By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Former Thunder star Serge Ibaka was given a hero’s welcome back to Chesapeake Energy Arena then promptly went out and acted like public enemy #1.
He scored a career high 31 points, capped off by a game winning jumper with half a second to play.
Say what you want about Ibaka, say what you want about the Thunder’s horrific start (6-for-25 in the 1st quarter) and say what you want about 10 missed free throws, this game was lost because OKC’s defense couldn’t get enough stops.
Oklahoma City had plenty of points. You score 117 and that ought to get you a win. It ought to get you a blow out win over a team that managed just 74 points in its last game.
Instead the Thunder allowed Orlando to score 119 on 53.5 percent shooting overall and 45.8 percent (11-for-24) on 3-pointers.
Coming into the game the Magic hadn’t scored more than 107 this season and were averaging just 92.3. and hadn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game yet and were averaging a league worst 40.6 percent.
Before the game Thunder head coach Billy Donovan again told reporters “even though the numbers say we’re doing great…we gotta long way to go defensively.”
Donovan has been concerned because the Thunder were giving up a lot of shots with a lot of open looks. For whatever reason opponents had been missing most of those shots.
That sort of luck has been turning the last couple games and now OKC, after a 6-1 start, has lost three straight to drop to 6-4.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we got to develop a defensive identity that can be consistent and maintained,” Donovan said after the game. “As I mentioned before, I think our numbers looked really good but as you look deeper for me as a coach you see certain things that you get concerned about.
Russell Westbrook was generally outstanding, recording another triple-double with 41 points on 14-for-21 shooting, 12 rebounds and 16 assists. Westbrook, usually an outstanding free throw shooter, missed six of his 18 shots at the stripe.
Enes Kanter came off the bench for 16 points and eight rebounds. Andre Roberson had one of his best games with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting and four blocked shots. Steven Adams contributed a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Magic had six players in double figures, led by Ibaka’s 31 points. Elfrid Payton added a season-high 23 points, Evan Fournier had 21, former Thunder guard D.J. Augustin dropped in 12 and former Thunder forward Jeff Green scored nine.
Now the Thunder move on to Detroit for a Monday night game and then back home to play a red hot James Harden and the Houston Rockets where lapses on defense can quickly turn into an avalanche of points.
“The biggest thing to me is just the defense,” Donovan said. “You know, all the way around. We got a lot we need to work on.”