KD Hurt In Loss To Warriors, Status For Tonight Unclear

By Randy Renner

After putting together the best first half of his career, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant spent the rest of last night's game with the Golden State Warriors on the bench cheering for his teammates.

KD rolled his right ankle on the final possession of the first half when he stepped on Marreese Speights' foot. The injury is not believed to be serious.

Up until then Durant was unstoppable, scoring 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting overall and 5-for-6 on threes. The Thunder went on to lose 114-109, mostly because they couldn't get enough defensive stops. The Thunder offense also went in the ditch with Durant out of the game, the team appeared to rely far too much on isolation plays involving either Russell Westbrook or Reggie Jackson. Those two took 14 of the last 15 Thunder shots.

“Too many. Too many. That’s on me," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks admitted after the game. "We have to do a better job. We gotta make sure the ball keeps moving.”

The Thunder handed out just 17 assists in the game while the Warriors helped out on a whopping 32 of their 48 made baskets.

At first Durant feared he might have re-injured his surgically repaired right foot but he told reporters afterwards, "I knew when I got up and started walkin' I was okay, it felt good so I just wanted to make sure with the x-rays everything was good."

And everything is. Nothing broken, in the ankle or the foot, in fact "I wanted to play," KD said. "I wanted go back out there but we wanted to be cautious."

No sense in risking any greater damage to Durant in a December game even if it was against the first place team in the Western Conference.

The Thunder were clearly affected by not having KD on the floor, it may have sapped their spirit and it certainly made the team less effective.

The Thunder scored 55 points in 18:44 with Durant on the court, compared to 54 points in 29:16 with Durant on the bench. The Thunder's offense was much more efficient on possessions in which Durant touched the ball, scoring 1.30 points per play, compared to 0.88 points per play when Durant didn't receive a touch.

In the first half, when Durant was playing, the Thunder shot 55.6 percent overall and 61.5 percent on 3-pointers. With him out of the game the team shot just 42.0 percent overall and 25.0 percent on threes.

Durant left Oracle Arena without using crutches and without wearing a walking boot. Reporters who watched him said he didn't even have much of a limp. Durant and team doctors will see how the ankle responds to treatment before deciding if he can play tonight against the Lakers.

It's probably a game the Thunder can win without him so don't be surprised if KD stays on the bench tonight at Staples Center and returns to action at home on Sunday against New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the Thunder got another high scoring game from Westbrook, who dropped in 33 points but he struggled some with his shooting, going 11-for-30 overall and 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. Serge Ibaka added 12 points and three blocks and Andre Roberson had perhaps his best game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, he also handed out three assists.

Those guys didn't much help from anyone else though. Reggie Jackson managed just four points on 2-for-8 shooting, Anthony Morrow also scored four but didn't even take a 3-point shot and Jeremy Lamb is slumping again joining the four point patrol. He took just two shots overall and also did not attempt a long ball.

The Thunder allowed Golden State to shoot 51.1 percent overall after holding them to just 35.5 percent last month in OKC.

Tonight the Thunder will try to bounce back against a Lakers team that continues to struggle.

They're coming off their worst shooting performance of the season, making 33 percent from the floor while trailing by as many as 39 points in Monday's 110-91 loss at Indiana, ending a season-best three-game win streak.

"They jumped out to a quick lead on us and we just compounded it that we couldn't throw the ball in the ocean sitting on a boat," Kobe Bryant said. "Sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the back for an atrocious job. We didn't have our legs at the start of the ball game. We just could not get ourselves activated."

They should have their legs tonight, having been off since that Monday game, whether they can shoot the ball any better remains to be seen.

It should be a good way to bounce back for the Thunder defense. If Durant can't go tonight, Perry Jones, who started the second half in KD's place last night, likely gets the call again.

Tonight's contest is another national TV game, this time back on ESPN so tipoff could be as late as 9:45 if the first game of ESPN's double-header runs long.

The Thunder usually don't have shootarounds in the middle of a back-to-back set so we may not find out about Durant's status until Brooks speaks with reporters an hour and a half or so before tipoff.

 

Thunder-Warriors Set For Showdown

By Randy Renner

Two of the hottest teams in basketball are set for a showdown game tonight in Oakland, the Golden State Warriors have the NBA's best record at 21-3 and the Oklahoma City Thunder have the league's longest current streak at seven straight games.

"It's another game in the regular season for us to get better," Kevin Durant told reporters. "They're a great team and the number one team in the West right now. We have our work cut out for us. ... It should be a fun matchup."

The Warriors are surely eager to get back on the court after their franchise-best 16-game winning streak ended in Tuesday's 105-98 defeat at Memphis. Golden State, which hadn't lost since falling 113-100 to San Antonio way back on November 11th, was limited to 41.1 percent shooting for its second-worst mark this season.

The Warriors worst shooting night came in the first meeting of the season against the Thunder when OKC (playing without Durant and Russell Westbrook) held them to just 35.5 percent shooting and a season-low 91 points. The Thunder lost that night 91-86 mostly because of a career-night from Marreese Speights who dropped in 28 points coming off the bench and then Speights fired some verbal shots after the game ripping Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.

“He thinks he’s a tough guy, but at the end of the day, his game is terrible.”

Perkins responded to those comments after a Thunder practice session.

“I just don’t understand some guys,” Perk said then. “Especially like a guy his caliber, five or six-year player in the league, you been on six different teams, you don’t really have no room to be talking about anyone.”

So that should add even more intrigue to what should be a heck of a game tonight as the Thunder continue to round into shape after getting everyone back from injuries.

"We just stayed poised because we've been there before. It's not our first time," Durant said. "We've just been trying to get better every single day. I can't keep preaching that enough. Defensively we've been locking in."

Have they ever. The Thunder have limited opponents to 93.1 points and 40.2 percent shooting during their seven-game run.

But just when it appeared the Thunder had shaken the injury bug, Mitch McGary was bitten again. He finally saw some playing time the other night but now he will have to sit out another couple of weeks with inflammation in his left leg.

David Lee (hamstring) and Andrew Bogut (knee tendinitis) are out for Golden State, which saw its franchise record 16-game winning streak come to an end Tuesday night in Memphis. They Warriors still have a streak going at home though. They've six straight and eight of nine inside rowdy Oracle Arena.

Tonight's contest is the second game of TNT's national TV double-header so tipoff tonight will be around 9:40 to 9:45 depending on when the first game ends. You can also catch coverage over on Fox Sports Oklahoma beginning at 9 o'clock tonight.

 

 

Thunder Streak To Seven Straight

By Randy Renner

The Thunder survived a last quarter scare from the Sacramento Kings and ended up winning going away 104-92 giving the Thunder their seventh straight win and their ninth victory in the last 10 games.

OKC threated to run away and hide form the Kings early in the game, jumping out to a 34-18 lead in the first quarter. It was so bad Kings fans booed their team as they walked to their huddle.

Maybe that woke them up or gave the Thunder too much confidence but whatever the reason the Kings came back to life and got back into the game for a while. Sacramento even led briefly in the fourth quarter but the Thunder finished the game by clamping down on defense to get the win.

"Defensively, I think we've been locking in," said Kevin Durant, who played a season-high 35 minutes. "We have little spurts where we're bad, but overall I think we did a good job in playing defense."

Durant scored 26 points and at 26 years old became the second youngest player in the NBA to score 15,000 points. LeBron James reached that milestone at age 25 but remember James came into the league straight out of high school, while KD played a year of college.

Russell Westbrook also had a huge game and reached a record. Westbrook scored 32 points and is now averaging 25.8 points a game while playing an average of 29.4 minutes a game. He becomes the first player in NBA history to average at least 25 points in less than 30 minutes a game for the first 10 games of a season. Westbrook missed 14 games with a broken hand.

It was the first game for the Kings since Michael Malone was fired as coach and lead assistant Tyrone Corbin was promoted to interim coach. They dropped to 2-8 while star forward DeMarcus Cousins has been out of the lineup with viral meningitis.

"This is an I-don't-feel-sorry-for-you league," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "When we had guys hurt, I didn't get a lot of text messages, 'Hey, hang in there,' from the other 29 coaches in the league."

The Thunder also got seven blocks from forward Serge Ibaka and 10 rebounds from center Steven Adams.

They'll stay on the west coast the rest of the week for games at Golden State Thursday night and then at the LA Lakers on Friday night.

The Warriors lost for the first time since Veterans Day last night. The Memphis Grizzlies' defense made it tough on Golden State not allowing the Warriors to reach 100 points.

The last time the Thunder a Warriors played (last month in OKC) the Thunder, even without superstars Durant and Westbrook, put the clamps on the Warriors offense too. Oklahoma City held Golden State to their lowest point total of the season and their worst shooting night.

Even so the Thunder lost that game.

A similar defensive effort will likely be needed Thursday night but now at least the Thunder have the offensive firepower to stay with the Warriors even in a shootout.

This next one should be fun to watch and it should be a much better gauge as to how close the Thunder are now to the team that many consider to be the best in the NBA right now. It's another late game, with tipoff likely around 9:45 Thursday night. It's the second game of TNT's national TV double-header. The game will also be televised by Fox Sports Oklahoma.

