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Thunder coach Billy Donovan says third quarter had OKC 'playing up hill'

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Thunder coach Billy Donovan and his team find themselves in a 2-0 hole in this first-round playoff series against the Blazers. Here's what Donovan said about his team's struggles through these opening games of the series:

Opening statement

I thought it was a really, really competitive first half. I thought we played well. I thought it was good we came out in the first quarter and got off to a much, much better start than we did in Game 1. I thought the third quarter for us, I thought our ball movement was pretty good in the first half. I didn’t think we did as good of a job there in the third quarter. I think our defense labored, then obviously those guys putting the ball on the floor and attacking us. So after the third quarter, we were kind of playing up hill to get back in the game. I thought the difference in the game was that third quarter.

What has been the biggest difference in the games you played against Portland in the regular season and these first two playoff games?

I think in all the Portland games that we played them, it really could’ve gone either way to be quite honest with you. We had a layup late in the game on a loose ball to win it. All those games kind of came down to it. In a lot of ways, those games could’ve gone either way. Game 1, we had an opportunity to go either way in the last two minutes. We were down by one, and Lillard made that shot. Certainly today in that second half, they really outplayed us and wasn’t as competitive as the last five games have been.

Early in the third quarter, you turned it over several times. How does that weigh on your offense when you value pace and getting shots up on the backboard?

Obviously, turnovers are always going to hurt when you when you’re not getting shots at the basket. I think the other part of it for us, I felt like we didn’t move the ball as well as we needed to in the third quarter in terms of generating penetration and finding the open man, moving it when they were giving help. We need to do a better job. I thought in the first half, we didn’t pretty good job of that. But in that third quarter, we didn’t do nearly as good of a job. We’re getting downhill, making some reads. The other thing, too, is I thought we missed a lot of plays around the basket. I thought we missed a lot of finishes and layups around the rim. We didn’t shoot great from the free-throw line either when we did get fouled. But I think trying to figure out ways to make the game easier for one another, I thought we did that in the first half.

McCollum and Lillard scored in isolation plays quite a bit off the dribble. Are they making great plays or is the defense faltering?

Some of it was well defended. What makes those guys challenging is they shoot threes with range, then they can play off the dribble. They’re really good off the dribble. You’ve got to get up on them which creates more space. I didn’t think they really totally hurt us in a lot of pick and rolls. I thought we really had a hard time containing them on the dribble just in space.

What do you do with the continuing struggles from three?

I’m going to go back and look at the third quarter in particular because I want to see what kind of looks we got, but I thought we generated pretty good shots in first half. In the third quarter, we did turn the ball over. Paul got off 15 3s, and I think they probably made a conscientious effort to eliminate some of those threes that he got off. So it wasn’t like he took the same number that he did last game. But I thought for the most part, our team got fairly decent looks, and we’re gonna have to take them. As the ball gets driven downhill and teams bring help and they protect the rim, you just can’t force it in there and take tough, ill-advised shots. And when the ball gets sprayed back out to the perimeter, when guys are open, it’s hard to say, ‘Well, just drive right back into the help again and see if they move out of the way.’ You’re going to have to keep the defense somewhat honest by making some of those shots. Clearly for the last two games, we have not shot the ball well. It was encouraging in Game 1 that we obviously had a chance not shooting the ball well. I think some of the turnovers and the shotmaking of Lillard and McCollum probably magnified the shooting for us. But we offensive rebounded well. We got to the free-throw line. We kept them off the free-throw line. We did some good things, but certainly statistically, the 3-point line was a major difference. But we’ve just gotta find a way to generate good offense.

There have been season-long issues with shooting. What’s the key to sticking with the offense and with ball movement when the shooting goes awry?

Like anything else, guys have got a lot of confidence and belief in themselves individually. There’s a reason all of these guys are up here at this level. You want guys playing confidently. You want guys playing aggressively. But we’ve got to understand at times a good shot versus a great shot. It’s a fine line. I thought there was a couple opportunities where guys had shots that I wouldn’t say was a bad shot. There may have been one more pass that would’ve made it a great shot. I think that’s what we’ve got to try to do a better job of. So I don’t think it was necessarily that the whole third quarter all that we did, we turned it over too much, but it wasn’t like we took all bad shots on every possession. But there were some times that we could’ve maybe got better ones.

What do you have to do outside of shooting better to have success in OKC?

If you look statistically, offensive rebounding, free-throw line … on the free-throw line, they got more than we did in Game 1. We took seven more shots than they did last game. We’re going to have to generate obviously more points. That’s really what it comes down to. We’re trying to get to the offensive glass, which we’ve done a pretty good job of. We’ve tried to keep them off the free-throw line. I thought some of it got skewed because we had to foul late in the last game to extend the length of the game. Our turnovers tonight were a little bit higher tonight, but for the most part, our turnovers are down. We’re not shooting the ball great. We had 21 assists tonight; I think our guys are intentionally trying to play the right way. I think if some shots can go down, that would certainly help. But I think it’s just like all the controllable things. I thought we did a much, much better job offensive rebounding tonight. I thought we got hurt on the offensive glass late in the game in Game 1. We did a much better job I thought rebounding across the board. So I think our guys are really trying and giving forth effort. We talked about coming out in the first quarter and not having that kind of quarter we had in Game 1. We did a much better job. But you know, on the road like that, when there’s momentum things, you’ve got to really, really try to be able to regroup and finds way to stop some of that. I thought we did some of that in the first half, not so much in the second.

Portland seemed to get bench sparks from Leonard, Hood, Curry. Your bench hasn’t contributed in those ways. How important has that been and will that be moving forward?

I don’t know if I agree with that. I thought our bench was really good in the first half. Those guys did a really, really nice job, and I think if you look at them, they’re all pretty much in the plus column. They did a pretty good job out there. We kind of switched up the rotation a little bit there, just tried to get a different look because I thought we were laboring a little bit on offense in the middle of the third. So we ended up moving Paul to the power forward spot and tried to play with some guards there, so our rotations there were maybe a little different there in the second. But I thought our bench, our guys that came off the bench, really for the most part, the minutes they played, they gave us a nice lift. Their bench played well. Leonard played well off the bench, and so did Hood and Curry. I’m not taking anything away from them, but I didn’t think our guys off the bench played poorly tonight.

Related Photos
Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d1a38dd77cea5b920b5da88a24ba4bfe.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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