Thunder Must Play Better Against Utah Tonight

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to player a much better overall game tonight against the Utah Jazz than they did earlier this month in Salt Lake City.

The played very well for a while that night, long enough and good enough to grab a 17-point lead in the second quarter but as quickly as they got too comfortable with that cushy lead they gave it all away and ended up losing by 15.

The Thunder have beaten the Jazz (5-10) in six straight at home, but little went right, except for the start in that 98-81 loss Nov. 18 in Utah.

Alec Burks scored 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting with a career-high 14 rebounds, while Enes Kanter had 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Utah center has averaged 15.8 points over the past five games.

The Thunder are out to try and snap their current six-game losing streak, their longest stretch without a win since the 2008-09 season. That of course was the team's first season in OKC, the one that started 3-29.

If anything positive has come out of this miserable start for the Thunder, it's been what head coach Scott Brooks sees as the team's defensive progress while holding opponents to 40.7 percent and 92.5 points on the losing streak. Golden State, one of the league's top shooting and scoring teams, shot 35.5 percent (their worst of the season) against the Thunder Sunday night.

"Our defense is something that has improved during this time," Brooks said. "That's something we've talked about as one of our staples and that's definitely been the case during this stretch of games in November."

No Durant Or Westbrook Tonight

Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook practiced again today with the team during a light shootaround and then were seen being given some treatment by team trainer Joe Sharpe and team physician Dr. Donnie Strack.

Neither will play against Utah but Brooks left open the possibility, or at least he didn't absolutely rule out the possibility, that one or both could perhaps play Friday against the New York Knicks.

Brooks didn't talk to reporters after today's shootaround but he said yesterday both players still must go through their medical re-evaluations before they are cleared to play. Some of that process might have been happening today.

Both Durant and Westbrook went back on the court and put up a few shots and were seen laughing and joking after the session with the training and medical staff.

Maybe that's a good sign, maybe it doesn't mean a thing.

My guess is still that neither will play Friday, but there's no doubt that day is coming soon and at 3-12 the Thunder can sure use some superstar help.