Without Durant, Thunder lose to lowly Knicks

When you lose to the New York Knicks this season, there are no discussions worthy of being taken off the table.

Doesn’t matter if Kevin Durant played, had a bum toe that kept him of a second-consecutive game, or not. 

When you lose 100-92 to the eight-win Knicks, everything comes into question and nothing seems assured.

If the low point of the season was a 3-12 start and not knowing when Durant and Westbrook would return from injury, Wednesday’s flop in New York dug a bit deeper. If the Thunder miss the playoffs which start less than three months from now, there will be a number of reasons why, but you can certainly start by taking a peek at Wednesday.

What’s happening with this team? Hard to say. The Thunder started two players, Perry Jones and Andre Roberson, who didn’t score in a combined 39 minutes. OKC was burned by former Thunder starter-turned-bench-occupier Lance Thomas, who had 17 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

Meanwhile, no player other than Russell Westbrook could outscore Thomas, who the Thunder shipped to the Knicks earlier this month for Dion Waiters. Waiters was 3-for-10 and is 19-for-57  (33 percent) in his last five games. And while Westbrook went for 40 points, it took him 30 shots and 12 free throws to get there.

What’s happening with this team that has all the pieces to make a run at a championship, but is leaking desire and determination?

Perhaps, Durant’s toe injury is more than just a day-to-day issue like the Thunder said it was. Perhaps, Durant sat out because the team thought it could by one more game without him.

But why would anyone assume much of anything with this team? Without Durant and Westbrook the Thunder are understandably lost, but even when the two have played this season, nothing has gone smoothly as witnessed by their 7-6 record in January where Durant and Westbrook played in 10 of them.

Reggie Jackson has treated this season as if its his last in Oklahoma City and coach Scott Brooks has treated Jackson as if he’s not really wanted. Jackson played 28 minutes on Wednesday, but sat for a stretch of the fourth quarter in favor of Waiters and Anthony Morrow.

Serge Ibaka has evolved into an outside shooter – three–of-nine Wednesday – and less of an inside presence than any point in his career and Westbrook has the ability to take over games but also take incredibly bad shots, both of which he did Wednesday.

When you lose a game to the Knicks everything negative gets magnified, including Brooks, who will get criticized and critiqued for losing a game to a team that featured Thomas and a Langston Galloway – a player on a 10-day contract who got the start. Galloway and Thomas combined for 35 points. Other than Westbrook, the entire Thunder team had 52 points.

Nothing is assured, starting with a playoff spot which now seems more and more unlikely. The Thunder are .500 on the season, but are three games behind for the final spot with two teams in front of them. In the Western Conference these days it feels unreachable.

The discussion of whether the Thunder would make the playoffs initially dissolved when Westbrook and Durant returned from injury, but now everything is back in question. Even Tony Durant, brother of Kevin Durant, Tweeted Wednesday night that changes need to be made.

Not for sure if Tony Durant was talking about lineups or strategy or coaching, but he joined Russell Westbrook’s brother as two people connected to the team stating on Twitter that things need to happen.

That’s the case when you lose on a Wednesday to the Knicks, a game where the Thunder should have won, but didn’t.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK