The fuliginous smoke that accompanied Oklahoma City's blaze throughout the NBA's barbed terrain has faded. Its remnants were fanned aside Wednesday night amid a telling 109-89 exposition to the Utah Jazz.
Gone are discussions of winning streaks and triple-double lore. What remains is a fraught uncertainty surrounding a once predestined franchise.
On the tail end of an unsuccessful back-to-back venture, the Thunder ceded status atop the Northwest Division to a harmonious Jazz iteration. Utah's torrid performance (58/56/80 shooting-line) extended Oklahoma City’s marked defensive shortcomings displayed in Tuesday’s 19-point loss to Portland.
During these tribulations, the Thunder’s usual stalwart, Russell Westbrook, has appeared run-down both mentally and physically. A night after repeatedly broadcasting his frustrations before a raucous Moda Center contingency, Westbrook had these forceful words for reporters:
“Honestly, man, people and this triple-double thing is kind of getting on my nerves, really,” . People think if I don’t get it, it’s like a big thing. When I do get it, it’s a thing. If y’all just let me play – if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t care. It is what it is. I really don’t care. For the hundredth time. I don’t care. AllAll I care about is winning, man, honestly. All the numbers, (expletive) don't mean nothing to me."
Westbook, of course, was directly referencing the streak of seven games in which he tied Michael Jordan upon the NBA’s all-time consecutive triple-double leader board.
While ensconced within that rarefied stretch, the 6’3 guard averaged 28.9 ppg, 13.6 rpg, and 13 apg. However, as Oklahoma City’s fortunes have regressed, Westbrook’s numbers have also fallen to 23.5 ppg, 6 reb, and 5 apg. During his mini-drought, the Thunder’s lone superstar has shot a meager 31% from the field.
Another factor further compounding Westbrook’s struggles is the absence of Victor Oladipo. Minus Russ’ dynamic back-court mate, the Thunder has lost by a conspicuous 19.5 ppg margin. Although, this is not surprising when considering that Oladipo's 98.7 DEFRTG is a Thunder team-best among players to log 250 minutes or more this season.
As Oladipo is rumored to return for Saturday’s pivotal matchup vs. Phoenix, perhaps this will restore balance to both Westbrook and the teetering Thunder.