In the Thunder’s second round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thabo Sefolosha was performing more or less up to par. He averaged 6.2 points in the six games against LA, scoring 14 in Game Two. While he’s not counted on to score in bunches for Oklahoma City (Durant and Westbrook are obviously the leading scorers), his 61.5% shooting percentage indicated efficient production. As long as he takes smart shots and knocks them down, coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder are pleased because they know he’s primarily their lockdown defender, which is his primary function on the team.
In these Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Sefolosha has disappeared on both sides of the floor. In last night’s 35 point loss, the Thunder’s starting shooting guard failed to score a single point. Missing all five of his shots from the field, including 0-2 from three-point range. Sefolosha’s defense has been his calling card, that staple was nowhere to be found as he allowed Danny Green to go 5-7 from three-point land. Once it was clear he was absolutely lost, Brooks pulled him for the rest of the game. He only played 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done.
Through the first two games, Sefolosha has scored zero points on 0-9 shooting, while counterpart Danny Green has scored 37 points on 13-18 shooting including 11-15 from behind the arc. On both offense and defense, Sefolosha is getting roasted. Just look at the video of Tony Parker crossing him over in Game 1. While Parker is one of the best point guards to ever play this game, there’s no way he should have been able to freeze one of the “premier” perimeter defenders in the NBA like he did.
This article is by no means suggesting that Sefolosha is solely to blame for OKC’s play in this series thus far. The loss of Serge Ibaka to injury made it clear that the Spurs had a major edge even before play began and the Thunder are getting destroyed in the paint. However, when your starting shooting guard goes the first two games of a series without scoring a single point while getting lit up by his man on defense every possession, you have a serious problem on your hands.
Scott Brooks has a decision to make and it’s an easy one. To give his Thunder any chance of winning a game in this series, he needs to start Reggie Jackson at shooting guard. Jackson scored 13 points in Game 1 and eight points in Game 2, on an efficient mark of 56% from the floor. He played the majority of the minutes at the two-guard position in both games once Sefolosha struggled, and it’s time to give him the starting nod altogether. If he starts to falter, Sefolosha will get a chance to prove himself coming off the bench. Until then, a shakeup is in order with Oklahoma City’s starting five.