Oklahoma City Thunder: Panic button activated

(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are unraveling as the regular season comes to a close. If they’re not careful, they could end up as the 8-seed or even miss the playoffs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had control of the 3-seed in the Western Conference at the All-Star break. Now, they’re fighting for their playoff lives.

The postseason is right around the corner and the squad is still struggling to get it together. In fact, since the All-Star break, OKC has gone through two additional four-game losing streaks and now has three in total. It’s also 3-7 in its last 10 games and 7-11 since the All-Star break.

OKC picked up a big 116-109 win over the Toronto Raptors on March 22, which stopped some of the bleeding and a four-game losing streak. Paul George, who was once considered an MVP candidate, looked more like an MVP in the contest. He dropped 28 points, six rebounds and five assists on 9-of-17 shooting.

Russell Westbrook posted his league-leading 27th triple-double with 18 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds. However, his shooting woes continued, going just 6-of-20 from the field and 2-of-9 from behind the arc.

But there was another setback on March 25. OKC’s nine-game winning streak over the Memphis Grizzlies was snapped with a 115-103 loss. Keep in mind, the Grizzlies are already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

That, ladies and gentleman, is what you call a bad loss.

Both Westbrook and George struggled, especially with shooting the rock. Westbrook finished with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting with a plus-minus of -20. George had 30 points on 29 shots and added 12 boards.

Unfortunately, the more Westbrook shoots, the more his team takes Ls.

When he takes 20 shots or less, the Thunder are 27-11. Their winning percentage is .711 and they shoot better from the 3-point line too (37.3 percent). Conversely, when Westbrook shoots 21 times or more, the squad is just 12-16 and their winning percentage drops significantly to .429.

OKC‘s struggles as the end of the regular season approaches has compromised its playoff seeding, as well as having a chance at securing home-court advantage. If it finishes the year as the 8-seed, it’ll have a date with the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Right now, that could very well become a reality. The Thunder got a big 107-99 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday that moved them into the 7-seed with the San Antonio Spurs right on their heels. Westbrook posted his 28th triple-double and what do you know? He only took 15 shots.

Unless a miracle happens, we all know it’s a slim to zero chance they’ll beat Golden State, period.

With seven games left to play in the regular season, OKC can no longer afford any slip-ups. The race in the Western Conference is too congested. The remaining seven games are no pillow fight either, as the Thunder still have to play the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nuggets, who are the 2-seed, may be just what OKC needs in the first round, since their lack of playoff experience could be advantageous for the Thunder.

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But one thing’s for sure, Oklahoma City must avoid the 8-seed at all costs unless it wants to see a few brooms in the first round.