Kid Clutch isn't concerned.
But, then again, when is he ever?
“I think we've played well,” Kevin Durant declared.
Actually, no, the Oklahoma City Thunder has not. Not consistently at least. The team with the league's best winning percentage has merely done enough to skate by. No one legitimately can claim the Thunder is playing as well as it is capable of.
The difference this year is the Thunder is so darned talented it still wins on most nights even in spite of some serious flaws. But, as always, the most pertinent question remains is the team getting better in its preparation for what many expect to be a deep playoff run, or is it simply piling up wins and plowing along?
Both are required approaches, each having its advantages throughout a marathon regular season. But at times, it surely has looked like the Thunder has done more of the latter.
Last week's four-game stretch, for example, illustrated the inconsistency. The Thunder was thoroughly outplayed by the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Memphis and San Antonio. Only the final two quarters against the Mavericks, and the last period against the Grizzlies, were quarters that the Thunder won.
That's subpar basketball in 13 of the past 16 quarters. That's subpar basketball in 13 of the past 16 quarters against playoff teams.
The Thunder survived last week and salvaged a 2-2 record. But this piece came that close to being about a four-game losing streak.
“You're going to have losses in this league,” Durant said. “Every loss we had, teams came out and got hot on us, especially from the 3-point line. It's stuff we can try to correct. We can't get down on ourselves because we lost. We got to try to stay positive, but we got to know what we got to do to get better.”
On one hand, you could say we're nitpicking.
The Thunder has won 13 of 16 and, at 18-5, still holds a three-game lead in the Western Conference standings. Oklahoma City also is third in the league in scoring at just under 100 points per game, and its plus-4.83 scoring differential still ranks in the top 10 (seventh overall). And the Thunder ranks second in blocked shots per game with 7.57 a night, in the top five in defensive field-goal percentage (42.2 percent), is 9-1 at home, 9-4 on the road and 9-3 against playoff teams.
On the other hand, the team's warts are flat out worrisome.
The Thunder is averaging only 1.5 more assists than turnovers. The 16.7 turnovers per game rank the Thunder 29th in the league and are a staggering 2.3 more than OKC forces. Additionally, only Sacramento has a worse assist-to-turnover rate than the Thunder's 1.09-to-1 ratio. The Thunder also ranks 26th in defensive rebounding, allowing 12.5 offensive boards per game, the fourth most in the league. And teams are shooting 7.6 more shots on average than the Thunder.
“We have yet to put a game of 48 minutes of team ball together,” said Kendrick Perkins. “We got to be able to trust each other offensively and defensively if we're trying to get to where we're going. Otherwise, it's going to be what it's going to be and we're just making it hard on ourselves.”
No one is suggesting the Thunder has a problem sizable enough to even begin looking for the proverbial panic button. Not even close. There are peaks and valleys in every season, and this current stretch very well could be a valley.
Monday's game at Portland is the second of a five-game road trip. The remaining four opponents on this getaway have combined to go 34-16 at home. This brutal portion of the schedule, coupled with the Thunder's ample areas of concern, could only further complicate things.
Still, OKC might be good enough to skate by.
But now is a good time to send a message.