The Oklahoma City Thunder were blown out by the Phoenix Suns on the final leg of their 3 game road trip, 114-100. In an all-too-familiar scenario, OKC followed up two impressive wins in LA by taking the night off against a lottery team, looked bad doing it, and paid the price. In a chase for a higher playoff seed, there are still far too many of these moments — where OKC could make up significant seeding ground, gain home court advantage in the 1st round and possibly avoid the Warriors until a potential Western Conference Finals — to believe that the Thunder really have the mental fortitude to make each game count.
The Thunder, as they have been prone to do over the years, looked to throw knockout punches in the first 3 minutes of the game. However, loss of focus on the defensive end morphed into turnovers and rushed shots, and with only 12 minutes gone by, saw themselves trailing. The rest of the night was marked by a concerted effort to not play defense in the way that destroyed the Lakers and silenced the Clippers late. Does the absence of Andre Roberson really mean this much? Apparently so.
Prior to this week, R.K. Anthony and I made a wager as to what their record would be after the road trip. I initially said it could be 3-0 or 0-3, but he ultimately got me to say “2-1, they win out in Los Angeles, but then decide not to guard Devin Booker.” And the crazy thing is, Booker didn’t even have a great game. But it was defensive laziness and inattention to detail that left him open for 3-point shots and put him on the free throw line 12 times on the night. Meanwhile, the Suns bench combined to score 48 points, besting OKC’s own by 27.
We’re 1 game away from the seasonal mid-point. We know two things about the Thunder. They are adept at beating championship contenders and losing to lottery teams.