Thunder Embarrassed In New York

By Randy Renner

The way things turned out the Thunder are probably wishing their game in New York had been snowed out afterall.

In perhaps the most pathetic performance of the season (though there are other candidates) the Thunder lost to arguably the worst team in the NBA 100-92. This coming on the heels of the Thunder holding on at home to beat Minnesota on Monday night, another team that's arguably the worst in the league.

Last night the Knicks seemed to be the team playing for their playoff lives instead of their position in the draft lottery.

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored 40 points but he didn't much help from anyone else in a blue uniform.

Westbrook took 30 shots to reach those 40 points and in the second half especially, some of those shots weren't the best. Jacking up threes early in the shot clock, but by then it was hard to blame Russ for any of this mess.

Perry Jones, filling in for Kevin Durant who sat out again with that sprained toe, missed all five of the shots he put up. At least he managed to grab five rebounds and hand out an assist which is better than starting shooting guard Andre Roberson managed to do. Roberson went oh-for-the-game. He didn't even take a shot, from the field or the free throw line. No rebounds, no assists. 0 points on 0-for-0 shooting, 0 rebounds, 0 assists.

He did block shot though, so there's that.

So the Thunder got a combined 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting, (0-for-0 at the free throw line) 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block from the guys who started at shooting guard and small forward.

Westbrook, by himself, scored two-and-a-half times as many points as the other starters combined.

Um, that's really not gonna win you very many games.

As to what the problems are and how they can be fixed? Well the problems are well known. Most of the guys on the team didn't play particularly well. A lot of bad decisions were made both on offense and defense.

No sense of urgency.

Yes there are still lots of games left a the Thunder are well within striking distance of Phoenix and maybe another team or too, but pretty soon this team has to start showing it can consistently play well enough to string together some wins.

We've seen how good they can be. Recent wins over Golden State and Washington were fine examples.

But as this snakebit season moves on those wins begin to look more and more like fool's gold.

This was a game the Thunder should have won, a game they needed to win but (except for Westbrook) they couldn't muster enough of anything to get the job done.

The loss was so bad Tony Durant (Kevin's brother) tweeted out "Changes need to be made, smh" For those of you not familiar with Twitter shorthand that last means shaking my head, which I imagine plenty of Thunder fans were doing last night.

Exactly what Tony D meant isn't clear, change the head coach? Change the GM? Change Reggie Jackson's address this season? Change brother Kevin's address after next season?

Who knows. Russell Westbrook's brother Ray tweeted a similar message during hard times several months ago.

Despite some questionable coaching decisions and in hindsight some questionable draft picks (Jones) and acquisitions (Jeremy Lamb) by Sam Presti, the Thunder's biggest problem this season is health.

Durant has been injured three times and we're not even to the All-Star Break. Westbrook has missed considerable time too and so have others.

Until this team can stay healthy consistently they're probably not going to be able to play with very much consistency.

Health doesn't offer any excuses for what happened last night, even without KD the Thunder should have had plenty to send the Knicks to their 39th loss rather then giving them their ninth win.

The fact that they didn't is maybe the biggest problem of all.

 

 

 

Ibaka, Defense Lead Thunder To Win

By Randy Renner

The Thunder offense struggled without Kevin Durant on the floor, who missed the game with a sprained big toe, even though they were playing against the team with the worst defense in the NBA. 

Minnesota was averaging giving up 107.5 points on 49.6 percent shooting (both last in the NBA) but the Thunder could score only 92 points on 41.9 percent shooting, 

Fortunately OKC's defense held the Timberwolves to just 84 points on 34.1 percent shooting to secure the 92-84 win. 

"It wasn't a good start, but we continue to fight and scrap and we made it a defensive game," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "We were sluggish but we still competed and protected the basket." 

Serge Ibaka had an outstanding game with 13 points and 19 rebounds (one short of tying his career high). He also blocked two shots and stole the ball twice. 

Russell Westbrook had a big fourth quarter with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting to finish the game with 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. westbrook struggled to get much of anything going until the last 12 minutes when he began to dominate.

