The Thunder are young, perhaps you’ve heard. It’s their defining feature, since older teams are far more prone to playoff success. Young players tend to shoot worse, cough the ball up, and play shoddy defense. OKC certainly has had turnover issues. Their defense is decent, not elite. But they shoot lights out, aided in large part by Kevin Durant. As for the turnovers, it’s an occupational hazard of such a driving, foul-seeking attack–an attack that blessed the Thunder with the NBA’s second best offense this season.
So not every mistake or failing is based purely on impetuousness and the Thunder are good at an old man’s skill. But, youthful indiscretions usually get blamed in the wake of defeat. The young team is so young, so therefore their loss must have happened because they were acting young (For more on OKC’s youth tautology, read this fine Eric Freeman piece in The Classical).
There is such a strong need to view sports success as indicative of growth or maturity. The game ceases to be a contest between two competent opponents and instead becomes a referendum on whether or not the Oklahoma City Thunder should be allowed to rent a car. I’m personally a little worried about how James Harden might swerve between lanes and make it look like other cars are causing accidents, but I digress.
Meanwhile, OKC may occasionally lose because Scott Brooks favors veterans. Game 3 saw 28 minutes for Derek Fisher and 34 minutes for Kendrick Perkins. The latter played decently, though it was his first good showing in three contests. The former looked, well, formerly good at pro basketball. Aside from a wild four-point play, Derek Fisher had a forgettable performance. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka languished on the bench (22 minutes), an area he struggles to block shots from. It’s possible that youth wouldn’t be holding OKC back so much if it were allowed to fully flourish.
After the game, Perkins gave some hearty-gritty speechifying to the Thunder yougins’ and it made for good (Internet) copy:
“Nothing’s going to be given to us, we’ve got to go take it. We were just careless and sloppy. … We’ve got to know that we are in the Finals.”
That rings true to many observers. Title-winning vet lectures the kids on what’s what. Except, Kendrick Perkins turns the ball over, misses shots, fouls frequently. The “ancient” 27 year-old has the profile of someone who could use a bit more seasoning. Or possibly, he needs a bit more time on the bench to make room for the 22 year-old Serge Ibaka.