Thunder Still Scuffling Around As February Begins
By Randy Renner
By now the Thunder were supposed to have their act together and either rapidly closing in opn Phoenix or already safely into the playoff picture.
But Kevin Durant also wasn't supposed to have gotten hurt again and the Thunder weren't expected to have an offensive short circuit.
Such is life in the NBA.
And right now the Thunder are becoming the team more and more people are thinking never will get their act together enough to save their season from ending abruptly in mid-April.
Just when things are looking bleak, losing four games out of the last five, in come the Orlando Magic with one of the worst defenses in the league. They've lost eight straight and are giving up a whopping 113.3 points on an equally whopping 51.3 percent shooting.
The Orlando defense, which is a bit short on magic these days, may be just what the doctor ordered to cure some shooting ills.
As a team the Thunder are shooting just 39.5 percent from the field over their last six after hitting at a 34.6 clip while recording their second-lowest scoring total this season in Saturday's 85-74 loss at Memphis.
Durant, who had missed two games with a sprained big toe, was 5-for-16 for 15 points, while Russell Westbrook continued to struggle with his own 5-for-16 effort that left him 32-for-94 (34.0 percent) from the floor over his last four games.
The Thunder committed 18 turnovers, leading to 18 points for the Grizzlies, and have given up 57 points on 48 turnovers over their last three games. They fell to 7-13 when committing 16 or more.
"The turnovers were huge," coach Scott Brooks said after the Memphis loss. "They got a lot of deflections. We had to take care of the ball to give ourselves a chance against a very good team."
Oklahoma City's 11 fast-break points were also its fewest in 20 games. It has ranked third in the NBA with 18.8 fast-break points per game in its last 32 contests dating back to November 26th. Orlando may be vulnerable in transition, however, after giving up 15.2 fast break points per game over its last nine.
The Thunder, who have played seven of their last eight on the road, have won 11 of 13 at home and are 8-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena with both Durant and Westbrook playing. Durant is averaging 30.1 points on 62.7 percent shooting at home compared to 22.7 points on 45.8 percent shooting on the road.
"We have to figure it out," he told the Thunder website. "(At home) you have support behind you and everything feels better. We have to get better."
Durant has averaged 29.6 points while shooting 62.8 percent over his last five home meetings with Orlando. He had 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 127-99 win at Orlando on January 18th in which Oklahoma City shot 57.8 percent and claimed a 54-33 rebounding advantage.
The Magic come in at 15-35, have lost eight straight and 14 of their last 16. They let Dallas shoot 56.8 percent in Saturday's 108-93 loss and fell behind 66-41 at halftime.
The Thunder could use not only a win, but a feel good about yourself win to get back to .500 and possibly move to within three games of eighth place Phoenix. The Suns lost to Golden State on Saturday night and host Memphis tonight. A Thunder win and a Suns loss could trim this morning's four game margin down to three.
The Thunder need to start winning clusters of games and quickly. It will probably take at least 47 wins to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference. To get there the Thunder have to go 24-11 over their last 35 games.
One thing working in their favor is that 21 of their final 35 are at home, the most of any team in the NBA.