Couldn’t blame this one on Russell Westbrook’s recent return. Russ wasn’t rusty; he had 22 points and nine assists and looked like his old self offensively. And no one wants to think of what might have happened had Reggie Jackson been assigned to guard Irving (31 points) most of this game.
Couldn’t blame this one on Kendrick Perkins’ absence. The Cavaliers aren’t the kind of foe that calls for Perk’s particular defensive toughness, though if the Thunder keeps playing this way, Perk will be voted NBA defensive player of the year unanimously. Two games he’s been out with a groin strain; both games, the opponent has had a quarter of at least 42 points.
Couldn’t blame this one on the Cavs’ trade for Deng, who can play a mean defense on Durant. Deng defended Durant ferociously as always, but Durant still had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists while making 10 of 16 shots.
Nope, this was a team effort. Or lack thereof.
“What we do is difficult,” Fisher said. “We’ve been playing at a really high level. Best team in basketball for a really long time this year. It’s not the end of the world that you go through some tough times. You can’t allow that connection you have to keep as a team to break apart during these periods.
“Over the course of an 82-game season, you have some ups and downs, but you just have to stay focused on the we and not get focused on me.”
Fisher is right. The Thunder has had stretches like this in seasons past. And always snapped out of it. The Boomers will snap out of it this time, too. But this slump has come at a price. The Western Conference is a horserace again.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.