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.