 games at home and one on the road isn’t all that remarkable-they’re one of the best teams ever.

  4. Mr. Cock Jowles, If You Please

    Westbrook played like horseshit over the last three games. If he puts up his season average TS% in any of those games, they win. He failed to score on 24 (!!!) used possessions in Game 5. That’s fucking absurd.

    Choke? I don’t know. He didn’t close, though.

  5. Jack Bauer

    The Thunder are really good. They controlled most of the first 2/3 of games 6 and 7. One glaring difference was the disparity in 3 point scoring. The Warriors are scoring the 3 at a historic pace, and OKC was not shooting the three well at all. The 3 point scoring differential between the teams was huge was a big part in the outcome of the series IMO. Curry and Thompson kept making ridiculous shots, even when the defense was good. Also Durant and Westbrook played a lot of heavy minutes where the team relied on them to do too much and it showed at the end of the game. The Finals should be fun, Cleveland should be able to close the gap on the 3 point scoring and Lebron will be very motivated to make up for last year’s loss to the Warriors.

  6. DCrockett17 Post author

    Watching the replay on NBAtv. The Speights/Green blown layups happened around 9 minutes to go (not 6).

  7. DCrockett17 Post author

    The Finals should be fun, Cleveland should be able to close the gap on the 3 point scoring and Lebron will be very motivated to make up for last year’s loss to the Warriors.

    Should be, but I don’t know that CLE has the kind of length you need to really bother GS. Additionally, this year they have the dilemma of what to do about Kyrie. I think he’ll struggle to play both ends.

  8. DCrockett17 Post author

    I think that we should give the Warriors more credit than we give the Thunder blame.

    I generally agree. The three makes up for so many other faults. OKC doesn’t shoot it, which means they have to be perfect in other areas. And hell, they weren’t far off that. They had less than 10 turnovers. They put in work on the boards. They forced contested looks. Just didn’t have enough.

  9. reub

    Enough with these other teams. I’m ready to make the Knicks great again. If we sign Fournier and Seth Curry we’ll have our own Splash Brothers. Who says no?

  10. d-mar

    “Additionally, this year they have the dilemma of what to do about Kyrie. I think he’ll struggle to play both ends.”

    And who exactly is Kevin Love going to guard? Warriors in 6.

  11. Donnie Walsh

    If we sign Fournier and Seth Curry we’ll have our own Splash Brothers.

    Splash Distant Cousins?

  12. nicos

    I think Kyrie should be fine offensively (Golden State’s D has been pretty up and down in the playoffs) but there’ll be no place to hide him on defense. Cleveland is going to need good JR to show up for at least 4 games to have any kind of shot. Good luck with that.

  13. massive

    Russell Westbrook did not do a good job of guarding Stephen Curry. Every time Steph wanted to get to the basket he did. I can’t count how many times I saw Russell behind Steph and reaching in as one of Adams or Ibaka did a good job protecting the rim and preventing an easy lay up. Love and Thompson are definitely going to make Kyrie look bad though.

  14. DRed

    David Blatt is now coaching Darü??afaka Do?u?. So maybe the NBA doesn’t have a very high opinion of him.

  15. thenamestsam

    I generally agree. The three makes up for so many other faults. OKC doesn’t shoot it, which means they have to be perfect in other areas. And hell, they weren’t far off that. They had less than 10 turnovers. They put in work on the boards. They forced contested looks. Just didn’t have enough.

    Seriously. They lost games 6 and 7 by 15 points combined, but got outscored by 84 points (!) from behind the arc. In game 6 they gave up 21 three pointers and hit 3 themselves and still the game came down to the finals seconds. They played really well in other areas to climb out of that hole but you just can’t be at that much of a deficit in that area and expect to win very often.

  16. Donnie Walsh

    David Blatt is now coaching Darü??afaka Do?u?. So maybe the NBA doesn’t have a very high opinion of him.

    Or maybe he doesn’t have a very high opinion of the NBA?

  17. Jack Bauer

    “Melo wants to recruit KD because they both like hero ball.”

    That would be kind of cool to watch them both fight to be the hero in heroball

  18. Brian Cronin

    It’s actually pretty easy to do dual heroball. The Thunder do it. It’s pretty much just whoever has the ball at the end goes for it.

  19. massive

    There is no way KD signs here. Prepare for a nondescript summer in which Stephen A Smith tells America that we have been hoodwinked and that Melo should demand a trade because Phil is Phailing. “You’ve been telling us so much about how you were going to bring in marquee free agents and the best you can do in 3 years is Robin Lopez? Where are the rough riders?”

  20. DRed

    KD will sign with the Knicks if he really wants to live in NYC. Otherwise he’ll sign with a good team.

  21. DCrockett17 Post author

    “You’ve been telling us so much about how you were going to bring in marquee free agents and the best you can do in 3 years is Robin Lopez? Where are the rough riders?”

