Inconsistency difficult to overcome for Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant shoots in the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder always have the ability to look as good, or better than any team in the NBA.

But, even with the two superstars, the Thunder’s ability to look completely lost is something that has attached itself like a fungus to this team for the better part of the past five seasons.

In the past, that kind of inconsistency, while dissatisfying and often frustrating, was something you could live with.

With the combination of health and skill, the Thunder could generally overcome bouts of sluggishness or apathy. That’s not the case this season. 

The Thunder have their health again but they don’t have time for the inconsistencies.

A 3-0 road trip was a great start but an 0-2 weekend soured the five-game trip as the Thunder stayed in character.

OKC was great against Miami, Orlando and Washington and not exactly in losses to the elite of the East at Atlanta and then Sunday at Cleveland where the Thunder lost 108-98.

Still 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, OKC doesn’t have time to continue to be inconsistent. Not after a 3-12 start. Not in the Western Conference where Phoenix is a quality playoff-type team. Not when you lose an opportunity to get back in the forefront of the top teams in the league.

There’s plenty of time left in the season as we have just passed the halfway point, but there’s not a lot of time to be fooling around with inconsistencies.

Either Westbrook and Durant have to be unstoppable or the Thunder complementary players are going to have to improve. Neither was the case Sunday in Cleveland.

Durant scored 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting, but Westbrook was only 7-of-26. That’s not enough help and it was was magnified by the fact Serge Ibaka went 6-of-16, Steven Adams didn’t play and Dion Waiters was 5-of-15.

When Durant and Westbrook shine no one questions much of anything. But when one or both don’t show, Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow and even coaching come into question.

Jackson played only 10 minutes Sunday. He made one-of-five shots. Coach Scott Brooks didn’t seem content with his lineup after finding out Adams was out with a migraine headache. Morrow played 16 minutes leaving Waiters with the bulk of playing time (33 minutes) despite struggling.

If this is any other year, you could write off Sunday as a bad performance against a good team, but any other year the Thunder didn’t get off to such a dreadful start. 

However, OKC did seem to be playing its best basketball of the season, starting with a home win against Golden State and then extending the winning on in Orlando, Miami and then Washington. But, as is the case with Oklahoma City this year and in years past, the extension of greatness generally doesn’t reach past Westbrook and Durant.

Winning at Atlanta and at Cleveland were not going to be easy on a good day, so don’t consider the defeats opportunities lost, consider them opportunities squandered.

A win at either, and both games were gettable as the Thunder led in the second half against Cleveland and were close in the fourth quarter at Atlanta, and momentum could have carried OKC to a long run of wins.

Instead, this team is exactly where we thought they might be, even with Durant and Westbrook healthy.

Oklahoma City is .500 this season, due to injuries and aberration. 

But this team’s makeup is exactly what we thought, regardless of record.

The Thunder are good enough to beat anyone, which they did with a road win at San Antonio, wins against Golden State and Washington come to mind, but inconsistent enough to lose at any point.

Oklahoma City kept themselves in the playoff picture with a good start on the road over the past week. 

Oklahoma City kept themselves out of any discussion about the best in the league with two losses over the weekend.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK