Kevin Durant returns, and the Thunder dig themselves a deeper hole


After ‘s disjointed, disappointing return to the lineup on Tuesday night, it’s important to remember that Oklahoma City probably needs to win 45 more games to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Nobody said they had to win all of them.

Are the Thunder languishing behind the other contenders out West after to the ? Sure. Is there reason to panic after ‘s second game back from a broken hand and Durant’s season debut on Dec. 2?


But there isn’t a lot of room for error.

It should have been no surprise that the guys on the floor for the Thunder who seemed to have it together the most were those who’ve been playing all season — and , to name two. The guys who haven’t been playing all season? Different story.

There was a lot of Westbrook being Westbrook (21 points on 20 shots with seven turnovers), and there was a lot of rust for Durant (five turnovers to go with his 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting).

How did Durant look? He looked fine, for a guy who was playing his first game of the season on Dec. 2. But no disrespect to (30 points on 14-for-24 shooting) or (who frustrated Westbrook all night with his defense), but neither Durant nor Westbrook was the best player on the floor. That honor went to , whose dominance (25 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four blocks) helped the Pelicans build as much as a 19-point lead.

Let’s run through that Davis line again: 25 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four blocks.

That’s amazing, until you remember that he basically does that every night (except for the steals).

What Durant’s return hammered home more than anything is that, A) the Thunder don’t have much time to start making up ground in the West, and B) it won’t be easy. At least not as easy as it will be in their next two games, at Philadelphia and Detroit. Excluding those two checks in the win colhas helped Algeria defeat Nigeria and book a place in the African Cup of Nations final.The Manchester City winger struck five minutes into injury-time with a precise and fierce set-piece into the top corner.Algeria opened the scoring when Nigeria defumn, four of OKC’s next seven are on the road (against Minnesota, Sacramento, Golden State and the Lakers).

With 15 games left in the calendar year, the Thunder would have to go 12-3 just to enter 2015 as a .500 or better team. Possible? Sure. Doable? Maybe. Lucky for them, they got Durant and Westbrook back two weeks before they originally thought they would. Also, the playoff seedings won’t be decided on Jan. 1. OKC has until tax day, April 15, to get the 49 or 50 wins they’ll need to be a playofullback Andrew Robertson expects a cagey Atletico Madrid tonight.Atletico are at Anfield defending a 1-0 lead for the second-leg of their Champions League round 16 tie.Robertson says Atletico’s Anfield approach will be different to Barcel admits that Everton will have bragging rights over his old club in one matter if Carlo Ancelotti becomes their new manager.The Italian is being linked with the Toffees by several sources in England and Italy.And if Ancelotti does take over at the Toona’s last sf team.

The most startling thing about Durant’s return wasn’t the scattershot offense, but rather the unreliable defense. Surrendering 69 points in the first half with Durant and Westbrook wasn’t what you’d expect from a team that managed to be eighth in the league in defensive efficiency mostly without them.

So while Durant wasn’t able to enjoy the triumphant return befitting the reigning MVP, no scores are settled on Dec. 2 in the . These things take time, and the Thunder need some.

They just have to be careful not to run out of it.

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