Oklahoma City Thunder: It’s the wrong time to start struggling

(Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photos by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t been playing their best basketball as of late. It’s important for the squad to get back on track before its playoff seeding is in jeopardy.

Lately, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season has been trending in the wrong direction, and it couldn’t come at a worse time.

It’s reminiscent of when the team got off to a rough start to open the season, dropping its first four games by a margin of a little over 10 points per game. The Thunder lost to the Golden State Warriors (108-100), Los Angeles Clippers (108-92), Sacramento Kings (131-120) and Boston Celtics (101-95).

OKC eventually got it together and won its next seven games, leaving that rough start in the dust.

Fast forward to right now, and victories have been few and far between.

The Thunder are 4-7 in their last 11 games, including a four-game losing streak that took place between Feb. 23 and March 2. Those losses came at the hands of the Kings, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs, and represented OKC’s first four-game skid since the beginning of its 2018-19 campaign.

Paul George has seen his chances of winning league MVP fade quite a bit. At one point, some folks had him No. 1 in the race, ahead of both James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

However, he’s struggled shooting the rock in his four games back on the hardwood after missing three games with a sore shoulder. PG-13 is shooting just 30.6 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from 3-point range in that span.

In the Thunder’s most recent 98-89 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday, PG-13 had just 14 points and 11 boards on 2-of-8 shooting, going 0-of-3 from 3-point range. Prior to that game, George had averaged an outstanding 39.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on 60.6 percent shooting against Utah this season.

Is it rust? Maybe. But, if that’s the case, he needs to shake it off in a hurry.

Russell Westbrook hasn’t quite been his normal self in the month of March. His scoring is up (28.5 points per game), but both his rebounding (9.0) and assists per game (6.2) are well below his averages. The good news, though, is that he’s shooting better from the field (47.4 percent), as well as from beyond the arc (38.8 percent).

OKC has 15 games left on its menu entering the final month of the regular season. Teams that are in the playoff hunt are trying to position themselves to clinch the best seed possible. With how tight the Western Conference race is, there’s little to no room for error.

Every game counts. Every loss could be lethal. If a team takes too many Ls, it could disrupt playoff seeding. The bottom-feeders in the playoff picture like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers are foaming at the mouth, waiting for one of them to slip up.

If the Thunder aren’t careful, they could very well be that team. They’re barely holding onto the 4-seed in the Western Conference playoff race. The Houston Rockets, who have won nine straight, jumped OKC not too long ago. They’re now the 3-seed, one game ahead of the Thunder. The Portland Trail Blazers are a half-game behind OKC for the fourth seed.

Not only that, but only 3.5 games currently separate the 8-seed from the 4-seed.

Out of OKC’s final 15 games, 10 of its opponents would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and seven of them are above .500. The Thunder are 19-15 against teams that are .500 and above.

The Thunder’s schedule as the regular season winds down is no slouch. Another losing steak could cause them to slide down in the standings. They play the likes of Golden State, Toronto and Denver. It’s important that they regain their focus, get George back on track and finish the regular season strong.

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Yes, OKC’s win over Utah was huge, but it’s just one game. Consistency is key, and this is the wrong time to start struggling.