Loss to Pelicans painful reminder Thunder aren’t where they used to be

Russell Westbrook had another Hall of Fame performance and Kevin Durant made a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

Just like old times.

Chesapeake Energy Arena was dance club loud. Like 2012 loud. Like when the Thunder played the Miami Heat loud and Oklahoma City was playing for a title.

But it’s not 2012.

It’s the cold, cold reality of 2015 and the Thunder aren’t playing for a title. They’re playing for their playoff lives in a mainly forgettable season.

However, Friday wasn’t forgettable. It was one that sticks with you, painful and harsh.

The shots that used to fall, didn’t on Friday. The win that you knew was coming, never showed up. And the playoff run the Thunder charged toward in past seasons looks is now just a "Remember When" kind of thing.

Friday, Anthony Davis made a game-winning 3-pointer with no time left, canceling out what seemed to be the beginning stages of some good Thunder basketball. 

But that’s kind of the way this season has gone. Durant didn’t make the shots that counted at the end –€“ missing four times in the last 41 seconds and going 2-for-11 in the fourth quarter – and Oklahoma City didn’t get the win it needed.

Seems familiar, right?

It’s not a lost season, not yet, but Friday was a knife in the kidney after Davis dropped a 30-footer at the buzzer, knocking the Thunder 3.5 games behind Suns and two games behind New Orleans. That’s 10th place in the Western Conference.

That’s kind of the season it’s been.

"We just have to fight through it," Durant said. "It happens. It won’t be the last time. We just have to keep our heads up and keep fighting."

It appeared that fight was going to go the Thunder’s way. They won on the road against this same Pelicans’ team on Wednesday and got Durant back in the lineup for just the second time in the last six games on Friday and more importantly,  they got 48 points from Russell Westbrook, who became just the third player in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant are the others) to go for 45 points, five rebounds and five assists in consecutive games. 

But even with all that good, it’s been that kind of season.

Davis wasn’t better, but he was equal to Westbrook. Davis scored 41 points, had 10 rebounds and made five of his six shots in the fourth quarter as well getting four rebounds in the final 12 minutes.

"We don’t feel sorry for ourselves," Westbrook said when asked if the team was snake-bit. "We put too much time and preparation and work in trying to win. They made a good shot."

In the past, Durant made those shots. Friday he didn’t when the team went to him over and over again, despite Westbrook being the one who carried the night.

In the past, the playoffs were never in doubt. Yet every day in 2015 it’s becoming more of a nasty reality.

"I don’t look at it that way," coach Scott Brooks said. "We’ve had some rough patches. That’s part of the season. Everything is not going to be smooth sailing."

The thing is, nothing has been smooth sailing this year. Even with the did-you-see-that showing from Westbrook and another 27 points from Durant, the Thunder couldn’t beat a 27-23 Pelicans team. Not even at home where OKC had won seven in a row.

Durant has played just 23 games this season. Westbrook missed some, too. Reggie Jackson has been equal parts absent and discontented. Dion Waiters has been inconsistent as Jackson’s replacement, going one-of-six in 17 minutes.

"We’re .500," Brooks said. "We have a great opportunity Sunday. "This was a tough loss. Our guys will hang together and we’ll look forward to Sunday."

Looking back seems reassuring. Those were the days. Looking ahead doesn’t seem quite as comforting.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK


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