Kevin Durant cannot do it all in Thunder loss to Grizzlies
So, when was Russell Westbrook supposed to come back, again?
For the Thunder sooner would be a lot better.
Oklahoma City lost Tuesday, 90-87 in Memphis and once more looked a bit stagnant on offense.
Kevin Durant was good again, but didn’t get nearly enough help in what seems to be a recurring theme, dating back to last season when the Thunder lost in five games to Memphis in the Western Conference semifinals.
But unlike last year in the playoffs when the Thunder knew they wouldn’t be getting Westbrook back, this team will eventually get their All-Star point guard on the floor.
The team said it would be sometime after the All-Star break, but no one would be surprised if it were quicker. Westbrook has been doing some shooting with the team at practice and has been on the floor before games warming up.
But Westbrook wasn’t on the floor once the game started Tuesday.
With that in mind, two things to think about after the loss to the Grizzlies:
Kevin Durant again, but it could have been more
Plenty of Durant Tuesday, but plenty wasn’t enough.
Three times the Thunder had the ball in the last minute and Durant didn’t attempt a shot on any of those possessions.
Everyone loves the idea of Durant being a distributor and being the guy who is unselfish and wants to get his teammates involved. Noble and honorable, he is. Of that, there is no doubt, but the Thunder are at the point now where their options on offensive are not exactly diversified.
Sure, he had 37 points and shot it 28 times, but would anyone really complain if Durant took 10 more shots? Would it be an issue If Durant just decided to shoot and not pass? Probably not.
Maybe Durant differed to his teammates because of his injured left wrist, which he was holding onto in the last 20 seconds, clearly in some amount of pain. Perhaps, Durant was thinking about what LeBron James said when James commented he sometimes gets jealous when he sees how many shots Durant puts up.
Maybe it was neither of those things, but when the Thunder was down three points in the closing seconds and Durant passed to Serge Ibaka for an open 3-pointer instead of taking a 15-footer, it looked great because Ibaka was open and he’s a capable 3-point shooter.
"It was read and react," Durant said. "He (Ibaka) was wide open. I trust him. The shot looked good. Great shot, man, we just have to live with the results. It’s not just about Serge."
But, man, it’s hard to think a contested Durant shot isn’t as good as another person taking an open one. Seems silly to say, but it’s Durant we’re talking about.
Coach Scott Brooks disagreed.
"He makes the right play. Serge was wide open," Brooks said of the Durant pass.
The Thunder only scored 87 points. That’s not enough. Westbrook isn’t around and there aren’t any others who can be counted on consistently. Durant can only do so much, but the way things are going, it looks like he’s going to have to do more.
What’s next for Durant and the team?
The Thunder caught a rough break when it was announced before the game that Memphis forward Marc Gasol would be returning. He had been out for more than 20 games with an injury.
Bad break for the Thunder because Tuesday was the start of a really tough run and Tuesday was a good chance to steal a win without having to deal with one of the best interior players in the league.
Gasol finished with 12 points, but his contested jumper with 2:40 left gave Memphis a six-point lead.
Next up: Thursday at Houston, Friday against Golden State, Sunday vs. Sacramento and then Tuesday against Portland. Not exactly easy for a Thunder team that has dropped three in a row on the road and three of its past five at home.
Durant was holding his wrist in the final seconds but after the game Tuesday he said he was fine. He said the team’s spirits were up, too.
"We just have to stay confident and keep our heads up. We’ll be better. We can’t get down."
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK