Thunder Stumbling Toward Playoffs
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
After winning eight in a row the Thunder have now lost four of their last six including three of four on their just completed road trip.
Is it cause for concern or just the result of players knowing wins and losses don’t really mean much when your playoff position is locked in no matter what?
At Sacramento last night the Thunder blew a fourth quarter lead and went on to lose for the 14th time this season, more than any other team in the league. Seven of OKC’s last eight losses have come after taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
Of course the lead last night was just one (84-83) going into the last 12 minutes and according to recent comments about lost leads from Russell Westbrook and Billy Donovan it really can’t be considered a lead at all.
They only trailed by two (114-112) when the fourth quarter ended but unfortunately for Westbrook, Donovan and the Thunder even that small margin is still considered a loss by the NBA..
The fourth quarter wasn’t a particularly good one for OKC but it was far from the worst we’ve seen this season and the reason for this latest loss was apparent from the first quarter on.
The Thunder had five of them in the 1st quarter, three in the 2nd, seven in the 3rd and six more in the 4th. 21 total resulting in 26 points for the Kings. 26 extra points in a game decided by two.
“Turnovers and offensive rebounds,” Kevin Durant said after the game. “That’s always the key.”
Yeah offensive rebounds by Sacramento was a problem too, the Kings pulled down 16 of them helping themselves to 18 second chance points.
There were some defensive lapses too like leaving Seth Curry open enough so he could look a lot like his big brother Steph and hit his first five 3-point attempts.
There were also some questionable calls and no-calls by the officials especially involving Durant late in the game but no whistles were blown.
Donovan didn’t like it much, “Kevin a couple of times driving got bumped and banged but there was no call.”
Durant said it was more on him.
“I ain’t gonna leave it in the hands of the ref, I just gotta make the shot,” he admitted, “and I missed a bunch tonight.”
In fact KD missed almost as many shots (18) as he usually attempts (19) finishing 11-for-29. He led the Thunder in scoring with 31 points, the 63rd straight game he’s notched at least 20.
The Thunder actually almost pulled off a miracle finish in Sacramento, trailing by seven with 24 seconds to play they rallied to tie the game at 112 on a 3-pointer by Westbrook, another 3-ball from Anthony Morrow and then three more points from Russ when he was fouled on a heave with :07 left.
The Thunder then let Rudy Gay loose in the lane and he was bumped by Serge Ibaka (the refs didn’t swallow their whistles this time) and Gay hit both free throws to end the game.
So back to that question. Is it concerning this team has lost three of four and four of their last six? Or is it just the result of playing out the string when wins and losses don’t matter to your place in the standings?
We may not really have the answer until we see what happens in the first three or so games of OKC’s first round playoff series.
But the fact that the problems that have led to these recent losses (at least the ones where the starters have played) are the very same ones that have plagued the Thunder at times all season should be reason enough for concern.