State of the Thunder: Beating up on bad teams

Kevin Durant called last week’s game at Orlando a “must-win.”

Kind of strange, considering it was May. Stranger that it was Orlando.

But the strangest thing is Durant may have been right.

While the time and the place for the comment seems premature and out of line, the fact is the Thunder have to win against Orlando and the rest of the bottom feeders of the league.

Because they just haven’t been good enough against the top teams.

That’s why beating Orlando and then sweeping past Portland and Washington in the past week was imperative. Oklahoma City is just 1.5 games behind San Antonio with 10 games to go, and getting home-court advantage seems to be more important.

The Thunder went 0-2 against Miami, is 1-2 against San Antonio and 1-2 against Memphis and Denver.

Expect a matchup with any combination of San Antonio, Denver and Memphis at some point down the line, so they’ll need as much help as they can get.

Now Durant was talking “must-win” because the Thunder had dropped a pair of games in a row against Denver and Memphis, so winning and ending a two-game slide is what he had in mind.

But the bigger picture is the playoffs and OKC’s seeding. The Thunder have a chance to catch the Spurs.

But not if they don’t keep beating up on the weak.

Who’s Hot: Stat-sheet filler Nick Collison doesn’t miss when he shoots. Now, he doesn’t shoot it often, but when he does, he’s pretty good at it. In 10 of the past 11 games, Collison is shooting better than 50 percent. He is 12 of 16 in the past three for 27 points, 11 rebounds and just two turnovers.

Who’s Not:
Derek Fisher. The veteran guard has missed 18 shots in a row over the past six games. Simple as that. No other stats necessary.

Three Thoughts

1. Kevin Durant is on the verge of winning his fourth straight scoring title. Let that sink in. Durant is averaging 28.2 points. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks is at 27.5, but while Anthony is known as a scorer, Durant should be seen as something mightier. He recently surpassed 12,000 points, but more importantly, Durant is shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent from the free-throw line. That’s a well-roundedness no one in the league can match.

2. Little chance for the the Thunder to catch Miami for the league’s top record, but Oklahoma City could make a move to overtake San Antonio for the best mark in the West. The Thunder have one more chance against the Spurs – Thursday in Oklahoma City – and you have to bet the Thunder will give maximum effort. Oklahoma City is just 1.5 games behind the Spurs and has just two road games left against playoff teams and just four games left against teams with a winning record. The Spurs have eight left against plus-.500 teams, including a game against the Heat on Sunday.

3. Curious comment from Kevin Durant about Jeremy Lamb. Durant said Lamb is going to be a big contributor next season. Curious because it’s hard to know what Durant has seen, considering Lamb has yet to play any real minutes this season. Perhaps, Lamb will make an ascension similar to that of Reggie Jackson, who has made a big leap this year. Personally, I’d love to see the Thunder develop Lamb, but it’s hard to see him getting any significant minutes. Russell Westbrook certainly isn’t going to play less and you have to figure Jackson is going to continue to improve. Where Lamb fits in is a good question. A better question is why Durant would bring him up this week.


“Can’t bust nobody with five rings.”

 – Kendrick Perkins to The Oklahoman about Derek Fisher and his recent shooting woes.

“It was just good to see all of those guys. It felt good for the crowd to clap for me when I checked in. I had some good memories here. I wish we could have got the win, but other than that it was cool.”

 –  Eric Maynor of Portland, who was traded to the Blazers earlier this season.

Numbers Game

2 – Halfcourt shots made by fans in the past five home games. That’s 40 percent.

3 of 18 – Wizards guard John Wall’s shooting against the Thunder one game after scoring 47 points against Memphis.

0 – Points by Portland in the last six minutes of Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City.

43 – Total points the Thunder won by in their two home games last week.

19 – Times in the past 20 home games the Thunder have scored more than 100 points.

Up Next

Two game, back-to-back road trip as the Thunder play Minnesota on Friday for the final time this season and take on Milwaukee for the first time this year Saturday. After that, it’s four days off before the Spurs come to town Thursday.

Tower of Power?

Well, this week doesn’t change much. The Thunder beat up on the weak, just like they were supposed to and just like we thought they would. Let’s wait and see what happens after this week as the Thunder take on some much tougher teams.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @theandrewgilman