The Oklahoma City Thunder was virtually unstoppable in January, closing the month out on a 10-game winning streak. February is only two days old and the Thunder has already lost their first game.
The Washington Wizards defeated OKC 96-81 to snap their streak remarkable streak. Turnovers ultimately put OKC in a hole that they could not dig themselves out of, finishing the game with 21 giveaways, leading to 23 points for the Wizards. Reggie Jackson accounted for most of the turnovers with eight, while Kevin Durant added five of his own. Durant scored 26 points — failing to eclipse 30 for the second straight game.
The loss may not mean much, but it showed us just how much this team still needs Russell Westbrook, mainly because he creates problem on both ends of the floor for opposing point-guards. People are saying that Westbrook’s hunger to shoot and control the ball will take from Durant’s production, which is not true. If Durant still wants to score 30-40 points a night with Westbrook on the floor, then he will. The fact of the matter is that he just will not have to score that much when you have another All-Star who shares the same passion for basketball, along with a burning desire to win a championship.
Remember, Durant averaged 30 per game during for the entire 2009-10 NBA season while playing alongside Westbrook. He engineered another amazing streak in the same season — scoring 25 or more points in 20 consecutive games. Thunder players and coaches believe in Westbrook’s abilities and I am sure that is all that matter to those guys. The media’s and the fans’ opinions will not change the outcome of their season, rather it will stir up unnecessary controversy that Thunder fans and fair-minded people alike should brush off.
Although Westbrook is a dominant scorer, his defensive is overlooked. John Wall had 17 points, 15 assists and six steals in their win Saturday night. I am not so sure he would have mirrored that performance if Westbrook was in his face on every possession. Jackson is a good player, but he does not bring the same energy. Wall did not have to chase him around the court, avoiding multiple screens, as much as he would have if Westbrook was in the lineup. Opponents are worn out faster when the Thunder is healthy. Still, OKC has shown that they can win without their starting point-guard.
The point I am trying to make is that this team will not slide after their second best player returns. Things may change a bit, but only for the better, even if that means less scoring for Durant. Sacrifices like those have to be made when you are on a team. The Thunder was red hot and eventually had to lose. Still, this team is better than they have been in years and the days are only going to get brighter as Westbrook’s health improves.