Thunder fall flat in loss to Rockets

Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and guard James Harden defend Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant in the second quarter at Toyota Center. 

Thomas Shea/Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Probably not time to panic yet from the Thunder perspective.

But if they can’t figure out how to play well on Thursday, when will they?

Healthier than they have been all season, more rested than the common house cat, Oklahoma City came out flat and then fell in that same general direction in a 112-101 loss at Houston.

Time to panic? Not yet, but that time is more visible and way easier to see than at any other point this season, and that includes a dismal 3-12 start.

Bring on Golden State, right?

For the past week, we’ve been told the Thunder have practiced well, have used the time off to come together, get new guard Dion Waiters involved and rest up.

Well, OKC rested, but past that, it’s hard to tell what was accomplished in the past six days since the Thunder played last, because this game was over nearly immediately after tipoff. Houston scored 16 points in a row after OKC opened the game with two baskets. The Rockets led 40-18 after the first 12 minutes.  The Thunder got as close as 10 at halftime, but never challenged in the second half.

That’s disappointing from OKC’s perspective because things pointed toward the Thunder playing well in Houston. After all, the Rockets had just played on Wednesday and the Thunder were fresh. Instead, Durant looked disengaged most of the first half, Westbrook wasn’t much of a factor and the 22-point, first-quarter hole was more like a coffin.

Someone want to glass-half-full this thing? Good luck and don’t look at the standings and don’t listen to the rumors. 

The Thunder seemed to be a lock to make the playoffs after Durant and Westbrook got healthy, but now, even though there’s still more than half the season to go, OKC is not making any legitimate move up the standings. OKC is tied for 10th with Denver, 3.5 games behind Phoenix, and also behind New Orleans. Neither New Orleans or Phoenix look like they are playing bad basketball. The Thunder are 18-20.

Thursday, we also learned, via ESPN the Thunder are rumored to be among the teams in a three-way deal that would likely ship Kendrick Perkins out of town and bring in Brook Lopez. Lopez would be an immediate upgrade on the floor, but not necessarily off of it. Perkins is revered in the lockerroom while Reggie Jackson seems to be upset. Perhaps Jackson gets moved, or maybe Jeremy Lamb, but under .500 and dealing with trade rumors and all that comes with it is exhausting and another distraction in a season that has been the opposite of smooth. Add Waiters to the situation and you have a bunch of players at the same position.

Oklahoma City now gets the best team in the league – Golden State – at home on Friday and then goes on the road for seven of the next eight games. 

This is all, and you know this, in the Western Conference, where wins don’t come cheap.

OKC has time, not plenty of it, but time to make up ground. After all, this is relatively the same team it was a season ago. Durant and Westbrook, Jackson and Ibaka. Steven Adams is better. Perkins is better. Anthony Morrow is a solid, complement to the rotation. So, why has this team lost three of four games and scuffling at Houston, giving up a monster game to James Harden and making Josh Smith look like an All-Star?

Perhaps the Thunder are panicking a bit. Maybe it’s time.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK