Durant, Thunder keep rolling without Westbrook
Make it five wins in a row, four coming against the best in the Western Conference, and the Thunder have turned from struggling to sensational.
Wednesday, just eight days after losing to Memphis, making it three road losses in a row, the Thunder beat San Antonio, 111-105, giving OKC wins against Houston on the road, Golden State, Sacramento and Portland at home, and then the fifth — San Antonio on the road.
All of this coming after a 5-5 stretch where Oklahoma City looked ordinary, average and pretty close to lost without Russell Westbrook.
But now, after Reggie Jackson impressed and Kevin Durant excelled, hard to think the Thunder won’t be the team to beat when Westbrook comes back.
They’ve gone from third place in the Western Conference at 33-10, to first place after Wednesday’s game.
And three other thoughts after topping the Spurs:
1. Reggie Jackson came to play
Despite being in a bit of slump, Jackson played great against San Antonio.
In three games this season against the Spurs, Jackson has scored 23, 21 and then 27. Wednesday he was 12-of-17 from the line and played the way he had when Westbrook was in the lineup.
Durant has been amazing, that’s been documented, but it was Jackson who covered for Durant in the fourth quarter. Jackson scored 11 points in a row at one point on his way to a career high.
No one, outside of Durant and Westbrook, has the ability to get to the rim, create a shot and distance himself from the defense better than Jackson, and Jackson showed all of that in the fourth quarter where he pulled up for jumpers, got in the lane and found different and dynamic ways to score.
All of this coming after Jackson had gone 11-of-34 from the field the past two games.
"He’s had great games against the Spurs," coach Scott Brooks said. "I can’t put my finger on it."
2. Durant did it again
Just like Tuesday night in Oklahoma City when Durant went off in the fourth quarter, he made another pair of 3-pointers late against the Spurs.
Durant went for 36 points on 12-of-22 shooting and made both of his 3-pointers in the last three minutes of the game. He did have 11 turnovers and wasn’t his sharpest or best, but it does make nine games in a row of 30 or more points for Durant and all nine have come while Westbrook has been out.
"They did a good job," Brooks said of San Antonio’s defense on Durant. "Kevin is hard to guard. I thought he was good tonight, but overall, he’s a tough guy to guard. No surprise."
3. So, when does the drop off come?
After the Thunder routed New York on Christmas, there was no team playing better. Then came a major slide, including losses to Memphis and Utah. We know what’s happened lately against some of the best teams in the league.
The Thunder were coming off a back-to-back, which is always tough, but caught a break against San Antonio. The Spurs were without Tiago Splitter and Danny Green and then lost Kawhi Leonard for more than a half after he dislocated a finger. The Thunder improved to 3-0, and 2-0 in San Antonio, against the Spurs this season.
That’s the good news, and not to look ahead, but have you seen the upcoming schedule?
Wouldn’t call it tough, so naturally it looks like a spot for a letdown. The Thunder are at Boston on Friday and then onto Philadelphia Saturday before a home game against Atlanta on Monday.
"We’ve experienced a lot together," Brooks said. "Nothing surprises me with our group.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK