As speculated, a couple of Thunder starters — Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant — were given the night off: in their stead, Billy Donovan opted to start Kyle Singler and Dion Waiters. He probably needn’t have bothered; after sort of holding their own through the first half, the Thunder basically fell asleep in the third quarter, outscored by an embarrassing 25-9. Detroit, of course, is actually fighting for a playoff spot: at gametime, they were occupying the #8 spot in the East, 2½ games ahead of the Bulls and the Wizards. And while the Pistons weren’t entirely brilliant, the Thunder were utterly terrible, especially in that third quarter, during which Royce Young observed: There is absolutely zero offensive movement for the Thunder. Just standing around waiting for Westbrook to create a shot for somebody.” Things improved a little in the fourth, with OKC briefly pulling to within one point; however, nothing, up to and including deliberately fouling Andre Drummond, would close the difference. (And once Stan Van Gundy saw successive hits on Drummond, the Notorious S.V.G. immediately swapped in Tobias Harris.) A Russell Westbrook trey in the last minute brought OKC to within two, but Reggie Jackson got two freebies to ice it, and Aron Baynes finished the job with two more, making the final 88-82 and evening the season series at 1-1. For a team averaging over 110 points the last couple of weeks, this qualifies as, um, feeble.
Then again, you want points, you gotta hit shots. The Thunder mostly didn’t do that: 38 percent from the field, 6-21 from Way Out There, and only two players in double figures, which would be Westbrook, who took 28 shots to get 24 points, and Enes Kanter, again making his case for Sixth Man of the Year with 14 points and 14 boards. Between them, Waiters and Singler managed a whole ten. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris, written off after being shipped out of Phoenix, turned in a 24-point performance on a mere 13 shots to lead the Pistons.
I don’t think the Thursday-night clash with the Los Angeles Clippers will be a snooze-fest like this, but I could be wrong. And once that happens, it’s back on the road for four more: Houston, Denver, Portland and Sacramento. Grind time is upon us, boys and girls.