The Oklahoma City Thunder have been all about Kevin Durant since losing point guard Russell Westbrook for the second time in the 2013-14 NBA season. This go-around, Durant has been an absolute terror offensively and has taken the team on his back in an effort to not let them fail without their star guard in the lineup.
On Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets, Durant was solid, though he wasn’t on the level that he had been recently. In 28 minutes, a small number due to the way this game played out, Durant finished with 30 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals, but shot only 7-18 from the floor and just 1-7 from three.
Durant clearly wasn’t at his best on Thursday night, but he’s also hardly the reason that the Thunder were blown out by Denver in a 101-88 loss that wasn’t even near being that close of a contest. In fact, the biggest issue that they had really comes down to the lack of production from their bench.
The Thunder’s bench combined to score just 27 points on the night. Even worse, the six reserves that saw the floor did so while shooting a meager 10-35 from the floor and, taking Derek Fisher’s 4-8 shooting from long-range out of the equation, didn’t connect from long-distance.
With Westbrook out, the Thunder’s role players become even more vital. Guys like Jeremy Lamb are huge because of their ability to help share the burden for Durant. Lamb going 1-12 from the field doesn’t accomplish that. Obviously Durant is going to be important, but the Thunder’s bench and role players are going to be just as important as they continue to weather the heart of this season without Westbrook.