While the loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday might not have been uncharacteristic for the Thunder, the explicit display of emotion certainly was.
The Thunder was whistled for five technical fouls in the loss, all of them coming in the third quarter. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said that can't happen.
“We have to do a better job of controlling ourselves, our emotions,” Brooks said. “But that's what this game is about. This is an emotional game. I'm not disappointed with our guys showing their emotion. But we have to do a better job of restraining ourselves.”
Russell Westbrook and Brooks were both T'd up for mouthing off. Thunder officials, however, said Westbrook was jawing at a teammate, not the officials, when he was hit with his tech. It's possible the league could rescind Westbrook's. But Nick Collison also drew a tech as part of a double technical foul when he and Clippers forward Blake Griffin began jawing. Centers Nazr Mohammed and Kendrick Perkins also received technicals.
“The techs are something we can't have,” said Kevin Durant. “We can't afford to just give them points like that. Sometimes the coach might need to do that. But with the way the game was going, they were kind of on their way back and I think those techs just pushed them over the top.”
DENVER INCHES CLOSER
With the Thunder losing to the Clippers on Saturday, and Denver following that with a win against the Lakers on Sunday, the Nuggets closed to within three games of the Thunder for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The two teams play Tuesday at Denver. A Thunder win will put Oklahoma City back up by four games. If the Thunder loses, the Nuggets will be just two games back with the Thunder having six games left, including one final meeting with the Nuggets Friday in Oklahoma City.
Denver coach George Karl said the battle for home-court advantage in the first round is just as important for his Nuggets as it is to the Thunder.
“We're young, too,” Karl said. “We probably got as young of players that are going to be in the playoffs as they do. But I think home court is important. No question it's a lot easier to feel and think that you can win a series with home court. And Oklahoma City's court is a tough court. That's a tough building to win in.”
DURANT SEARCHING FOR SHOOTING STROKE
For the second straight game, Durant struggled to find his shooting touch. After going 9 of 24 at Portland on Friday, Durant went 10 of 24 against the Clippers.
“I just got to fight through it,” Durant said. “I can't get discouraged. I got to keep pushing. Hopefully I'm getting all the misses out of the way before the last few games and the playoffs … I can't get down on myself. Nobody's feeling sorry for me. I got to keep working. I know I'll do that.”
The Thunder already is staring at an 0-2 April after a 14-2 month of March, which was the best record in any month in franchise history.
“We knew this stretch of games was going to be tough,” Brooks said. “There's no excuses. Everybody has a tough schedule. Some parts of it is tougher than others. But everybody has an 82-game schedule. You have to attack it. We've done a good job. We've won a lot of games. These last two games, I thought both games were played hard. But (Saturday's) game, we just did not do a good enough job in the second half.”
The Thunder's last seven games are against Denver (twice), the Clippers, the Lakers, Sacramento and Milwaukee.