Weed is now legal in Colorado, so maybe it’s not all that surprising the Thunder basically looked stoned for 48 minutes tonight in Denver.
(What’s the statute of limitations on making a pot joke for my lede here? That’s still relevant enough right?)
There’s really no better way to describe the way the Thunder played Thursday against the Nuggets than by calling it “frustrating.” It wasn’t that Oklahoma City just played poorly, it’s that they didn’t even look like themselves but for a few sporadic minutes here and there. At certain moments, I wondered if they were even trying. For a team that supposedly prides itself on “competing every night,” they certainly didn’t live up to that standard.
The Nuggets led 60-51 at the half and extended the lead early in the second half, but OKC trimmed it to 72-61 and it looked like for a second, we were going to get a game. Except the Thunder basically started playing blacktop pickup, the Nuggets hit three straight 3s and the game was over just like that.
Just an awful performance from the Thunder. Bad. Very bad.
When they Thunder play poorly, or really lose at all for that matter, the two most popular things people say to me: 1) Brooks is a dummy bad coach so stupid and 2) the Thunder need to make a trade. Look, I think the Thunder could certainly use another player, especially a shooter, but that’s to go with the team they’re going to take into the postseason. This Westbrook situation is (hopefully) for the short-term and while frustrating, embarrassing losses are no fun to sit through, you’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize. An addition now might put a little band-aid on some of the issues, but a trade wouldn’t be made for that reason. It’d be done to add to the roster the Thunder will have in the playoffs.
As for Brooks: What’s he supposed to do at this point? Yes, a more structured offensive system would probably help, and a few adjustments to the rotations might change a few things, but for the most part, the Thunder just really, really miss Russell Westbrook. It’s less of a Brooks problem and more of a flaw in the overall construction of the team.
With Westbrook, the Thunder look like maybe the deepest, most talented team in the league. Without him, they look like a one-man show. It’s amazing. I think they’d probably be better off shaking the starting five, maybe even starting Derek Fisher, letting Jackson return to his more comfortable bench role. I think what gets fans chirping is that they want to see something done to suggest they’re trying. But there’s no magical fix to this unless Scott Brooks has healing power and is withholding that ability right now. Then it really is all his fault.
What the Thunder are doing right now is a) frustrating the hell out of us and 2) hurting their potential playoff seeding. Because assuming Westbrook’s health returns, let’s not forget this team was 21-4 with him and pretty much plowed through every notable team in the West. They’re struggling right now and things aren’t good. They can’t find a consistent offensive answer outside of Durant, the flow of the game is completely off and defensively, they’re lacking. But in terms of the long-term outlook, let’s keep our heads here. All we keep getting reminded here is that Russell Westbrook is pretty very important.
Here’s a bit of good news, though: The Bucks come to town on Saturday. At least I think that’s good news. At this point, I’m not entirely what to expect.
- Durant started the game 6-11 from the floor. He finished by hitting one of his last seven.
- Durant scored 30 in three quarters, and had 24 at half time. He did it mostly by getting to the line though, hitting 15-16.
- Durant didn’t shoot the ball well himself, but he can’t make shots for his teammates either. Ibaka had a bunch of good looks he missed. So did Lamb. So did Jackson. Durant’s doing all he can. Because it’s hard to balance the line of taking completely over and still trusting your teammates.
- Before they got big garbage time minutes, OKC’s bench had produced only five points early into the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lamb was 1-12, and with him being OKC’s best bench punch, that was no good.
- KD’s last two games: 4-20 from 3.
- The Thunder from 3 in the last two games: 12-58.
- The Thunder shot just 35.3 percent tonight.
- A small excuse for the Thunder tonight: The Nuggets were hitting some pretty ridiculous shots.
- Big minutes late for Derek Fisher and his development. I think that guy has a pretty bright future. Showed a little something there.
- Perry Jones came out aggressive. That was a note I made in the first quarter.
- Not much to be impressed by in this game, but I did love how Durant and the Thunder bench was so enthusiastic down the stretch, cheering everyone on in garbage time. I even liked KD’s tech. They didn’t just pout and sulk on the bench.
- Slick bit of game management by Scott Brooks at the end of the first quarter. He was resting KD, but with the Thunder having a 2-for-1 opportunity, Brooks subbed Durant back in, who drew an and-1.
- I hate Reggie Miller’s voice.
- The worst thing about the Thunder getting blown out tonight is that it gave Miller more license to talk. Way to go, Thunder.
- I don’t know how to describe it, but there’s just something about the way Kenneth Faried dunks that’s so… douchey.
Next up: Home against the Bucks on Saturday