First, the Thunder played poorly. Then, the Thunder lost.
Moral defeat became literal defeat as the Thunder slump deepened Wednesday night with a 114-104 loss to the Cavaliers. Losing to the Heat and Clippers is one thing. Losing to the Cavaliers is another. And that’s exactly what the Thunder did Wednesday night, 114-104, a verdict that handed the Thunder its first three-game home losing streak since Year 1 in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder lost to Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng and a bunch of guys playing out the season. Cleveland entered the game with a 22-36 and in 10th place in the putrid Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers scored 42 points in the fourth quarter, when they scored on 20 of 26 possessions.
A loss like this brought out uncharacteristic actions. Kevin Durant kicked a chair in the waning minutes and sent Gatorade splashing onto patrons. Derek Fisher swam against truth when he declined to call the Thunder’s current slide a slump, even though OKC is 5-5 in February with more sluggish wins than close defeats. And mild-mannered Scotty Brooks talked as rough as we’ve ever heard him.
“Three games now, not up to our level,” said Foreman Scotty. “We’ve got to fix that immediately … defensively, were not getting after it enough. We’ve got to get better.”
OK. Not exactly Pat Knight ripping the Lamar Cardinals, but in Thunderland, that passes for a rant.
It’s more than the three-game losing streak. The Thunder hasn’t played well since a 10-game winning streak ended on Feb. 1, and OKC has allowed the Spurs and Rockets and Clippers to get back into contention for the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.
“I don’t know if you define it as a slump, really,” said Fisher, who’s been through a slump or 10, even on championship teams, during his 18 NBA seasons. “I think those are more individual. Any situation you get into as a team, you get out of as a team. That’s the best way I would sum it up.”
The human element, Nick Collison called it.
“We haven’t played well enough to win,” Collison said. “We haven’t been consistent enough throughout the whole game. There’s been bad stretches in all three of these games where we’ve let teams go on runs and haven’t been able to get stops when we need to.
“Sometimes communication, sometimes focus. That’s the human element of the season. You need to be engaged and play the play in front of you, and we’re not able to do that for long enough stretches right now.”