Reggie Jackson had a strong night with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Anthony Morrow also had 14 points but he continues to struggle with his shot. He was just 5-for-13 overall and an abysmal 1-for-7 on threes, but the one he hit came at a critical time to fight off a potential Timberwolves comeback. 

The Thunder were probably lucky Minnesota has been so decimated by injuries this season otherwise they might very well have lost with the type of game they played most of the night. 

But a win's a win, the ugly ones count the same as the pretty ones and the Thunder will definitely take it. 

Durant is officially listed as day-to-day with a sprained big toe on his left foot. The injury is not believed to be serious and He may get some extra time to rest. The Thunder are scheduled to fly to New York City Tuesday afternoon for their scheduled game with the Knicks Wednesday night but that big snowstorm moving through the area could change those plans. The NBA cancelled both the Knicks and the Nets games on Monday night.

We'll keep you posted hre on the site and on our Twitter feed page with updates on the status of Wednesday's game. It would be nice if the Thunder are able to make the trip because as bad as Minnesota is, New York is much worse and the Thunder could use another win before heading to Memphis for Saturday night's game against the Grizzlies. 

 

BREAKING: Durant Out With Sprained Toe

By Randy Renner

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant warmed up this afternoon, then met with team physician Dr. Donnie Strack and shortly after the decision was made to keep Durant out of tonight's game with the Timberwolves. 

He's officially listed as day-to-day with a sprained big toe on his left foot. Durant has previously missed games this season with a Jones fracture of his right foot and a sprained right ankle. 

Thunder center Steven Adams warmed up on the floor this afternoon and told a couple of people he was feeling fine. Adams missed Sunday's game in Cleveland with a migraine headache. 

"He's feeling much better and as if now he will start," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters about an hour and a half before tipoff.

Brooks also said at this point he's not sure if the Thunder will be able to fly into New York City tomorrow for Wednesday's scheduled game with the Knicks. 

The NBA cancelled the Knicks game with Sacramento tonight and the Nets game in Brooklyn against Portland because of the massive blizzard moving into the area. 

We'll have complete coverage of tonight's game here on the site including postgame interviews with Coach Brooks and players in the lockerroom. You can also follow live tweets from reprters at the game on our Twitter feed page. 

 

 

 

Showdown In Hotlanta

By Randy Renner

Georgia's capital city has long been called "Hotlanta" because of hot nightlife and probably because of the summertime weather too.

Now days though folks are starting to call the place Hawklanta because of what the city's NBA team has been doing.

The Atlanta Hawks have won 14 straight games, a win tonight will tie the franchise record and they've also won 28 of their last 30 games. That's more than merely hot, that's sizzling.

The Thunder are on a pretty good roll themselves right now, winners of four straight (the last three on the road) and they're 19-8 since starting the season 3-12.

They've had a couple of great offensive games (Golden State and Orlando) and a couple of gut-it-out, gritty defensive games (Miami and Washington) where the team had to rally late to win.

The Hawks have 35 wins already this season and need just three more to tie last season's total. They're doing all of this without a superstar.

Guys like DeMarre Carroll, the former Missouri star and Kyle Korver, the NBA's most deadly 3-point sharpshooter have been leading the charge. The Thunder will also get to see old buddy Thabo Sefolosha who's averaging 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds a game and is still a stout defender. Thabo's biggest problem from last season (a downturn in 3-point shooting) has continued this season. He's hitting just 28.8 percent of his threes.

But the most credit probably goes to second-year coach Mike Budenholzer, the former lead-assistant for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.

"I'm not a historian. I know they've had a lot of great teams here, a lot of great players," Budenholzer said after Atlanta's 110-91 win over Indiana on Wednesday. "Coaches, we tend to look more forward and be in the moment. This group has continued to play with a little bit of an edge. If we can continue to work each day, that's what we're mostly concerned about."

Atlanta improved to 30-1 when leading by at least 10 points, which it has done in every game during the winning streak. It led Wednesday from start to finish, something it has done six times after accomplishing the feat four times over the previous two seasons combined.

