By Michael Kinney
It can come off as coach speak. Hearing the phrase ‘play for a full four quarters is at the top of the lists coaches and players say when they can’t figure out what’s wrong.
However, for the Oklahoma City Thunder, not performing at a high level for 48 minutes has been a sizable issue since the start of the season. Coach Billy Donovan has been preaching that his team needs to play all four quarters of a game, but it hasn’t happened on a consistent basis yet.
“There’s a lot of things that go into playing a full 48-minute game,” Donovan said. “And it’s hard. There is a lot of ebbs and flows. A lot of possessions. There is going to be momentum-changing plays, momentum-changing swings in games. Being able to navigate through those things is important.”
In their last outing, the Thunder showed what can happen when they take their foot off the peddle and allow teams to come back on them. Oklahoma City led San Antonio by 23 Friday before allowing the Spurs to storm back in second half and snatch the win.
It has become a continual issue for the Thunder as they let games slip away in which they have sizable leads. Losses to Boston, Denver and Sacramento also highlighted the same issues.
“We have gotten off to really good starts. I think the way the team has come out has been really good, really positive,” Donovan said. “Clearly when you go on the road and play and get up the way we did, regardless of who you play against, teams are going to make a run at you.”
According to forward Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder are on the brink of putting a full game together.
“We‘ re there. We’re close,” Anthony said. “We show spurts of it. That’s the exciting part about it. We know what we can be. Starting the game, we’re always up 20. That’s who we are. Sustaining that throughout the course game, not putting two quarters together, not putting a half together, starting to put full games together.”
In fact, Anthony used the loss to the Spurs as a prime example of the Thunder getting closer.
“I thought in San Antonio, we had a little bit of slippage in the second and third quarter,” Anthony said. “But for the most part, we played throughout most of the game. That was one of the games where I can say we played almost a complete game.”
Anthony said the biggest difference between how Oklahoma City plays early in games compared to late is mental. That as a team they play more instinctive in first halves, which allows to get up big on opposing teams.
But the Thunder starts to think too much in the second half, according to Anthony. Donovan agrees.
“It’s a reflection of their unselfishness,” Donovan said. “They are trying to figure out how to work with each other. Those are things I think we need to continually work through and get better. Hopefully, as a coaching staff, we can help them work through those things.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com