Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook coming back to reality

On April 1 a few Sundays ago the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Chicago Bulls 92-78. It was the Thunder’s sixth straight win and they were playing the best basketball they had all season.

The Thunder are 4-5 since that six-game winning streak most recently losing 92-77 to the Los Angeles Clippers last night. The 77 points scored last night was the fewest scored all season as well as the 25-point second half.

While the Thunder aren’t a below .500 team like they’ve shown in these past nine games, they probably aren’t the god-like team they were during the six-game win streak.

Numbers aside, it was clear that the Thunder were playing the best basketball they ever have in those six games. Kevin Durant was becoming the frontrunner for MVP and Russell Westbrook looked like he was making a case for First Team All-NBA.

Durant and Westbrook were shooting lights out in those games, especially from midrange.

Win streak PPG APG RPG TPG FG% 10-15 ft 16-23 ft 3PT%
Durant 28.7 4.7 10.3 3.0 57.8% 50.0% 64.5% 54.2%
Westbrook 28.7 5.8 2.8 2.5 50.4% 36.8% 48.6% 30.0%

There is a noticeable drop off in almost every area in the last nine games.

Last 9 games PPG APG RPG TPG FG% 10-15 ft 16-23 ft 3PT%
Durant 28.3 3.0 6.2 4.2 51.5% 25.0% 48.5% 34.5%
Westbrook 21.7 5.1 5.1 3.8 38.6% 25.0% 38.5% 31.3%

The two have come back down to life and even more so. Durant is still shooting close to his season averages at least in overall field goal percentage but started turning the ball over more while his assist numbers dropped.

Westbrook is below average. During the win streak he really seemed to be making everything and he is still taking some of the same shots now, they just aren’t going in nearly as much. The Thunder have played some better teams since the win streak and that surely plays a role in Westbrook’s drop in production.

The biggest issue may actually be James Harden though. Harden’s numbers have really begun to drop lately and it almost seems an issue of him just not being as aggressive as he was earlier in the season. Part of it may also be that with Durant and Westbrook playing so well he began to defer to them.

Harden averaged 15.8 points per game during the win streak, less than his season average and with Westbrook playing so well it resulted in a drop in his scoring necessity. Since the win streak he is averaging 13.0 points per game. When the Thunder are at their best they will need Harden to be scoring close to 17 or 18 points per game.

It was great seeing Westbrook play so well during that win streak nearly averaging 30 points per game but he is unlikely to be posting those shooting numbers in the playoffs. The Thunder need to get back in the mode where they are asking for Harden to do more and they are more balanced within their big three.

There are still a few weeks left until the playoffs start so maybe the Thunder will get back to playing that way by then. Otherwise it is going to depend on who they play in the first round to hope this is fixed. If it is an opponent that Westbrook can dominate we may not see Harden come around again this season. But if it is a team like Dallas and Harden plays a huge role then the Thunder will get back to being the team that can win an NBA title this year.

Topics: James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook

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