In a game where the Oklahoma City Thunder led 47-30 in the first half, late mistakes would ultimately give the Orlando Magic an opportunity to walk away with the victory. On a long rebound on a missed shot from Kevin Durant, Tobias Harris would steal the game with a badly contested breakaway dunk. Thunder players were out of position and failed to correctly defend the Magic on the game winning play.
It was an unfortunate way to lose for the Thunder; they are now 40-12 on the season. After a superb January, OKC has stumbled out the gate in February, losing two games early in the month. Questions have resurfaced about the team’s ability to win without All-Star Russell Westbrook, but I honestly think they’re safe. Serge Ibaka has been brilliant lately, scoring 20 or more points in nine of his last 14 starts. Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb‘s production has slid a bit, along with the Thunder’s defensive efforts, and the Magic had their way on offense for four quarters on Friday night. These issues occur rarely, but the Thunder are still playing better basketball than all but one or two teams in the league.
Westbrook’s return is inevitable, so this team has nothing to worry about in the long run. Durant continues to impress, but he still needs his buddy Westbrook if he wants to contend for an NBA Championship. Durant finished the game against the Magic with 29 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. His production will increase all over with Westbrook, although his scoring may take a dip. Still, it is what’s best for this team’s championship hopes.
Jackson and Lamb will have their down games, but that doesn’t take away from everything they have contributed to this team thus far. They are great, but it is still too early for them to be able to handle the pressure of consistently being able to fill Westbrook’s shoes. They are better in their roles as key bench players rather than their production being key factors in wins and losses for OKC.
With All-Star Weekend approaching, this team needs a small break after an excellent first half of the season. They will be locked and loaded coming out of the break, while the return of Westbrook nears just in time for their playoff push.