What A Mess In Sac-Town

By Randy Renner

You know there was a time when Scotty Brooks would have loved to have been head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

He grew up just down the road in a small town in northern California, the Kings were the closest team and back in the day they were pretty darn good. The arena, called "Arco" back then, was always packed and always loud. It was one of the best, if not THE best game atmospheres in the NBA.

Brooks was an assistant there for a while before he hooked up with the Seattle SuperSonics which of course led him to Oklahoma City where he now leads a team that's more than a little bit like those classic Kings teams that could run circles around most anyone and Chesapeake Energy Arena is now known as the loudest arena in the NBA. Back in Sac-Town old "Arco Arena" is now known as "Sleep Train Arena" and fans do more dozing than cheering.

Now days Brooks only likes to visit his old stomping grounds, he wouldn't want to coach there anymore. Not a very good life expectancy for coaches there these days.

On a whim apparently, the Kings new ownership fired a good coach over the weekend even though the team has been without star forward DeMarcus Cousins for the last couple of weeks. Cousins is still recovering from viral meningitis. His absence sent the Kings season spiraling and there was little coach Michael Malone or anyone else could do about it.

Malone got the axe anyway and now Ty Corbin, who was Malone's lead assistant and formally coached the Utah Jazz, takes over.

Corbin and the shorthanded Kings now must face a rejuvenated and healthy again Thunder squad that's on a big time roll.

The Kings lost to the Thunder earlier this season in Oklahoma City while the Thunder were still ailing so the Kings may not be able to put up much resistance tonight.

That of course is also when teams like the Kings can be the most dangerous, especially if the Thunder go into the game thinking (like most of us) that they already have the game won.

I doubt the Thunder will fall victim to that sort of thinking. The team and especially superstar point guard Russell Westbrook seem locked in on the mission at hand, winning as many games as possible to get as close to the rest of the pack as possible in the loaded Western Conference.

OKC begins the day in a 3-way tie with Sacramento and Phoenix for ninth place in The West, just a half game behind New Orleans for the eighth spot.

The Thunder have won six straight games and eight of the last nine to climb almost all the way out of the 3-12 hole they buried themselves in over the first month of the season.

This trip to the west coast offers a chance to win at least two more games, tonight in Sacramento and Friday night in Los Angeles against a terrible Lakers team. It also offers up a showdown game with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

Remember back on November 23rd at The Peake the Thunder, still without Westbrook and superstar forward Kevin Durant, almost beat the Warriors by holding them to their point total of the season and their worst shooting percentage by far.

The Thunder defense is still as good as it's been. OKC leads the NBA in scoring defense giving up just 94 points a game. They're second in opponent shooting percentage allowing teams to hit a meager 41.7 percent of their shots.

The biggest difference the Thunder are enjoying now that KD and Russ are back is the explosive offense. The Thunder have gone from averaging just under 90 points a game with their stars on the bench to averaging almost 105 a game with them back out on the court.

It has proven to be a deadly combination for opponents and if it continues, by the time the Thunder are back home on Sunday night they'll be above .500, solidly back in the playoff race and up and out of that November hole.

 

Thunder, Suns Continue Streaking

By Randy Renner

The Thunder blew out the Phoenix Suns 112-88 and both teams continue streaking in opposite directions. 

Oklahoma City has now won six straight and eight of the last nine, while Phoenix has dropped five straight and seven of the last nine. 

The Thunder win now puts them just a half game behind the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. 

The Thunder started heating up when their injured superstars returned to the lineup and both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had huge nights Sunday evening. 

Westbrook led all scorers with 28 points and came close to triple-double territory once again with eight rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook did not play in the fourth quarter. 

Durant added 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting and he grabbed eight rebounds.  Anthony Morrow came off the bench to score 14 and Serge Ibaka added 12 on 5-for-7 shooting.

The Thunder took control early scoring 41 points in the first quarter (a season high) and 70 points in the first half. OKC also had 70 points in the first half the other night in Minnesota and that marks the first time the Thunder have scored that many points in two straight first halves. 

Oklahoma City never trailed and led by as many as 27 points. In addition to cranking out the points the Thunder also did another grat job on the defensive end. The Thunder came into the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA (93.5) and bested that by giving up just 88 to Phoenix. The Thunder were second in the league in opponent field goal percentage (42.1) and bested that too allowing the Suns to shoot just 34.3 percent (a season-low for Phoenix).

"It was a combination of defense at a high level and moving the ball that put us in good position," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. 

The Thunder are looking more and more like the team everyone thought they would be before all the injury troubles and now they head out to the west coast for a big time road trip, visiting Sacramento on Tuesday and then a showdown at Golden State on Thursday night. The trip wraps up in L.A. against the Lakers on Friday. 

"Hopefully we can keep the streak alive," said Jackson. "We're just trying to get as many wins as we can."