Well, the Thunder went on the road for two games this week, only to return without a single victory of which they could hang their hats on. Tuesday night resulted in a 112-101 loss to the Jazz, which was easily explained via Serge Ibaka’s absence due to flu-like symptoms. No Ibaka, no threat of low-post or paint defense of which to speak, and the Jazz took advantage. Although it should be noted that the Jazz’s last 17 points in that game came off of the hot hand of Gordon Heyward, who needed them all to beat back a furious Thunder rally that fell just short.
Last night, Ibaka was in the lineup, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Being outscored 42-18 from beyond the arc didn’t help their case. It was pretty much all Nuggets from start to finish, with the Nuggets winning by a 101-88 margin.
Ty Lawson had a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double. Randy Foye’s 24 points led the Nuggets, while Kenneth Faried pulled down 14 rebounds, and J.J. Hickson pulled down 12. Evan Fournier contributed 19 points from the Nuggets bench.
No one but Kevin Durant bothered to show up. While all 5 starters combined for 61 points, 30 of those were from Durant alone. Reggie Jackson had 13, but didn’t reach double-digits until under 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. All of Derek Fisher’s 12 points came in the 4th quarter, well after the contest had already been decided. Ibaka did pull down 10 rebounds, but they were inconsequential in the end. This is becoming a trend that is really starting to irk me.
I remember when everybody used to give Russell Westbrook crap about taking too many shots, and not putting the game in Durant’s hands. Keep in mind, this was back during the “Big 3” days of Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden. Initially, I had the same school of thought, but then I began to notice things that other Thunder fanatics were not. Back in those days (like they were that long ago), the Thunder were very bad about their overreliance on jump shooting. If 3-balls weren’t dropping, instead of doing smart things like getting to the rim for easy buckets to rebuild confidence, they’d just continue to brick jumper after jumper until they lost outright.
What I liked about Westbrook’s game, and still like about his game, is the fact that he doesn’t care about the pressure that’s put on him. He is an aggressor and a facilitator. If things aren’t going the Thunder’s way, Westbrook will practically will his way to the basket for some easy points. The lay-ins don’t always fall, but Westbrook’s aggressiveness is a major asset to the Thunder squad. He keeps the Thunder in games. Plus, he does what other Thunder players seem unwilling to do, and that’s step up and take the game over if Durant is having an off night. It seems as thought the other Thunder players want to sit back and watch Durant do it all. He was even quoted last night saying,
“Today they were sitting there and watching me. I take full responsibility. As the leader you take the good and the bad.”
If that quote says anything to me, it says that Durant is still a little too nice of a guy. If everyone were just standing around watching me play instead of trying anything off the ball that could help me out, I couldn’t stay quiet about it. I’d be “that guy”, telling them they might as well have a seat on the bench, because they’ll be just as much help from there as they are on the court. I’d probably rub some the wrong way, but they’d know full well that I will not tolerate everyone just standing around expecting me to get it done. I understand that Durant’s “nice guy” personality is what makes him so appealing to the Thunder fanatic in our state, but it’s also one of the biggest reasons he’s still ringless. I’m noticing more scowls and furrowed brows coming from him lately, but I don’t see him winning an NBA Championship untill he learns how to harness and effectively utilize his “inner a-hole”.
They don’t have much time to figure out how to right the ship. The Milwaukee Bucks are coming to Chesapeake Energy Arena this Saturday looking to force a third-consecutive Thunder loss, and their fourth loss in seven games. The game is scheduled for a 7pm CST tip-off, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.