For inconsistent Thunder, next game is a must win

For inconsistent Thunder, next game is a must win

The wins are coming in a trickle, the time for patience is gone, the Thunder are being exposed, and Kevin Durant is drawing a line in the sand in the first week of March.

It's down to Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee. Bucks-Thunder.

This is it.

Not officially, not with six weeks still left in the regular season, not with Oklahoma City at 42-20 and in the very spot it was fair at the start of the season to expect, battling the Clippers for the lead among the best-of-the-rest second tier in the Western Conference after the Warriors and Spurs.

But Durant just inked a big red circle on the calendar around March 6, so, yeah. Sunday in Milwaukee.

The Thunder lost to the Warriors on Thursday night, another in the troubling trend of being unable to beat good teams, Durant was asked how long it will take to see what his team is made of, and said, "Next game.

The next game. That's the only opportunity we've got. We're going to come in and practice hard and our next game.

We've got to go out there and win. That's what it's all about. Point blank. We've got to win. The best thing about our league is games come so quick. It's another opportunity for us to bounce back and get better.

Our backs are against the wall right now as far as where we want to be as a team. But if you've made it to this level you've had your dark days and this is how you pull out of them."

We've got to win.

Our backs are against the wall.

Dark days.

Durant says it in calm, conversational tones, not as some frantic emotional venting, and he accompanies the ominous notes with several references to being excited about the challenge ahead, even happy to be going through it.

There is more than a little upbeat amid the urgency.

But he also says it after the Thunder had lost for the fifth time in seven games since the All-Star break, and after the Thunder had lost for the sixth time in the last eight games against opponents with a winning record or .500 heading into Friday's schedule, and after the Thunder's tour of the California coast included a 103-98 defeat to the Clippers while wasting a 16-point lead with 7 ½ minutes left and a 121-106 setback to the Warriors while giving back a nine-point lead with 4 ½ minutes remaining in the third quarter.

They have gone from 40-15 against an easier schedule before the break to 2-5 since as the competition (Golden State, L.A., Cleveland, Indiana) toughened. The Thunder are being exposed, and they know it.

"The schedule's changed, and that's not to take away from anything of the first part of our season that we played," coach Billy Donovan said.

"But I think that the teams that we're playing, obviously a lot of them being on the road, high-quality opponents, I think the consistency probably stands out a little bit more, whereas maybe I saw some of those inconsistencies even before the All-Star break.

I've said this before, sometimes when you're winning you have a tendency to forget everything that happened in the game. A lot of times, I think when you win that's when there's the most slippage because you can get blinded by that, so to speak.

I'm not saying that our guys were blinded by that, but I think there have been some times we've been inconsistent and we've won. And now when you're inconsistent against really good teams it's really hard to win."

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