    This is hysterical if read in Stephen A. voice. WHEYR r duh ruff ryduhs?

  22. lavor postell

    It doesn’t matter. I looked inside KD’s chest and saw that he’s soft and wilts under pressure.

  23. dtrickey

    Pretty tough on OKC to say they choked. GSW were a 73 win record breaking regular season team. Not unreasonable to think that they could win 3 straight against a team that had won about 18 less than them. Although reading the WSJ article about Seattle fans pleasure in OKC losing, they might have some other opinions for you.

    I would be happy to bet that there is a 0% chance KD comes here. My money is that he stays in OKC. He wants to play for a contender, and frankly, while Westbrook is still in town OKC may be his best bet short of joining GSW.

  24. Mr. Cock Jowles, If You Please

    I wonder what kind of ego it requires to “only care about winning” and then refuse to join the Spurs or the Warriors when they have cap space due to a once-in-a-generation cap increase. That’s not just Durant but anyone who’s offered a market-competitive salary from GSW or SA and turns it down.

  25. Donnie Walsh

    KD will sign with the Knicks if he really wants to live in NYC. Otherwise he’ll sign with a good team.

    In an under-reported news story (reported by no one in fact), LeBron has not only recently purchased a house in Los Angeles, he has also been looking at elementary schools there for his kids to attend. Seeing as school season coincides with basketball season, could LeBron be considering taking his talents to Hollywood next year?

  26. Z-man

    I can’t label the Thunder chokers at all. The bottom line is that they were not as good as the Warriors, who proved their greatness. I was skeptical last year, but GS has made a believer out of me, especially Steph and Klay. They came up bigger than big when their team needed them to. There is no doubt in my mind that they are the most lethal shooting backcourt tandem of all time, Their 3-pt shooting is not of this Earth. Seriously, I can’t count how many times I felt utter astonishment at what I was seeing. I didn’t think we’d see a better shooter than Ray Allen emerge so soon, but a team with 2 better shooters? These guys are both more cold-blooded than Reggie Miller. And they’re just getting started!!

    Man, to be a GS fan right now…a home-grown all-time great and two other home-grown potential HOFers? All 27 or younger? Wow.

  27. d-mar

    One of Curry’s skills that may be underappreciated because of his ridiculous shooting is his ball handling. He really does have it on a string, and there were numerous occasions in the OKC series where he would dribble into traffic and look like he was about to lose the ball, and somehow never did.

    (And that “layup” to end the 1st half last night was sick, almost hit the top of the backboard.)

  28. Dough Chew

    @34 It truly is amazing. Curry may not be a world class athlete in terms of strength, size, or speed, but he is a world class athlete in terms of balance, quickness, and hand-eye coordination.

    He may not look like a freak athlete at first glance, but he is no mortal man.

  29. massive

    So if the Knicks are serious about grabbing KD, they have to upgrade the point guard for him to be interested. I don’t think he signs here no matter what, but who is out there that KD would be interested in? Guys who could be available via trade look like Rubio, Teague, Eric Bledsoe, and George Hill (and he’s unlikely to be traded). The free agent market is Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley, and Ty Lawson (and he’s DMV guy like Melo and Durant). Having one of those guys on the roster with Melo, KP, and Lopez could make us more attractive to a guy like KD. There’s always the idea of Derrick Rose, too. Now I don’t want D Rose on the Knicks, but do you trade Calderon and Lopez to Chicago if it means KD would sign in New York? He’s the type of trump card that can change a lot because in player’s minds he’s the youngest MVP ever and his name means a lot. He’s also an expiring deal so he would be a one year risk that makes you look better to Durant. Durant could look at Melo, Porzingis, and Lopez and say “these guys suck and I don’t even fit.” He could also look at Melo, Porzingis, and Rose and say “we could be great if Rose rounds himself back into form.” It’s interesting I think. And to the average guy D Rose still has game. Who knows what the players think of him?

  30. Alecto

    Ricky Rubio would be great on the Knicks despite his poor shooting uptempo play + strong defense on a Hornacek team would make him look really good.

    He might be able to be gotten for below market trade value, since Minnesota wants to treat Lavine as the future starting PG

    I still wouldn’t mind starting Grant and seeing what we got; but if the opportunity is there at not too great a cost, you take it.

    Durant’s a pipe dream though.

  31. dtrickey

    It’s interesting I think. And to the average guy D Rose still has game. Who knows what the players think of him?

    Definitely an interesting thought. I would imagine though that players are pretty savvy with these things though. Rose is probably still pretty respected for his achievements pre-knee blow outs amongst players, but you would think that given how much film players watch in preparation for games, they would know enough about the current status of his game that it he is a gamble. I would think any personal relationships would have to come into Rose (e.g. Rose and KD playing on team USA etc.) being an influential factor that situation.

