Oklahoma City Thunder: Role Players Need To Step Up
Since Russell Westbrook was re-injured, things have not been so bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have split their last 10 games down the middle — making it their worst performance over a 10-game span all season. They had dropped two games in a row prior to a 101-85 home win tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. It is really a meaningless win, but a win nonetheless.
Reggie Jackson‘s play early this season had Thunder fans at ease early on. Now that he is the starter, things have not been so good for him. His play is major in the outcome of games for this team and that has shown in recent losses. Not only is he failing to produce, but other players are as well. No team can fall back on the greatness of one player — as people expect the Thunder to do with Kevin Durant. The star SF has been excellent, but he needs a Robin. Thabo Sefolosha played the sidekick tonight — scoring 14 points in the victory. Still, he is a long shot to land the role for an extended period of time.
If Jackson is not playing well, then OKC can usually count on Serge Ibaka to step it up a bit, but everyone knows he has not been as consistent as the team needs him to be. Therefore, that means some of the dead weight has to be carried by Jeremy Lamb. He stepped up tonight with 17 points, but has not been there in the losses recently. Being more consistent — even if he is only scoring around 12 points — is more important than the occasional 17-point game. Lamb becomes more important as Jackson continues to slide, and even more valuable without a true second scorer. He has the opportunity to make a name for himself, and he’s letting it slip away so far.
If OKC can consistently find three players to score in double-figures, then I believe they can still do damage without Westbrook. If they are struggling to get a second player in double-figures, then expect bad things to happen. They did not play a well-rounded game tonight, but the key players did enough to assist Durant with the win, even if Jackson finished 1-of-8 on the night in limited minutes. Five players scored in double-figures – making it easy for OKC to work comfortably without Westbrook or much help from Jackson. If they can continue to work in a third scorer — no matter whom it may be — then this team will remain in position to finish the season as one of the top two seeds in the Western Conference.