By Randy Renner
So much for solving defensive lapses.
The Thunder have given up peach baskets full of points to two teams who couldn’t even scratch 90 their last few games.
116 points to the Nets on Sunday, a team that averages just 95 for the season and hadn’t scored as many as 90 in seven of the 11 games leading up to OKCs visit and then 122 to a New York Knick team that hadn’t scored 90 in their two previous games and were playing without All-Star Carmelo Anthony.
The Thunder were fortunate to get the Knick game to overtime or we’d be talking about a Big Apple double-downer.
Yes the Thunder played Sunday’s game without Steven Adams clogging the lane and without Andre Roberson running guys off the 3-point line and they played Tuesday night without Roberson, but still you’d think the struggles wouldn’t be so head-scratching, especially against an under .500 Knick team playing without its big gun and a Nets team that even with Sunday’s victory still hasn’t won as many games as the Thunder have lost.
Head coach Billy Donovan called them “self-inflicted wounds.” Things like falling for pump fakes, getting caught up on screens or making the wrong switch. “Inside the 3-point line and there’s a shot fake and we’re flying through the air and they drive by and it leads to a 3. That must have happened four or five times,” he said.
Seemed like it was even more than that, but I admit I stopped counting.
Thank goodness for huge games from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two superstars combined for a whopping 74 points. KD pumped in a season-high 44, plus pulled down 14 rebounds and Westbrook dropped in 30 while dishing 10 assists and grabbing eight rebounds.
The bench, which at times as been as problematic as the Thunder defense at times, managed only 19 points. The Knicks reserves scored 58. Granted one of the best scorers off OKC’s bench was in the starting lineup Tuesday night, Dion Waiters scored 14 but the Knicks were in the same boat with Lance Thomas coming off the bench to fill Melo’s starting spot and had no problems generating points, which probably has more to do with the Thunder defense than the Knicks bench.
Minnesota is up next and the T-Wolves, despite losing both previous games to the Thunder this season, have given OKC some problems. Minnesota has a wealth of young talent led by rookie Karl Anthony-Towns whom Durant has called a future Hall of Famer. Towns scored 26 points Monday night against Cleveland and Minnesota only lost game by seven. Andrew Wiggins has scored 22 and 25 against Oklahoma City in the first two games.
So even though the Thunder have won nine straight over the Timberwolves and 23 of the last 26, they’ll still need to have some snap and crackle on the defensive end to avoid being popped by Minnesota.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 tonight on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder will finally be home on Friday night to take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets.