By Jay Betsill
After winning three straight, the Oklahoma City Thunder dropped consecutive games to the Suns and Lakers, in the process falling behind the red hot San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs have won five consecutive games, including a 111-87 trashing of the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
The Thunder fell 128-122 at Phoenix on Thursday evening in spite of a season-high 36 points from Russell Westbrook and 34 by Kevin Durant. Phoenix, behind a career-high 41 points from Gerald Green (yes, the same Gerald Green who spent the 2008-09 season on the Dallas Mavericks bench). Green, who carved out his place in NBA history by winning the 2007 NBA Slam Dunk contest, scored 25 points in the third quarter as part of a Suns 23-2 run that erased a 16-point Thunder lead.
Durant has scored at least 25 points in 27 straight games, tying for the second-longest such streak in the NBA in the last 25 years. He has the longest such streak with 29 straight games in 2009-10. During this current stretch, entering the Suns game, Durant had averaged 35.3 points on 52-percent shooting, including 37 percent 3-point shooting.
Next up for the Thunder was a trip to the Staples Center to play the lowly Los Angeles Lakers, who were coming off a franchise-worst 142-94 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. As usual, Durant did his part, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his sixth career triple-double and third this season. In a rather strange twist, Durant would be no match for Jodie Meeks, who did his best ‘Gerald Green’ impression and dropped a career-high 42 points for the Lakers 114-110 win.
“We need to have a sense of urgency, knowing that teams are coming at us every night,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said, following the Lakers loss in which he contributed 20 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. “I missed some shots, but I do not think the game is all about shooting.”
The Thunder return home for a pair of games this week with former Thunder guard James Harden and the Houston Rockets coming to town on Tuesday and a rematch with the Lakers on Thursday evening. Tuesday nights game against Houston will be televised on NBA TV at 7 p.m. while Thursday’s contest against Los Angeles will be broadcast on TNT at 8:30 p.m.
— The Thunder signed 6-7 forward Caron Butler after he cleared waivers from the Milwaukee Bucks. Butler, who won an NBA title with Dallas in 2011, appeared in 34 games for Milwaukee this season, averaging 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds.
— Guard Thabo Sefolosha will miss four to six weeks with a left calf strain. The 6-7 guard, who had started 55 of the team’s 59 games this season averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, left the Feb. 28 game against Memphis in the first half and did not return. Sefolosha joins starting center Kendrick Perkins on the injured list. Perkins is expected to miss six weeks after undergoing a procedure on his left groin.
3/11 vs Rockets 7:00 PM
3/13 vs Lakers 8:30 PM
3/16 vs Mavericks 6:00 PM