Well, if you believe in the idea of things ultimately balancing out, you’d have to be on board with the idea that the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to be in position to take care of business in Game 3 of their Western Conference playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, scheduled to begin at 9:35 PM ET at the Ford Center.
Why do we say that? Well, because it would be damn near impossible for the Thunder to dip to a new low in shooting the basketball, as they have not been able to hit the side of a steer (see what we did with that phrase?) when stepping out beyond the three-point arc.
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OKC’s problem coming into the series appeared to be whether Paul George was going to be affected by the injury to his shoulder. And that concern was well-founded, as he admits to being rusty in the series opener, when he hit eight of 24 shots. It was a question of “rhythm,” as he put it, and he was at least pretty good from two-point range in Game 2, hitting nine of 13.
But the huge issue with his club is that they have been flat-out flustered by their inability to hit from long-range. In these first two games they’ve made just ten of 61 triples. That’s a miserable 16.4%. But doesn’t that have to improve?
In the regular season, the Thunder were almost 35% accurate beyond the three-point line. And they were a percentage point better at home, which suggests that a return to “normal” might reap benefits.
In the NBA playoff odds posted on this game – with reduced juice, by the way, at BetAnySports, the Thunder are favored:
Oklahoma City Thunder -7.5 (-105)
Portland Trail Blazers +7.5 (-105)
Over 222 points -109
Under 222 points -101
George said that he was just out of sync in Game 1, and you can see that other parts of his game are working, and he’s played 84 minutes in the two games thus far. So the health concerns shouldn’t be there.
The solution to the Thunder’s three-point woes? Well, according to George, it’s “just jeep shooting.” He’s probably right; this is what OKC has done all season – rely on George and Russell Westbrook, who are both around 30% in their Usage rates and combined to throw 40 shots toward the rim in Game 2. They have also made just seven of 31 shots from downtown between them.
They are going to shoot. And if Portland makes them shot fro uncomfortable places, they are going to continue to shoot because they need to keep those numbers (the shot attempts high). Sometimes that leads to ugly offense and brings an entire team down,. but hey – this isn’t exactly Red Auerbach’s Celtics or Red Holtzman’s Knicks, where there was such a spirit of selflessness and balance that the points could come literally anywhere. It’s more or less a two-man show.
And the same can be said about the Blazers, where Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum took 43 of the 90 shots in Game 2. Of course, those guys were more accurate, making more than 50%. But throughout the season, the presence of Jusuf Nurkic was such a critical factor in helping to get Portland’s shooters open, with his passing and screening. A lot of the offense flowed through him, and there is likely going to be a point where that catches up to the Blazers; where the lack of real defensive ability on the part of Enes Kanter becomes a real albatross.
With some progression by OKC and regression by Portland (hey, I wasn’t a math major), we might just be in a nice spot to lay the number, which would otherwise seem pretty high.
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