Thunder can’t afford to lose Kevin Durant to injury again

The Thunder’s winning streak is over.

Nobody really seems worried about that.

Russell Westbrook had a great game and everyone can take a bit of solace in that.

Reggie Jackson was bad, Andre Roberson was good and Golden State was better.

Is anyone really that worked up about any of the above?

Nope.

All that really seems to matter now is Kevin Durant’s right ankle.

Durant got hurt again. The injury was officially listed as a mild ankle sprain. Durant missed the entire second half after stepping awkwardly on the foot of Marreese Speights in the closing seconds of the first half.

X-Rays on the right ankle were negative, but all the positives of the past few weeks, and the momentum, and the good vibes, the playoff talk and the winning streak seem to be moot.

Durant played his best game — his best half — of the season Thursday in Oakland, Calif., against the Warriors. He scored 30 points and made five-of-six 3-pointers. It was the first time in Durant’s career he had scored 30 in a half.

The injury had a large part in keeping the Thunder from beating the Warriors, but it robbed Durant of what certainly looked like it would be a massive game.

The Thunder hung in there, even had a lead with less than 3 minutes to play, but eventually lost for the first time in eight games, falling to Golden State 114-109, but no one is going to lose sleep over this loss.

But you sure could over Durant’s ankle, because history tells us this team isn’t going to be elite unless Durant and Westbrook play.

"Obviously, when he’s on the floor we’re a much better team," coach Scott Brooks told FOX Sports Oklahoma after the game.  

Durant missed the first 17 games of the season resting and recovering after he fractured his right foot. The early indicator is this injury is not related to the foot injury, so that’s good news, but the early indicator also shows a great deal of panic around the team.

Rightfully so. Brooks told FOX after the game he didn’t have a status update on Durant and didn’t know whether Durant would play against the Lakers Friday. Durant told The Oklahoman after the game he could have played, but coaches convinced him to sit out. He said hopes to play against the Lakers. 

If Durant doesn’t? Well, we’ve already seen what happens when both Westbrook and Durant are out and we have a pretty good idea of how the Thunder are when just one of the two plays. Games are winnable, but victory doesn’t seem assured like it has in this recent, seven-game run. Andre Roberson, who had his first double-double of his career with 10 points and 12 rebounds was notable. But he’s not someone the Thunder can expect a lot of.

Meanwhile, Westbrook played 40 minutes, never a great thing, especially knowing he’s likely going to have to do it again Friday on the second night of a back-to-back. He scored 33 points and knew he had to be the best player on the court in the second half. Certainly, Westbrook has the ability, but he doesn’t have help.

Maybe Durant returns Friday night against the Lakers. Maybe the Thunder gets back to what they were doing so well over the past two weeks.

Maybe the calendar only says it’s Dec. 19, but maybe if Durant doesn’t return soon, the Thunder fall back in that hole it took so long to dig out of.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK

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