The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Phoenix Suns on the road, 118-111. On the second night of a back to back, the Suns controlled the game from the 2nd quarter on as the Thunder played in disarray for much of the night. Despite OKC’s quick start to the game which looked like a promising turn of events, their offense devolved into a one-man show and their defense disappeared all together, leading to a bitter loss during a stretch where OKC has a very clear window of opportunity to move up in the standings.
Just like last night against the Trail Blazers, the Thunder were plagued by poor game scheming and unimaginative execution. Russell Westbrook, his stats impressive in their own rights as he finished with 48-17-9-3 in 38 minutes, once again did not execute a sound floor game against a weak opponent. The result was that OKC was chasing arguably the worst team in the west for most of the night, failing to get key stops even when the game depended on it. The game could be summed up in a microcosm of a moment with less than 2 minutes to play. Following a Westbrook layup that cut the lead to 107-101, the Thunder forced a turnover by Devon Booker. But in their chance to cut the lead to 4, a Westbrook rocket of a pass to Adams at the rim was undone by a 3-second call on the OKC center. To add final insult to injury, on the Suns’ next trip down, Jared Dudley of all people beat Andre Roberson off the dribble, feeding Leandro Barbosa for the corner-3 that all but sealed the game.
The 2nd loss in a row is a painful reality that the Thunder, as strong as they looked during their 4 game winning streak, are also the same team that just lost two consecutive games to teams that were collectively 33 games under .500. And OKC did so with a clearly losing formula - by enabling Westbrook to go full Kobe, and the team abandoning the defense and ball movement that had buoyed them most recently against the Jazz.
Of course the Thunder are still missing Victor Oladipo, but that isn’t really the problem. Rather, the Westbrook-Adams chemistry appears to be off much of the time, with Adams struggling to help create and finish plays he routinely was completing earlier this season. And I think he knows he’s struggling too, as his frustration is mounting toward his performance and how the referees are calling him.
The loss is another bad hiccup in a season full of them. And once again, what optimistically was believed to be a clear opportunity to put a long winning streak in the bank has transformed into an attempt to salvage a road trip from turning into a 3 game losing streak to lottery teams.
The beginning of March has not been kind to OKC.