By Randy Renner
The only team that's been able to even slow down the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first few games of this NBA season is, unfortunately, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What was merely irritating during OKC's 3-0 start is now a critical issue after two straight losses.
Turnovers and fouls have led directly to the Thunder giving away games to Houston and Toronto. Games in which the Thunder had double digit leads and games in which the Thunder gave the ball away a combined 44 times and were outscored at the free throw line by a combined 24 points.
“We’re playing too recklessly,” Kevin Durant said. “We can’t try to get a steal every time. We can’t be super physical to the point where we’re fouling for no reason. That’s on everybody... We made them shoot tough shots, but we bailed them out a lot.”
The Thunder were whistled for 29 fouls on the Raptors, sending Toronto players to the free throw line 39 times where they hit 32 of those foul shots.
"We can't come into a game and just hand the other team the ball," Durant said, "That's basically what we're doing. We're down 20 points before we even start playing."
KD finished with 27 points and he turned it over just once. Point guard Russell Westbrook had a great game (22 points, 16 assists) with some terrible moments thrown in (8 turnovers). The 16 helpers were one short of his career-high and the eight givebacks were two off a career-high.
“We started off well, we just didn’t finish four quarters of it,” Westbrook said.
The Thunder started the game with outstanding defense, holding the Raptors to just 13 points on 20.8 percent shooting in the first quarter and even at the end of the game, after Toronto shot 50 percent in the fourth quarter, OKC had still held Toronto to 41.8 percent shooting for the game.
The Raptors more than made up for that at the free throw line and with all the extra possessions the Thunder gave them.
Still even with all that, the Thunder had their chances to win at the end. Chance, after chance, after chance.
“We just missed shots,” Durant said. “We were getting downhill and getting to the paint. Dion missed a nice wide open three, I missed a turnaround on the baseline, Russell missed a few layups getting to the rim. If we make those shots, it’s great offense. It’s a make or miss league and we missed them and they made them.”
The Thunder didn't make a basket in the last five minutes of the game, missing six straight shots. Meanwhile, over that same timespan the Raptors dropped in 11 free throws.
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said after the game, just like he's said after various practices, the turnovers and the fouls are issues he and the team are working to correct. But so far there's been no improvement.
Durant says he's not really concerned about either issue.
"It's all correctable stuff," he said. "It's not like we can't get a grip on what's going on."
Thunder fans would probably like to at least see a better grip on the basketball when the team plays in Chicago tonight.