Thunder’s struggles continue on West Coast road trip

Hard to be hopeful when you lose to the last-place Lakers.

Hard to feel good about anything from an Oklahoma City Thunder perspective after giving up 114 to the Lakers and 128 to Phoenix on this two-game road trip.

Coach Scott Brooks said his team is in a "Defensive Valley," but that actually sort of sounds peaceful. The Thunder are in a defensive rut, a situation so bad Jodie Meeks scored a career-high 42 on Sunday after allowing a career-high 41 points on Thursday.

That’s not a valley. That’s a hole.

A top-five defensive team the past three seasons, Oklahoma City has lost its way and is 3-5 since the All-Star break.

But there’s more than one way. The Thunder can certainly get out of this situation. They have the players, experience and enough recent success.

They also have the knowledge that …

1. Houston is on deck

Yeah, sounds weird, considering the Rockets are 8-2 in their last 10 games, they have won four in a row, have James Harden and Dwight Howard, who is playing his best basketball in a long time.

Doesn’t sound like that great for the Thunder. However, the last time the Thunder were playing this poorly, OKC used an epic second half against the Rockets to turn things around. Remember?

On Jan. 16, in Houston, the Thunder came in 5-5 in their previous 10 games. They had just lost at Utah and then at Denver before losing a third game in four games at Memphis. Then, OKC allowed 75 points in the first half.

But what happened next was impressive. Houston scored 19 points in the second half, the Thunder rallied to win and went on a 10-game unbeaten streak.

Maybe it takes a high-level Houston team to get the Thunder right again.

2. Everyone else stinks, too.

The Thunder have fallen out of first place in the Western Conference after having a five-game lead at the All-Star break, but guess what, there’s not a lot of good ball from going on right now from the best teams.

The Heat have dropped three in a row, including losing Sunday. The Pacers went into Sunday having lost three in a row, including Wednesday at Charlotte. 

Don’t play your best basketball in March, just make sure you’re playing your best basketball in the middle of April. 

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have played alongside each other a long time, but they haven’t played alongside each other that much this year. As good as Durant was without Westbrook, it still takes some time to adjust. Westbrook has fit back in nicely after starting slowly, and it won’t be long before he and Durant get it worked out.

3. The Thunder’s best two defenders are out

No one wants to hear about the value of Thabo Sefolosha, and no wants to discuss the virtues of Kendrick Perkins, either, but it’s pretty clear the team is missing something.

Sefolosha is the team’s best perimeter defender, a go-to guy when someone like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Jodie Meeks gets hot. Perkins is the team’s best defender down low. Together they don’t give you a lot of offense, but they also are not afraid to stand in front of someone on defense – something a number of other Thunder players don’t seem to interested in doing.

There has been a lot of moving parts with the Thunder. They lost Westbrook. They lost Perkins and then Sefolosha. They gained Caron Butler.

Brooks said Sunday after the loss to the Lakers, change hasn’t been the problem.

OK, if you want to believe that, that’s fine. Change might not be the problem, but a bit of stability sure wouldn’t hurt any.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK