Frustrated Thunder Ready To Make Jazz Sing The Blues
By Randy Renner
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't exactly happy campers right now. They're coming off the two worst shooting performances they've ever had when playing together and conversely the Thunder collectively suffered through the same fate in back-to-back blowout losses for the first time since November of 2008.
"The best thing about it is we have a game tonight," Durant said after the Thunder's shootaround session this morning.
"When we come back to the huddles we need to know what we did wrong but also know that a new possession is ahead, encourage each other and get better from it," KD went on to say. "Obviously you want to shoot the ball better but as far as getting frustrated we just gotta clear our heads, realize we got another play ahead of us and move on, but it is tough."
The Thunder shot 30.6 percent in Monday's 117-91 defeat at Golden State and finished at 32.6 percent in a 104-83 defeat at Sacramento on Wednesday.
Durant went 11 of 36 in those games and totaled 38 points while Westbrook was 8 for 40 and scored 32.
Oklahoma City's only worse effort from the field was when it shot 29.4 percent in a 69-65 defeat to Houston on Nov. 16, a game both superstars missed.
"We're going to stay together, we're going to figure out ways to improve going into our next game against Utah," coach Scott Brooks said. "They're a young developing team. We're going to have to be ready to play."
Utah (13-23) has split two matchups with Oklahoma City this season, though Durant and Westbrook didn't play in either.
The Jazz are seeking their first three-game road win streak since March 29-April 15, 2013. They held Chicago to 33.3 percent shooting, their second-lowest mark allowed, in a surprising 97-77 road rout Wednesday.
So with the Jazz playing much improved defense this Thunder shooting slump comes at a bad time.
"We get paid to come through for our team," Durant said when asked if too much pressure is being placed on he and Westbrook to bail everyone else out.
"We're here to score and to make plays. You know if any team, their two best players don't play well they gonna struggle. That's just a part of it."
Durant also pointed out there have been times when the two superstars have struggled and the role players stepped up to win games. "Our teammates have made plays for us as well but of course the majority of the time when we struggle as bad as we struggled shooting the basketball the last two games we're gonna struggle as a team."
Westbrook has especially struggled lately and not just in these last two games. After gettiong off to a blistering start that had him being mentioned as an MVP candidate, his shots haven't been falling and his turnovers and technicals have been on the rise.
"Russell wants to do so well and he gets mad at himself when he makes bad plays or doesn't shoot the ball real well or turns it over we just have to tell him to believe in himself, have faith in himself and move on. We need Russell to be aggressive no matter what."
Durant got a tad testy when asked by The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry if that aggressive always had to translate into more shots?
"That sounds like something you wanna tell him, so I'll bring him over here so you can tell him."
When pressed on the matter Durant ended his session with reporters by saying, "We need Russell to be aggressive, we need him to be who he is. We don't wanna taake anything away from anybody's game here we want to try to channel it to what we won't to do but we don't take anything away from anybody's game but I'll tell him you said that."
The Thunder's shooting woes were probably compounded by the early and deep holes they dug themselves into in both losses. Trying to come back from way back players jacked up threes that probably weren't the best shots, those misses led to fast breaks headed the other way.
Tonight the Thunder stress they will try to prevent any bad start on offense by coming out aggressively on defense trying to lock things down before the Jazz could steal a win.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. TV voice Brian Davis is back from his bout with the flu. As usual we'll have our full crew there and will post a complete wrapup after the game including comments from Coach Brooks and from players in the lockerroom.
You can also follow along during the game by checking out our Twitter feed page.