The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Utah Jazz on the road, 109-89. On the 2nd night of a back to back that began with an embarrassing loss to the Trail Blazers, OKC could do no better this time around in falling to Utah in extremely disappointing fashion. While the Thunder once again had the excuse of being without Victor Oladipo, they showed little to no improvement in the basic fundamentals of the game in which their defense was bad and their offense was worse. Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 27, but he wasn’t good by any stretch. Westbrook shot 7-25 for the game with most of those shots being either poor or contested. Furthermore, Westbrook finished with only 5 assists on the night and the team with a grand total of 14, which gives you some indication as to how bad their offense was working. The loss means that OKC spent the last two nights losing by a combined score of 223-184.
Once again, perspective time. The Clippers, who are arguably the 2nd best team in the west, recently went through a stretch where they lost 5 of 7 games, with all losses coming in blowout fashion. There are stretches where every team, even good ones, get beaten up a bit. I’ve been watching this league since 1986. I know this. You know this as well.
But I won’t lie to you; after covering games at WTLC since 2010, having to recap these back to back games feel like a low point. The reason is not that they lost; we’ve seen consecutive losses like this, even in their best seasons. But rather, it’s because there is no promise of a hoops savior coming on the horizon. Apart from missing Oladipo, who has been struggling of late, and Cameron Payne, who still has much to prove, this is who the Thunder are in 2016. They’re a bad Westbrook game away from getting blown out by two teams that ought to be their peers.
To be sure Utah, a team that always seemed to be on the cusp of something significant, appears to finally be putting it together. They’ve finally got the guard play they need to help give their best player in Gordon Hayward the space he needs to operate. Their defense is on point, and they’re suddenly effective from 3-point range. But that said...58.3% from the floor and 56.5% from three? The Thunder defense, young as it is, is getting dominated by all sorts. Indeed, they are becoming the masters at playing 20 seconds of fantastic defense. Yep.
And that’s really what it all comes down to, where it starts, and what fuels all the things OKC does well. At the end of the day, the Thunder MUST get stops in order to engage their rebounders, trigger their fast break, free up their mediocre shooters, and let loose their MVP in Westbrook. Without it, they’re a low percentage shooting team that doesn’t run a good enough offense to compete against nearly anyone.
Things will get better. They will. But for now, we settle in for the grind of a superstar and a young team trying to find its way.
Bakers 7, in case you were wondering, and yes the first pour occurred at the end of the 3rd quarter.