  32. Mr. Cock Jowles, If You Please

    I’m all in favor of Derrick Rose if someone can build a time machine before the signing

  33. ptmilo

    The only way Durant convinces us to trade for Rose is if he wants to sign with the Bulls

  34. max fisher-cohen

    Warriors will destroy the Cavs. It’s an awful matchup for Cleveland. OKC/Cleveland would have been so much more fun. Warriors are like the Spurs. They have a spread of competent all around players and focus on exploiting defensive weak points with ball movement and speed.

    there are two types of teams that were able to beat GSW:

    1) Effective up tempo teams: Portland’s really the only team that showed any ability to stick around in a track meet vs GSW.

    2) Long, athletic teams with multiple impact defensive wings. Boston, Denver, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minnesota and OKC all gave GSW trouble in the reg season and playoffs thanks their length, athleticism and depth at the wing positions.

    I’m not sure Love is going to be able to play more htan like 25 minutes if Cleveland wants as chance at winning more htan one game. It’s going to have to be Thompson, Lebron, Shumpert, Smith, Dellavadova. That’s the only lineup I see having a chance at slowing GSW down. Thompson and Shumpert will have to have the series of their lives.

  35. iserp

    I wonder what kind of ego it requires to “only care about winning” and then refuse to join the Spurs or the Warriors when they have cap space due to a once-in-a-generation cap increase. That’s not just Durant but anyone who’s offered a market-competitive salary from GSW or SA and turns it down.

    I am not sure it is only ‘winning’ but ‘career success’. If he goes to GSW, he will be (almost) universally panned for that decision, and his achievements will be disregarded. People will talk for years about the sudden cap increase that brought imbalance to the NBA, etc. Although in time, people would forget about it.

    If he goes to the Spurs, I think that’s fine, as they arent the best regular season team ever, and some of their most important players will retire.

  36. yellowboy90

    So will the Thunder wait until the trade deadline or trade Ibaka this summer for some wing help? I just do not see how he is in the Thunder’s future regardless of what Durant does since Westbrook and Adams are FAs next year.

  37. Z-man

    While I will stop short of predicting a Cavs win, I think this will be a very competitive series. It was troubling that the Warriors went down 3-1 to the Thunder. It seems that GS needs adversity to play their best. LeBron is still LeBron and he is motivated and vengeful. The Cavs are healthy, well-rested and improved chemistry-wise from last year. I predict a long series decide by a nail-biter in Game 6.

  38. Frank

    I think Cleveland will give them a reasonable run for their money.

    GS’s defense seems to depend a fair amount on a) Iguodala being able to shut down the opposing team’s best player 1-on-1, and b) failing that, having someone they can ignore on defense to zone up the other 4 players. Cleveland can put a 5-out lineup on the floor when they have Frye at the 5, and surround a deadly Kyrie/LBJ PNR with 3 very good 3 point shooters. Last year Iguodala was able to “shut down” LBJ because there was zero spacing — GS was happy to let Dellavedova, Shump, etc. shoot and converge on Lebron anytime he came close. This year with a healthy Kyrie/Love/JR etc. they’ll be a bit more space for LBJ to work.

    Yes, Cleveland will have a really hard time guarding GS, but I think Cleveland’s offense will be able to keep up to some extent.

    Thinking back about the GS-OKC series — GS was really lucky to get out of there. Klay hit some seriously ridiculous shots those last 3 games — shot something like 70% from 3 when tightly guarded during that stretch. A couple of those rim out, it could have been a completely different ending.

  39. Mr. Cock Jowles, If You Please

    It seems that GS needs adversity to play their best.

    ummmmmmm k but prob not?

  40. bobneptune

    As to the notion of choking…. I don’t think that was the problem, rather that Durant and Westbrook both reverted to what got them to their exaulted positions throughout their careers. When their teams are in trouble, their primary instinct is to put their head down and try to make a play themselves, rather than sticking with the team concept. Melo is much the same way, instinctualy.

    Curry and Thompson are rare birds that while both have the balls of a cat burglar, you seldom see either of them do what Durant did in game 6. They aren’t afraid to air it out when they are feeling it, but one never gets the sense they are playing out of the team concept. I don’t think it is a coincidence they were both around pro ball from an early age.

  41. Brian Cronin

    So will the Thunder wait until the trade deadline or trade Ibaka this summer for some wing help? I just do not see how he is in the Thunder’s future regardless of what Durant does since Westbrook and Adams are FAs next year.

    Since Kanter is untradeable, then yeah, I’d definitely see what I could get for Ibaka right now. Kanter and Roberson can approximate enough of Ibaka’a value (Roberson really works better as a modern NBA 4 than a 2/3) that I think they can really afford to deal Ibaka to upgrade the 2 spot. Maybe trade Ibaka for a high draft pick and draft someone like Buddy Hield?

