Rocky Mountain Road Trip For Thunder

By Randy Renner

It's been such a rocky start to the season, with the Thunder facing a mountainous challenge every game because of all their injuries they probably figured, hey what's a little high altitude?

Tonight they're in Salt Lake City, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains (less specifically a part of the Rockies) and then Wednesday they fly across the mountains to Denver to take on the Nuggets.

Their biggest challenge though continues to be their own injuries not the other teams they may play on any given night.

With the patched together lineups and rotations head coach Scott Brooks continues to have to use, inconsistency becomes the sixth man so to speak. That's one reason why the Thunder scored a season-high 109 points in a win at Boston last Wednesday and then managed to squeeze out just 65 points in a loss to the Rockets at home on Sunday night.

The effort has been there in every game, guys are playing hard, but in new roles sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. Generally this happens now possession by possession, not just game to game or week to week.

With strong effort from long, athletic, physical players the defense generally becomes far more consistent than the offense and that's the case with the Thunder.

Despite all those shots that didn't fall against the Rockets, the Thunder played historically good defense and forced Houston into a lot of bad shots. The 69 points tied the fewest the Thunder have allowed in the franchise's Oklahoma City era.

The 65 points the Thunder scored on offense tied the all-time Thunder/Sonics record for fewest points scored.

Now the Thunder will take on two teams that have struggled on defense so maybe some shots will fall over this back-to-back in the mountains tonight and tomorrow night. But playing a back-to-back in Salt Lake City and Denver is not the easiest two-step to dance, that whole high altitude/fatigue thing you know. Especially when your lineup is already stressed.

The Thunder, 0-3 in the front end of back-to-back games, face a Utah team that's allowing 102.8 points, 47.2 percent shooting and 38.4 from 3-point range - among the worst marks in the league.

The Jazz (4-7) have surrendered 50.0 percent shooting and 44.9 from beyond the arc in their last three contests. They allowed 65 second-half points in Saturday's 111-93 loss to Toronto to wrap up a 2-3 road trip, so that sounds promising.

The Nuggets have already lost to the Thunder in OKC, where the Thunder scored 102 points, and Denver had given up at least that many points in seven of their last eight games until they shut down LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, in Cleveland no less.

So it's not going to be easy but at least there is still hope the Thunder could get either Perry Jones or Andre Roberson or maybe even both back tonight or tomorrow.

Jones would provide some much needed offensive punch and Roberson would solidify the defense even more.

Right now the Thunder and their fans will take whatever little bit of good news that comes down the mountain.