The Oklahoma City Thunder took another bad loss on Sunday afternoon as they dropped a winnable game to the hapless Los Angeles Lakers. Losers of five of their last eight, the Thunder continue to sputter at the worst possible time as they are seeing their grasp on the top seed in the Western Conference slip away.
Since the return of Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have failed to find any sense of rhythm to their game. Kevin Durant, who is the front runner for the MVP in many people’s eyes, appears to be too passive on the offensive end. On Sunday, the Thunder’s offense seemed to consist only of Westbrook and Durant isolations. They lacked ball movement and their offense grew more stagnant than the Lakers’, which is quite an insult this year.
Westbrook appears healthy. He has spring to his step and showed it off while posterizing Lakers guard Kent Bazemore late in the fourth quarter, but overall the addition of Westbrook has led to some seriously sloppy ball and poor execution. It’s hard to imagine how the much more talented Thunder out-rebounded the Lakers 59-36 and still lost.
Durant, who is averaging 31.8 points, 5.5 assists and 7.7 rebounds, absolutely carried his team on his back during the absence of Westbrook. At some point Durant needs to step up to the plate and be the man when they are both on the court together. But part of that has to do with how bad Westbrook wants to be the man himself. Both players need to take a look at the Miami Heat and see what has happened to the on court chemistry of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. It takes a serious ego check to win titles. And if that is indeed their ultimate goal, the it’s time to check those egos at the door.
But it appears highly unlikely that things will ever change between the two. Westbrook would be the best player on 28 of the 30 teams in the league, but not this one. Not when he’s playing with the second best player in the world. And if he doesn’t realize that soon then he’s going to cost his team and his city a valuable chance at a championship.
Westbrook shot just 7-23 and had a total of eight out of the Thunder’s 16 turnovers on Sunday. He was also just 2-10 from three-point range, including a forced-out-of-bounds air ball with plenty of time left on the shot clock that would have tied the game late. It wasn’t a good look for him as he continued to jack up brick after brick all game long. Coach Scott Brooks must address these problems and limit both Westbrook’s shot attempts and turnovers by getting the ball into Durant’s hands.
As the Thunder continue to sputter, the San Antonio Spurs continue to quietly win ball games. Winners of six straight, they now find themselves a half game up on the Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference. The sneaky Spurs are at it again and are proving that they are still the team to be in the Western Conference, not the Thunder.
Commentary by Rich Peters