Russell Westbrook did all he could. On a team with two other legitimate stars, he turned in 37 points, 20 in the fourth quarter alone. It wasn’t enough. The star-studded Thunder lost by 13 to a Magic team that lost nine straight, six by double digits, and was five games below .500. It was Oklahoma City’s third loss in a row and fifth in six games.
This one stung more than the rest.
Ok, THIS might be rock bottom for OKC pic.twitter.com/lXDXI2YPhF— James Holas (@SnottieDrippen) November 30, 2017
There is panic in Oklahoma City, and there should be. The Thunder are 8-12. They beat the defending NBA champs by 17 and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks by 19 but have no other signature wins to show.
Every loss, though, is a signature defeat. The Thunder’s loss to Orlando is an L in cursive handwriting.
I keep thinking, “Okay, this is officially the low point for the season,” and then a week later it’s “Okay, THIS is officially the low point of the season,” and then a week later...— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 26, 2017
Oklahoma City has fallen to Orlando, Dallas, New Orleans, Denver and Sacramento — teams that shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as one with Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. In all, the Thunder were favored to win in 19 of their first 20 games, per ESPN’s Micah Adams. The only game they were underdogs in was the win over Golden State.
And while it was easy to turn a nose at the Thunder’s stank basketball early on, it’s much, much harder to ignore 20 games in. Just listen to FOX Sports analyst and ex-NBA journeyman Antonio Daniels absolutely blast OKC on live TV:
“You are representing your community, you are representing your city, you are representing your organization, and it’s embarrassing that teams continue to have their ‘coming out games’ against the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Daniels said. “Dirk Nowitzki has been invisible all year, but then, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he looks like the Dirk Nowitzki of old. Yeah, Aaron Gordon has got in the lab and worked on his game. 40 points and 13 rebounds?
“There comes a point where somebody on this roster has to take a hard foul, has to get a technical foul, has to get thrown out of a game, has to show some sort of emotion and some sort of passion that will trickle down the line to everyone else. You cannot continue to go out every game and just talk about doing the right things, not do the right things, and expect a different result. That’s not the way professional sports works.”
That was some harsh but deserved criticism. Just like what our Thunder blog, Welcome to Loud City, prescribed:
Here is what I am left with. If you take OKC right now and you hide all the names on the jerseys, what do you see? Because here is what I see -- a bottom-five lottery-bound team that looks like it is playing for a paycheck and little else. Their sense of purpose and commitment is spiraling to the point where they can barely outplay a lottery team even for a single quarter.
The Magic — again, a team that lost nine straight games, six of them by double-digits — shot nearly 60 percent as a team for the entire duration, compared to the Thunder, who couldn’t even crack 40 percent against a bottom-five defensive team that gives up, on average, 46 percent shooting by its opponents.
This is getting so bad that it could lead a man to stop drinking and go get serious about life.
Will the Thunder turn it around? Russell Westbrook says yes. We want to say yes, too. Oklahoma City has Westbrook, George and Anthony for crying out loud. On paper, they’re not an 8-12 team.
But something’s gotta give, and maybe that something is moving Melo to the bench. It’s not early in the season anymore. It’s 20 games in, and time stops for no man.
So it might not be time for Oklahoma City to press the big red button just yet, and in this case, the big red button is blowing up this experiment and starting over around Russ. But the Thunder have to do something.
Otherwise this mass panic is only going to grow louder.