The collective adolescence of the Oklahoma City Thunder may have been what got them this far, but it’s also what doomed them in Game 4.
This has been an entertaining series, to say the least, and that makes it a shame that there will (in my opinion) only be five games. Each game has showed us something a little different, and Game 4 was no exception.
A number of experts have said that the youth of the Thunder is one of their greatest strengths. Not only can they run faster and jump higher than their opponents, but they can run all game without tiring, supposedly. They also possess a sort of feeling of invincibility. Where some more experienced teams would have realized that the series versus San Antonio was over after trailing 0-2, the Thunder ignored the odds and won four straight.
These things are true; youth has value in sports. However, it creates its own share of problems as well. Why did Shane Battier, who is a long way from his days at Cameron Indoor, out-jump Kevin Durant, who is 23 and has a 7-4 wing span, to the critical jump ball with 17 seconds left? He was ready for it. He’d seen it happen before. He was thinking ahead.
The collective youth of the Thunder contributed greatly to their loss in Game 4 in a few different ways. Firstly, they let the officiating bother them too much. The officials certainly missed some calls, but an NBA player cannot let that affect the way he plays. D-Wade and LeBron do plenty of complaining too, but they have a short memory and move on. They actually allow it to motivate them sometimes. I think the Thunder might have actually been venting their frustration that, for the second game in a row, the Heat out-manned them. The Heat were playing physically and within the rules of the game. Even Chris Bosh, who has a somewhat-deserved reputation for being soft, is fighting (and winning) in the paint. The Heat get calls and the Thunder must accept that. By the way, Durant has gained a reputation as a foul-collector, hasn’t he?
James Harden is 22 years old. This was only his third year in the league. He’s a kid. A kid with a really impressive beard. And I think it is because of that beard that we forget how young and inexperienced a player he really is. And, I’m sorry to say, James Harden is also slightly overrated. He’s a fine player, but to expect him to be some sort of star is a little unfair. He has had some outstanding games this postseason, but for every game he scores in the high ‘teens, there is one where he scores in the low ‘teens.
The last two games, Harden has struggled mightily from the field. He’s now 4-20 in the last two games after shooting 7-11 in Game 2. And I don’t think it’s going to get better before this series is over. He eventually just quit shooting in Game 4, one time standing wide open a foot inside the arc and refusing at first to attempt the shot. He also started to throw some bad passes and had four turnovers.
If he feels defeated, I can’t blame him. It must be frustrating for the reigning 6th Man of the Year to miss layups and open 3’s.
Now, while a 28-year-old James Harden might be able to shake it off and get his shot back to help his team win, I don’t think the kid with the beard will. Which is unfortunate for OKC, because his offensive contributions have been vital to their success thus far, and without him, winning any more games would be a real accomplishment.
Despite Russell Westbrook’s impressive offensive game, his mistake of fouling Mario Chalmers with 5 seconds left on the shot clock was a critical error. I would hope that Scott Brooks made it clear to his team that they should not foul, but even if not it is still a mistake a more experienced Westbrook would not have made.
And finally, Kevin Durant has yet to prove that he is more than just a scorer. Maybe he is the best scorer in the game, but the lack of rebounds, assists, really hurts his team. This entire series, he has 19 rebounds, 8 assists, and four blocks (he averaged 8 rebounds per game this season, where did that go?). LeBron has 40 rebounds and 24 assists. Durant is capable of adding these things to his game. I imagine he’ll eventually gain some muscle, and he’ll learn how to see the open shooter and gain the assist.
The problem is, all three of those guys are 23 or younger. They aren’t at that stage of their career where the problems seen in Game 4 won’t exist. But not now. Now, they’re in trouble.
It seems their youth has finally caught up to them.
Calling it, the Finals are over Game 5. What do you think? Like, comment, subscribe/follow, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!