Thunder Need To Get Their Act Together
By Randy Renner
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook plays with fierce passion. That can be a good thing and that can be a bad thing.
For several seconds Sunday night in Tulsa it was very bad indeed.
Westbrook's passion can fuel the Thunder. At times he can absolutely take a game over and provide just the spark his team needed.
We've all seen it, we all admire it, we're all amazed by it.
But that passion and fire has a way of backfiring and we've all seen that too. If officials calls don't go his way he sometimes has a tendency to argue the call even as play continues. Last night in Tulsa he drove into the lane and was hit as he made his move to the basket but no whistles were blown, no foul calls made.
Instead of getting up and getting back into the fray while his Thunder teammates battled for the rebound, he just sat there on the baseline and the Minnesota Timberwolves had a 5-4 advantage.
Minnesota went on to win the game 112-94 thanks in large part to 23 OKC turnovers and a lineup that continues to be racked by injuries and in a constant state of flux.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, who has called Westbrook the "best point guard in basketball," said his star can't keep flying off the handle.
"He's going to have to do a better job of controlling his emotions. You're not going to get (a call) on every foul that's committed on you and he knows better than that."
At least he should. Westbrook also picked up another technical foul, his third in the last three games.
With Kevin Durant out for the next several weeks, Westbrook is now the leader of this team and the example he set last night is not one anyone should follow.
As far the game itself Brooks again went with the starting lineup of Westbrook at point guard, Andre Roberson at shooting guard, Anthony Morrow at small forward, Serge Ibaka at power forward and Steven Adams at center.
It's looking more and more like that may be the group that hits the floor first in Portland on Opening Night next week though Brooks is quick to point out "we have one more game and several practices," left before the regular season opener.
Perry Jones led the Thunder in scoring last night, coming off the bench to play 30 minutes and score 21 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds.
Morrow scored 14 points but suffered through his worst shooting night of the preseason going just 5-for-13 overall and 0-for-5 on threes.
Ibaka regained his shooting touch last night going 5-for-7 and scoring 12 points but the duo of Adams and Roberson looked more like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha as Adams took just two shots and scored four points while Roberson added two points.
The Thunder shot just 41 percent overall and 22 percent from deep.
They handed out just 15 assists compared to those 23 turnovers.
A lot of the inconsistency can be attributed to the different lineups that have had to play and the crazy rotations that have been used because of all the team's injury issues.
Nick Collison hasn't played or practiced yet and neither has Perkins. Reggie Jackson has been out for more than a week with a bruised wrist. Four training camp signees are getting more minutes than usual because of all that.
Hopefully this week some of the Thunder's walking wounded will be able to get back out on the practice floor and sharpen up their games before next week's opening road trip to Portland and Los Angeles.
Coach Brooks is right, there's still one more preseason game(at home Tuesday night against Utah) and several practices left before the team has to get on the plane for the west coast but there is no time to waste and especially no time for the All-Star point guard to sit down on the job while his teammates play on.