The Oklahoma City Thunder (40-16) have the third-best record in the West and the fourth-best record in the NBA. That’s the good part.
The bad part is they have lost back-to-back home games since the All-Star break, including a 115-92 loss to Cleveland on Sunday.
On the one hand, it’s only two losses. On the other hand, it’s another frustrating loss for the Thunder, who can’t afford to lose high-profile games against high-profile competition, especially with Kevin Durant’s impending free agency.
How is the Thunder’s short- and long-term future looking right about now?
“For OKC, you basically have your finger up in the wind trying to take a pulse on it every day,” USA Today NBA insider Sam Amick said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They lose two in a row and you start going, ‘Uh-oh, that’s not the kind of thing they can afford to have happen.’ For one – and the Warriors dealt with this, I think, in Portland – (we had the) longest break in All-Star history. I think you kind of saw that some teams like the Thunder just didn’t come out sharp and weren’t ready to roll.”
Cleveland outscored Oklahoma City 68-45 in the second and third quarters on Sunday. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 46 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists, but only one other player, Serge Ibaka (12 points), finished in double figures.
That top-heavy attack isn’t going to play well in a postseason series with Golden State or San Antonio.
“I don’t think I’ve ever covered a free-agency story where the playoffs were going to matter as much,” Amick said. “I mean, LeBron’s was somewhat similar where he was in Cleveland. He felt like the only way they could hold on to him is if they won that title. And Durant is, I think, very similar. What you keep continuing to hear is that his No. 1 priority going forward is if he’s concerned about not ever winning the big one in OKC – and if they don’t win it this year – then they should probably be a little nervous.
“The surprising part is he does seem relatively open to the concept of joining a team like the Warriors,” Amick continued. “They’ve got no shortage of star power already, yet he wouldn’t be turned off by being yet another star on that kind of a roster. But whether it’s there or somewhere else, you can’t really handicap this stuff because you can’t tell me what the Thunder did in the playoffs. That’s the part that you just got to wait and see how it unfolds.”