January brings the “dog days” of an NBA season, a time when teams crawl to the halfway point and slightly beyond in a demanding 82-game schedule.
The Thunder performed more like they were in a “dog daze” Wednesday night against Brooklyn, which continued for the first half of Friday night's game against Philadelphia.
OKC saw its 12-game, home-court winning streak snapped with a humbling 110-93 loss to the Nets. Two nights later against the road-weary 76ers, the Thunder snapped out of it after intermission and cruised to a 109-85 victory.
Now OKC faces the double-whammy of being road dogs during the dog days. After playing 20 of its first 32 games in the cozy confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder (25-7) hits the road for 11 of its next 13 games.
The 22-day excursion has road trips of two games, three games and six games and includes three back-to-backs, beginning with Sunday at Toronto and Monday at Washington.
Veterans seem more accepting of the “dog days” philosophy than younger players, and then there's three-time scoring champ and eternal optimist Kevin Durant, who takes the one-day-at-a-time approach to everything hoops.
“No, I've never thought of it that way,” Durant said when asked if he considered January to be more demanding than any other month in the regular season. “No matter if we're on the road or at home, take the same approach. Guys may be a little bit banged up, and a little bit tired, but we've got a great group of guys that fight through stuff like that. It's cool to be on a team that way.”
Reserve power forward Nick Collison was drafted 10 years ago and has endured his Januarys with the same franchise in two locations.
“I think it's the time you start to feel your body a little bit, so you start to feel some fatigue,” the 32-year-old Collison said. “A lot of it depends on what schedule you get. It's going to be difficult for us on the road, but sometimes it's good to be on the road to switch things up. We've been home a long time. Every once in a while you need to go on the road and sometimes it picks your team up, too.”
Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha is in his seventh season and falls somewhere in the middle on the subject. Does he believe January brings dog days?
“No,” Sefolosha said, ironically while letting out a huge yawn. “I know we've got a lot of games on the road this month, but it's going to be about taking care of business on the court, having fun off the court with the guys and taking that time away from home to do something different.
“We've got a lot of back-to-backs, so it doesn't give us a whole lot of time to think, really. And that's a good thing.”
Collison agreed with Sefolosha's assessment of back-to-backs.
“I know what he's saying, for sure,” Collison said. “Sometimes it's just better to get out there and play and get going. There are so many different things throughout the season that sometimes are good and sometimes are not so good.”
This will be coach Scott Brooks' 20th January in the NBA — 10 years as a player and 10 as an assistant/coach.
“You understand going in that it's a long season,” Brooks said. “There's a lot of ups and downs that you have to fight through both ways. You can't get overconfident, you can't get too down. We've always seemed to manage that very well during a long season, but it's also an exciting season because you have so many opportunities to do well, perform well, improve as a team and to play guys who don't play a lot of minutes.”