Thunder Defenseless Against Anthony Davis

By Randy Renner

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks called it a "tough night defensively" and it certainly was. The Thunder had few answers for Anthony Davis who scored a game-high 38 points on 16-for-22 shooting. 

But over the last 2:58 of the game the Thunder held Davis and his teammates scoreless. Trouble was the Thunder didn't score a point over the last 3:46 and lost 101-99 to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.

"Russell had a couple of tough moments late in the game," Brooks admitted. "But 99 points is usually good enough to win." 

Westbrook led the Thunder with 29 points, but he was just 10-for-27 shooting the ball. Six of those misses came in the closing minutes when he clanged three 3-pointers and three layups. Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson also missed shots in the last four minutes.

The Thunder got completely away from trying to share the ball coming down the stretch and for the entire game they recored just 17 assists. The Pelicans moved the ball all around the floor and were credited with a whopping 33 assists on 43 made baskets. 

Still the defensive lapses stood out the most, especially since New Orleans was playing the second night of a back-to-back and coming off a blowout loss to Portland. 

"All night they were getting around us with dribble drives and the help was late," Brooks noted. "We couldn't control the basketball." 

The Thunder looked more like a team slogging through a back-to-back rather than one that was able to rest on Saturday and most of the day Sunday. 

Kevin Durant missed his second straight game with that sprained ankle and that certainly didn't help matters. Brooks said agian before the game that the injury is just a mild sprain and it is not at all related to Durant's previous surgery on the same foot.

One bright spot for the Thunder was the play of Perry Jones who bounced back from a terrible performance against the Lakers to score 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

"My teammates just told me to be aggressive with the ball and that's what I tried to do," Jones said in the lockerroom after the game.

The Thunder also got another solid night from Steven Adams who picked up the third double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. 

Serge Ibaka had a tough night on both ends of the floor, he was trying (unsuccessfully most of the night) to guard Davis and he struggled on offense scoring just six points on 2-for-8 shooting. 

"It's not on Serge," Brooks said, "it's on all of us, we gave up a lot of easy shots." 

With a win the Thunder would have finally gotten back to .500 but now at 13-15 on the season they face a red hot Portland Trail Blazers team at The Peake on Tuesday and follow that up with a Christmas Day trip to San Antonio. 

A lot of those might be fixed with Durant's return to the lineup but at this point who knows when that will be. 

Durant Out Again Tonight

By Randy Renner

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Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant will miss another game with that sprained ankle suffered just before halftime the other night at Golden State.

"He's feeling better today," head coach Scott Brooks told reporters about 90 minutes before tipoff. He again said the injury is just a mild ankle sprain and has nothing to do with the surgery Durant had on the same foot earlier this season.

Durant hopes to be back on the floor for Tuesday's game against Portland.

Perry Jones will again get the start in place of Durant. Jones didn't take advantage of the opportunity Friday night against the Lakers when he started and played 12 minutes. He only took two shots and missed both. He also failed to grab a rebound or hand out an assist.

"We need more from Perry," said Brooks. "We need him to be more aggressive on offense."

At the time Brooks talked to the media he didn't know for sure if center Kendrick Perkins would be able to play. Perk missed the Lakers game with a bruised knee.

If the Thunder can beat New Orleans tonight and if Phoenix loses at Washington, Oklahoma City will get to .500 on the season and take over eighth place in the Western Conference.

As usual we'll have complete coverage of the game here at InsideThunder.com including post game interviews with Coach Brooks and players in the lockerroom.

For live coverage throughout the game be sure to check out our feed page featuring tweets from reporters here at The Peake.

Westbrook, Jackson Lead Thunder Past Lakers

By Randy Renner

With Thunder superstar Kevin Durant having to sit out with a bum ankle point guards Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson took the game over for the Thunder, combing for 56 points in OKC's thrilling 104-103 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles.

That said it the outstanding defense of Andre Roberson that may have actually won the game for the Thunder. Roberson guarded Lakers legend Kobe Bryant all night and held him to just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting when the two were matched up directly. According to ESPN Stats and Info Roberson was able to contest every one of those 14 shots. Bryant missed one other try when being guarded by someone else and it was Bryant who missed a last second shot that would have given the Lakers the win and yes it was Roberson who was on him defending that shot.

As good as Roberson's defense was last night, he also contributed 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 on threes). It's the second straight game that he's scored in the double digits.

Thunder center Steven Adams also had a solid game with nine points and 10 rebounds and he helped get rid of one of the Lakers best players. Nick Young was ejected in the fourth quarter for elbowing Adams in the throat. Adams had set a screen on Young and he responded with a shove and then the elbow. Lead official Joey Crawford assessed a flagrant foul 2 and tossed Young.

Back to Russ and Reggie, both rebounded from sub-par nights at Golden State to dominate the Lakers. Westbrook had 31 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. He was 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Westbrook now has 11 30-point, 10-assist games over the last six seasons. Only LeBron James (19) and Steph Curry (17) have more. It was also Westbrook's 11th straight 20-point game, matching his career-high set in the 2012-13 season.

Jackson has been struggling on offense since Westbrook and Durant returned to the lineup but with KD back on the bench last night Jackson erupted for 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He also had five assists and three rebounds.

Serge Ibaka also had a nice night with 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

Not so hot were Perry Jones, Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb. That trio combined for nine points on 3-for-12 shooting. Jones played 12 minutes was 0-for-2 with 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 blocks and 0 free throws. A whole bunch of nothing.

Lamb wasn't much better, scoring two points on 1-for-5 shooting and one rebound. He is apparently back into a funk. Morrow scored seven points on 2-for-5 shooting overall (1-for-4 on threes), grabbed a couple of rebounds, handed out an assist and blocked a shot.

So the Thunder come home off the west coast trip wining two of the three games and had Durant not gotten hurt and missed the second half at Golden State they might have been able to win all three.

As it is a 2-1 trip gets them to 13-14 on the season with a chance to get back to .500 Sunday night when they host New Orleans and that would look mighty good considering this team was 3-12 just late last month.

 

 

 

 

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.