A loss to the lowly Kings exhibits how far the Thunder has to go


It was a protracted night time for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in Sacramento Tuesday night time. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO — There was silence contained in the visiting locker room Tuesday night time at Golden 1 Center.

The Sacramento Kings had simply handed the Oklahoma City Thunder a surprising 94-86 loss. Russell Westbrook shortly accomplished his media interviews and left the premises, however his teammates who remained sat at their lockers and tried to grasp how the Thunder had let a cushty early lead disappear amid a sea of bricked soar pictures in opposition to the much less proficient Kings.

The end result was a 3rd straight loss for the Thunder (Four-6) as its trio of stars — Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony — mixed to go 15-for-54 from the sector.

“This is all new to everybody, new situations for everybody,” stated Anthony, who together with George joined the staff this summer time. “Even although we dropping video games, I feel it’s extra of clbades being realized than truly dropping the sport.

“So proper now, we’re studying a lesson in these final couple video games.”

[Joyous response of Knicks’ Kyle O’Quinn says all of it as Kristaps Porzingis does it once more]

It’s no shock the Thunder has clbades to be realized earlier than it realizes its potential. What is shocking is that some already are questioning the match of the staff’s three stars, and the flexibility of Coach Billy Donovan to get probably the most out of them.

As Anthony’s shut good friend LeBron James can attest from each his preliminary season with the Miami Heat and his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it normally takes time for a brand new group to jell. Not everybody could be the Golden State Warriors, a staff with completely complementing stars — and even the Warriors had their hiccups final season.

Westbrook, George and Anthony nonetheless are studying to play alongside each other. Old habits die exhausting, and because the Thunder began to battle Tuesday, these outdated habits re-emerged.

The ball stopped. Tough particular person forays into the paint have been tried. Low share isolation pictures have been thrown up. The end result was a stagnant, stilted offensive efficiency that in some way failed to beat the Kings.

“We have a whole year to figure it out,” George stated. “We can’t actually attempt to rush this. It’s one thing that’s step-by-step, day-by-day, [and], at this level, game-by-game.

“We’ve obtained to slowly get on the identical web page.”

[LeBron James needs us to badume his cryptic ‘mood’ Instagram submit was one thing else]

George is true. And, if historical past is any information, the Thunder’s stars will do exactly that. Remarkably, every of them is averaging precisely 20.1 factors per recreation, and taking simply over 17 pictures per recreation. It’s clear all of them are attempting to contain the others, and finally a rhythm and cadence will develop.

Donovan has proved to be a great NBA coach, however he didn’t get a lot time to work with the trio. Training camps have been shortened this season, the Anthony commerce occurred simply earlier than camp, and Westbrook missed nearly all of it after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee.

That’s why none of those points, in the long term, will show to be the largest challenges for Oklahoma City. Like James’s groups in Miami and Cleveland, the Thunder’s stars will finally determine it out, and a pleasant run of success will quickly observe — even when this group lacks the identical type of final ceiling these James-led groups did.

No, Oklahoma City’s largest impediment doubtless would be the shortcomings of its supporting solid. The Thunder seems to be to be 5 gamers deep: its trio of stars, middle Steven Adams, and backup level guard Raymond Felton.

Andre Roberson, who obtained a three-year, $30 million contract as a restricted free agent this previous summer time, stays a hopeless non-factor offensively, making it tough to make the most of his defensive presents. Patrick Patterson, a flexible huge who can guard each energy forwards and facilities whereas spacing the ground as a great three-point shooter, is displaying the identical points that plagued him over the second half of final season in Toronto when issues about his knees abounded. Alex Abrines, the 24-year-old Spaniard who was being counted on to show right into a strong rotation piece, is taking pictures 30.eight p.c from three-point vary. Jerami Grant had a strong recreation Tuesday, ending with 10 factors and 6 rebounds, however is taking pictures 21.1 p.c from three-point vary.

[Eric Bledsoe should be a good fit for the up-and-coming Bucks]

Ultimately, if the Thunder is to problem groups such because the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves – not to mention the Warriors – within the unforgiving Western Conference, it’s going to want extra from its supporting expertise.

In the meantime, nonetheless, its stars will proceed to work by their points. In an NBA season during which bizarre losses have change into a each day incidence, Oklahoma City’s was merely the most recent instance of a extra proficient staff repeatedly tripping over its personal ft in opposition to a lowly opponent.

That was of little comfort to the Thunder, nonetheless.

“It’s always tough in the moment,” Anthony stated. “That’s the difficult half.

“If you can not simply kinda take into consideration the second and take into consideration the large image, you then’ll be okay.”

For the Thunder, the large image means figuring all of it out within the subsequent 5 months, earlier than the playoffs start. Until then — as Tuesday’s loss confirmed — there’s loads of studying to be accomplished.

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