Saturday, November 29, 2008

Let the Transition Begin

Not even a last-second loss can overshadow the big picture in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook has been given the keys to the Thunder, and it is his show to run the rest of the season. He played over twice as long as starter Earl Watson, outscoring and dishing out more assists than the incumbent.

The Thunder's big three of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Westbrook didn't get a chance to pull out the victory, as the Timberwolves got the last laugh Friday night. OKC fought back after a dismal third quarter and tied the game in the last seconds. But it wasn't enough to double the win total on the season. Minnesota got its pay back after losing a three point decision earlier, and the Thunder have yet to win again. Mike Miller nailed a jumper with one tick on the clock and sent OKC on the verge of dubious history.

Durant and Green tied for team-high honors with 22 points, and they both went crazy from 3-point territory. Well, at least a little nuts as OKC's luck from behind the arc has been this year. Green rebounded from a pair of terrible shooting games, knocking down four triples while finishing 8-13 on the game. Chris Wilcox matched his shooting from the bench and is quietly putting up big numbers since his return. If Wilcox can keep this up, the Thunder may find themselves in a position to trade for future needs before February. That is when the trade deadline hits, and quite a few teams may want a veteran big-man with an expiring contract.

With a much-needed win tonight, OKC can stop the bleeding many ways. The history I mentioned earlier comes in the form of a 15th straight loss, which would be the most in franchise history. It also would be against Memphis, the NBA's worst team this decade. Durant and Co. can notch the first road win of the season but will have to shake off another tough loss to do it.

After losing to the Suns at home earlier in the week, the Thunder were flat the following day and got crushed by the Cavs. Coach Scott Brooks can not afford to have his club come out the same way against the Grizzlies, who are looking to even their record at home. Memphis ran into a Spurs team on Friday who is healthy again, and San Antonio sent the Grizz reeling with their fifth defeat in a row and ninth in the last ten games.

Memphis features a young squad all-around, and both clubs figure to finish in the bottom of the standings for the foreseeable future. But this is also a chance for OKC to build off a 103-point performance and keep the Grizzlies on their heels. Desmond Mason returned against the T-Wolves and can push Damien Wilkins for a starting spot now. Also, Green needs to continue playing well or Wilcox will be starting at power forward very soon.

This much is clear in the 'Post-P.J.' era. Expect a lot of changes and hard play for the Thunder, or you won't be playing at all. The Blake Griffin train just keeps rolling...another win and another 20+ rebounding game, as Oklahoma takes the NIT title and moves to 6-0 overall.

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