The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered their second straight as the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly dealt them a 114-110 loss at the Staples Center on Sunday afternoon. Jodie Meeks scorched OKC for 42 points, leading L.A. back from an 18-point deficit in the first half.
Oklahoma City’s defense has not been as solid with Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha out with injuries. The Thunder’s offense has suffered mostly because the role players’ workload has increased, but their production has not improved, making it hard to the team to gel on the court when their backs are against the wall.
It was not all bad for the Thunder as Kevin Durant managed to put up his third triple-double of the season with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists on the day, helping him maintain his lead over LeBron James in the NBA MVP race. Russell Westbrook struggled in the loss, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-23 shooting. He is obviously having a hard time being consistent as he gets reacquainted with the grind of the regular season, although he has had some big nights since his return.
What hurt most about the loss for the Thunder is the fact that they are now in second place in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs, who are on a six-game winning streak, overtook the Thunder.
As the season winds downs, the top few teams will be fighting for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It is too bad that the Thunder’s sloppy play as of late has put them in position to endure a hard-fought battle to first place through the remainder of the season.
The Spurs are peaking at the right time, while the Thunder are trying to figure out how to get things back in order while two of their key defenders sit for an extended period. It will be a matter of time before we know how things play out, but it will be fun to watch as the race to playoffs tightens throughout the conference.