Kobe Bryant was asked Sunday, following his 15th consecutive All-Star Game, whether it will be difficult to flip on the switch again coming out of the league's annual break.
“My switch never went off,” he said. “It was on all weekend.”
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant might not be able to say the same.
Judging by how Oklahoma City sputtered into All-Star 2013, it's hard to not think the Thunder turned it off sometime ago. Now, with the season in the home stretch, the Thunder seems to be in a position of needing to relocate its proverbial switch before flicking it back on.
Oklahoma City went just 8-6 in the final 14 games before the All-Star break. The Thunder allowed 100.9 points per game in those 14 contests. Worse, in the nine road games in that stretch the Thunder allowed 103.2 points per game and yielded 45 percent shooting. That last bit could be a cause for concern considering 15 of the team's final 29 games will be played on the road, mostly against playoff-contending teams.
Hardly anyone seemed able to explain exactly what went wrong in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break. A bevy of road games and playing better competition didn't help. But not even those challenges can excuse some of the shocking shows of defense and stretches of stagnant offense we saw.
“Hopefully we get some rest and come back rejuvenated,” said Durant.
At 39-14, the Thunder still owns the league's second-best record and remains on pace for a 60-win season, which would be its first in the franchise's Oklahoma City era.
When the Thunder has been at its best this season, the offense has been a thing of beauty. Ball movement has led to balanced attacks and has enabled the Thunder to become both the league's highest scoring team and the most efficient offensively for the better part of the year.
Defensively, the Thunder has been a top-10 team most of the season. OKC currently is limiting opponents to 43.1 percent shooting and allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions, ranking eighth overall.
There's reason to believe the best that we saw from the Thunder before the break will be what we see down the stretch.
Historically, the Thunder has performed rather well after the All-Star break. Since Durant made his All-Star debut in 2010, the Thunder has compiled a 60-31 record after the break, winning 20 games each season in the stretch run.
Additionally, the production of Durant and Westbrook doesn't tail off. Their respective statistical averages are both virtually identical throughout their careers before and after the All-Star Game.
With the Thunder being able to bank on consistency from its All-Star duo, the team's success down the stretch figures to be contingent on two things: its role players continuing to effectively carry some of the load and OKC re-establishing the defensive focus that helped it rip through much of the season's first two months.
If those two things happen, you can forget any talk of OKC needing to flip the switch.
The Thunder could end the season playing lights out.