After losing their first two games out of the All-Star break, the Oklahoma City Thunder are once again searching for answers. With Russell Westbrook‘s return to the lineup, the Thunder are now 0-2. They have been playing very uncharacteristically on defense. OKC gave up 125 points to the Los Angeles Clippers in Chesapeake Energy Arena in their latest loss on Sunday afternoon.
The media and fans questioned whether Kevin Durant‘s outstanding play could continue with Westbrook back. Durant quickly answered that question with a 42-point game on Sunday. It was also the first time in his career dishing out 10 assists along with scoring 40-plus. What this shows is that Westbrook will not affect Durant’s play, even when he is 100 percent comfortable on the court.
Even though Durant’s MVP-like play will continue, that does not mean anything to the Thunder’s chances of winning a NBA Championship. They will need Westbrook playing like the player we all know. When you come back from an injury, it will take time to get back on track. It did not help that the first two games for Westbrook were against two of the league’s better teams in the Miami Heat and the Clippers.
The Thunder’s next four games are on their home court against easier opponents. This stretch will give OKC an opportunity to get back to where they need to be as a team. Westbrook will have time to slowly reinsert himself into the lineup while becoming more comfortable playing hard on the knee that he had three surgeries on in under a year’s time.
The next week of basketball will also be very important for Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. Jackson and Lamb have both struggled coming out of the break. They will have to get used to less minutes. Jackson’s confidence may have taken a small hit once he knew he had to return to the bench. Still, there is no doubt in my mind that he will continue to be the effective playmaker that he has been thus far.
It would not be easy for any young player to take a seat on the bench after helping the team maintain one of the best records in the league. The next few weeks will determine what kind of team OKC will finish of the season as. Now, they have to be patient and confident that the answers to all their questions will be solved in due time.