The Thunder are finally turning back into the team everyone thought they would be before a slew of injuries wrecked the start of the season. With most everyone healthy now (rookie Mitch McGary is still out) and those five days between games last week off for extra practice time, the Thunder seem poised to make a run.

Their offense has been getting better and better with ball movement and the defense is much closer to locking down opponents for longer stretches.

“We’ve been focusing on getting better with all of our guys back,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Those are the things that we’ve been good at in the past and we’ve just got to continue to improve in those areas.”

The Thunder will have to be extra sharp tonight to clip the Hawks' wings, but if they can go in and grab a win in "Hawklanta" it would go a long way toward proving ABC analyst Mark Jackson's opinion that, despite their 22-20 record, the Thunder are now, "the most dangerous team," in the Western Conference.

 

 

Thunder Keep It Rolling Against Wizards

By Randy Renner

When the Oklahoma City Thunder left OKC on Saturday to begin their five game road trip back east most of us figured they probably needed to win three of the five games to keep some sort of momentum going and to keep hope for making a run to the playoffs alive.

Three games into the trip the Thunder already have those three wins. Orlando was a given, but a back-to-back against Miami and then a red hot Washington Wizards team would provide a much tougher test.

The Thunder put away both those teams with outstanding efforts in the fourth quarters, coming from behind to win each game to extend their winning streak to four straight games and bring their record to 22-20. They're now 19-8 since starting the season 3-12.

Last night Oklahoma City trailed by double-digits at halftime but rallied late to send the game into overtime and then Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant scored every OKC point in overtime. Westbrook got the winner on a layup with less than a second (:0.8) left to play giving he Thunder a thrilling 105-103 win.

“I tried to find a way to get a shot,” Westbrook said. “My job was to attack the basket and that’s what I tried to do.”

Westbrook took the inbounds pass and drove straight into an opening in the lane for the winning shot. He finished with 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Durant was out beyond the 3-point arc and could have also taken the pass but the play was designed for whoever was open.

“I was going to try to end the game myself,” Durant said. “Coach drew up a great play and Russ ran to the halfcourt line and they threw two at him and he was able to get free. And we said whoever catches it be aggressive. So it wasn’t just a play for me. It was a team play and Russell made a phenomenal, phenomenal move.”

Durant finished with 34 points in his hometown in front of almost 100 friends and family members.

"I hear the cheers and see people I've grown up with here and supporting, it means a lot to me," Durant said. "It's a blessing to play in the NBA, but to play at home in front of my family and friends, it's something that you really can't describe because I don't get this opportunity a lot, so I try not to take it for granted."

Before the game Durant faced a throng of local Washington, DC area media all asking about his future free agency and the possibilities that he could play for his hometown team and in front of those hometown fans all the time. His answer probably made Thunder fans breathe a bit easier, at least for now.

“I never thought about (playing for the Wizards), to be honest,” Durant said. “I mean, I hear it in the summertime. I heard it for the first time this summer. That’s when it started heating up. But I love playing for Oklahoma City, man. It’s just a certain level of pride that I have when I play with that Oklahoma City on my chest. So that’s the only thing that I focus on. Everybody knows that I represent where I come from no matter where I play at, no matter what arena. But I just focus on playing in Oklahoma City. It feels like home to me now. So that’s where I am.”

And hopefully where he'll stay.

NOTES

This was the 31st game in which Durant and Westbrook each scored at least 30 points. To put that in perspective another famous duo, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin, accomplished the feat just 16 times in the 10 seasons they played together...Thunder center Steven Adams was a monster on the boards, collecting a career-high 20 rebounds while playing a career-high 39 minutes...After four straight hot-shooting games Dion Waiters has cooled off going just 5-for-21 in his last two games...The Thunder continue their five-game road trip in Atlanta Friday where the Hawks are flying high, winning 28 of their last 30 games. The trip concludes with a Sunday afternoon ABC game in Cleveland against LeBron James and the Cavs.