  42. Donnie Walsh

    A couple of those rim out, it could have been a completely different ending.

    A couple of them did rim out. He said himself that he should have made at least 13 threes in game 6.

    Cleveland should win the games that Draymond Green is inevitably suspended for. One more tech and one more flagrant each result in a suspension.

    I think it will be a good series, with both teams a little bit better than they were last year at this time. But people talk about the Warriors being untested before the Thunder series– the Blazers and Rockets both could have been top 4 teams in the East. It was a remarkably easy run for the Cavs to the finals.

  43. ptmilo

    Maybe trade Ibaka for a high draft pick and draft someone like Buddy Hield?

    Ibaka is good, but it seems hard to imagine a team with a high pick giving it up for one year of $12m. Ibaka. Having pole position to max Ibaka in the summer of 2017 at the finally plateau’d ~$107m cap doesn’t really have any value — I know I wouldn’t want that deal for the Knicks. Ibaka is only 27 but really looks like a player who has slowed a bit early on the aging curve (has anyone ever questioned his age?). And it’s awesome that the former best shot blocker in the league has the versatility to be a legitimate small 5 three point threat, but he gives up a lot of his game out there because he’s a truly terrible passer and can’t rebound or get back well in transition from the corner.

    Boston is desperate to unload picks but they would be crazy to give up #3 for one year of another pretty good forward who can’t create shots. Maybe you can argue for NO or Minny as teams that normally have trouble attracting free agents but I don’t see it; kind of odd to trade for Ibaka when you are sitting on Dieng and a C who can spot up from three. Maybe some kind of 3 way deal. Orlando might be a good fit if they want to pay Fournier and trade either Oladipo or the 11, but you’re not getting someone like Hield at 11.

  44. Brian Cronin

    I was thinking New Orleans at #6, pairing Ibaka with Davis would make for a formidable front line. They seem obsessed with veterans over draft picks.

  45. d-mar

    Supposedly, Durant’s dad is a big Knicks fan.

    So I think that increases our odds from zero to .1%.

  46. yellowboy90

    OKC is capped out and will need value contracts. Maybe instead of Boston lottery pick they trade for their #16 pick, #23 picks, and a player(J. Mickey/LSU). If Valentine is there at 16 I think it makes sense. I would then use the #23 pick to take a chance on Thon Maker or Chick Diallo.Then again Presti might just try for a pick and a S&T for Evan Turner. lol. Then again maybe they try to pair Bradley with Westbrook.

    Another idea would be George Hill for Ibaka. This would probably be the equivalent of getting Mike Conley(sas idea). Hill/Miles for Ibaka?

  47. Brian Cronin

    Okay, now we just need a press conference confirming that he doesn’t need to run the Triangle and I’ll be pumped. :)

  48. Dough Chew

    @46 Frank do you then see every game as a shootout?

    I don’t think Love or JR can keep up on the defensive end. If Curry can torch bigs as athletic as Adams and Ibaka, what will happen to Love? Or Frye?

  49. Jack Bauer

    “Supposedly, Durant’s dad is a big Knicks fan.
    So I think that increases our odds from zero to .1%.”

    THIS!

  50. Frank

    @46 Frank do you then see every game as a shootout?

    I don’t think Love or JR can keep up on the defensive end. If Curry can torch bigs as athletic as Adams and Ibaka, what will happen to Love? Or Frye?

    As great as Durant and Westbrook are, Lebron is an entirely different kind of talent. He literally went 1-on-5 against GS last year and won 2 games.

    Cleveland has way more shooting than OKC does, as well as more guys who can create something if/when necessary. With OKC if one of KD or Russ were out of the game, it was literally iso for the other guy over and over.

    Cleveland won’t be able to defend as well as OKC, but their offense is much healthier than OKC’s. LBJ is a better driver, finisher, and passer than either KD or Russ. Especially in crunch time, the ball movement will be way better. He’ll make a huge difference… not enough for Cleveland to win, but maybe enough to make it an entertaining series.

  51. Z-man

    If the Cavs win, how much does that boost LeBron’s standing in the GOAT argument? I would say significantly. Knocking off the team with the best record in history on his sixth straight trip to the finals with a team that’s a clear underdog, for a city that hasn’t had a title in anything for 1000 years, that would be impressive.

  52. lavor postell

    When it’s all said and done I figure Lebron will end up being 3rd in the GOAT ranks after Jordan and Kareem.

  53. Brian Cronin

    If the Cavs win, how much does that boost LeBron’s standing in the GOAT argument? I would say significantly. Knocking off the team with the best record in history on his sixth straight trip to the finals with a team that’s a clear underdog, for a city that hasn’t had a title in anything for 1000 years, that would be impressive.

    It really would be a truly historic accomplishment.

Comments are closed.