If it’s any consolation, the Thunder started January off with a loss too.
Whether it was the eight games in 12 days, the back-to-back, the mental wear and tear of a 10-game winning streak, the fact the Wizards are kind of good, the fact the Thunder seem to always play horrible in DC, the absence of Russell Westbrook finally stinging them again, that they just played plain bad, or a combination of all of it, the Thunder played an ugly 48 minutes of basketball tonight.
The Wizards led 12-2 after four minutes, and while the Thunder eventually made a nice little second quarter push to make it a game again, the energy was gone in the third quarter. OKC had the score 55-54 with 5:20 left in the third, but the Wizards went on a 23-10 push to finish the frame and put the Thunder in a hole they didn’t look all that interested in digging out of.
There was no Durant magic, no bench spark, no barrage of 3s to save the Thunder this time. They just never got their feet under them and basically yawned their way to the finish line. In fact, they had it to 13 with four minutes left. That’s very much still a game, especially considering how many late game comebacks we’ve seen from this Thunder team over the years. But Brooks decided to leave Durant and Ibaka on the bench and just let the second unit see it out. In the grand scheme, pushing for a somewhat improbable comeback probably wasn’t worth it. When Gregg Popovich does it, it’s genius. When Brooks does it, he’s giving up. I think Brooks made a good choice.
Again, this is more of a give-the-Wizards credit kind of thing than a Thunder-played-like-butt thing, but you can’t ignore how the NBA season sometimes treats you. That’s what makes it so difficult to go undefeated, or at least finish the season on a 43-game winning streak. The Thunder looked mentally exhausted, never finding any real edge to this one. I know that they got to rest starters in the blowout in Brooklyn last night, but sometimes I wonder if that sort of thing can play against you on a back-to-back. Instead of riding momentum of a game the night before, Durant and company had the opportunity to mentally check out, and then had to refocus for this one.
But this game was always coming. The Thunder have been playing delightful basketball without Westbrook, but this is at least a nice reminder that he’s still very necessary. These types of games have happened with him, but there certainly is a whole lot less give-up in the Thunder when No. 0 is out there.
Honestly, there’s just not much more to say about it. The Thunder played bad, the Wizards did the opposite. I blame Adam Silver for all of this. Moving on.
- A sign of what was to come: The Thunder turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter. Ten!
- In the 10-game streak, OKC posted an offensive rating of 116.3, which is insane. Tonight it was 84.8. That’s insane the other way.
- KD just didn’t quite have that cutting, Slim Reaper edge to him tonight. He missed some good looks, was pretty loose with the ball and while 26 points on 8-21 shooting isn’t bad for the common man, it’s just about the worst game ever for KD.
- Durant did have seven assists, though.
- Where the Thunder lacked most was any kind of backup for Durant. He wasn’t his best, but Reggie Jackson was awful (6-17, eight turnovers), and the bench added only 21 total points. Serge Ibaka was meh, going 6-12 for 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, but the Thunder definitely needed more than that with Durant a bit off.
- Via ESPN Stats and Info: “Kevin Durant went 0-for-6 from 3-point range, his worst shooting night from 3-point range this season.”
- John Wall just completely roasted Reggie Jackson. Wall started the game 0-8, but finished 7-18 for 17 points plus 15 assists and six steals.
- Again, this loss isn’t just a “The Thunder needed Russell Westbrook thing.” They’ve obviously shown what they’re capable of without him. They’ve beaten some really good teams during this stretch (Spurs, Warriors, Heat, Rockets), but sometimes, it’s just not there. It wasn’t there for the Thunder this time. Having Westbrook would’ve helped. But bad effort and poor focus are what they are.
- Perk got poked in the eye, or around the eye area in the first quarter and actually had blood coming out of it. It looked bad, but he returned.
- KD hit Thabo in the corner for an open 3 and yelled “SHOOT IT!!!” as he caught it. Probably smart that he didn’t yell “PUMP FAKE IT!!!”
- KD was talking with a courtside fan in the first half. Looked like he said, “Watch you mouth.” Next possession, Durant threw down a fairly dirty transition dunk. And then shot a little look at the fan.
- Two straight nights, two straight streaks over. Boo that.
- The Thunder’s 81 points are the fewest they’ve scored this season, tied for the 81 against the Wolves the second game of the season.
- Hey, at least Scott Brooks can take off those glasses now.
Next up: Home against the Grizzlies on Monday