The return of Russell Westbrook was supposed to help the Oklahoma City Thunder become an even more powerful team that could rival the likes of the Heat in the east and the Clippers in their own conference. However, the way things have looked since the All-Star break, which coincides with Westbrook coming back to the starting lineup, hasn’t looked very good. The Thunder are 0-2 this week, losing to both the Heat and the Clippers.
On Thursday, Westbrook made his return to the lineup and got things off to a wild start with a Thunder-ous jam that lit up the entire Chesapeake Energy Arena. However, OKC wasn’t able to keep the same intensity throughout the rest of the game, and instead that attention Westbrook commanded resulted in Kevin Durant not even getting a shot off for the first six minutes of the game. Considering KD averaged over 30 points per game in Westbrook’s absence, there is room for concern when he only puts in 28, most of which came in garbage time and the Heat were already up by a fair margin.
On Sunday, the Thunder welcomed the Clippers to town. And while Durant was able to follow up his lackluster performance from Thursday with a 42 point, 10-assist effort on Sunday, it still wasn’t enough and the Thunder lost by eight. Unfortunately for Durant, aside from a 20-point effort from Serge Ibaka, there wasn’t much more in the way of production from the Thunder. That includes only 13 points from Westbrook.
Although the Thunder started 5-5 when Westbrook first went down back in December, they turned that around quickly and then followed it up by going 15-2. Since his return, they are now 0-2 and they are missing out on a valuable opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the west in the playoff race. Luckily for them the Rockets and the Spurs both lost this week, but the Clippers are just 5 games back, and wins like Sunday could be pivotal come the end of the year.
Is it time to panic for fans in Oklahoma City? Maybe not. After all, Durant is considered to be one of the top two players in the entire league and Westbrook is often among the conversation for top-five point guards. However, there is obvious rust that the Thunder need to shake off and shake off in a hurry. The Heat have proven that big egos can exist on the same team and still flourish. And if the Thunder want to be able to compete with them come May, then they’ll need to take a page out of the two-time defending champions playbook.
The Thunder started the season at 6/1 favorites to win the NBA Championship. And while they still are the best in the west at 13/4, the Clippers are right behind them at 13/1.
The Thunder will try and turn things around this week. On Wednesday they have a matchup with the Cavs and then Memphis will come to town on Friday night.