By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — While Russell Westbrook is on the verge of completing an historical achievement, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in the midst of a mini-slump.
Westbrook enters Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks needing one more triple-double to tie Hall of Famer’s Oscar Robertson’s season record of 41.
The point guard is currently riding a string of six straight triple-doubles, the odds are in his favor that by the end of the night he and Robertson will be co-owners of the record.
Westbrook is also just 11 rebounds and 29 assists from averaging a triple-double for a season. Once again, a feat only done once in history before by Robertson.
However, due to the recent level of the Thunder’s play, they can’t focus on the individual brilliance of Westbrook.
Oklahoma City (43-33) has lost back-to-back games and three of its last five outings. In that time span, the Thunder have almost played their way out of a No. 4 or 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
With only six games left in the regular season, the Thunder are looking to right their ship.
“I think guys have got to figure it out by themselves and do their own routine or ritual, whatever you want to call it,” Thunder guard Andre Roberson said. “You have just got to lay it all out on the line. It is that time of year. You have got to progress upward going into playoffs. We have got to find a more sustainable way to play basketball.”
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan has zeroed in on his team’s energy level. After watching the Thunder lose a 21-point lead to San Antonio and then fall 21 points behind Charlotte, they haven’t played a full 48 minutes to their level in some time.
“I personally feel that I enjoy playing games like this for our team. I don’t mean this in any disrespect to Charlotte, but they are desperate,” Donovan said. “They want to play in the playoffs. They are laying it on the line their last five or six games.
“I like playing against desperate teams because what it does is exposes what you have to do in my opinion to really compete and play at that extraordinary high level.”
The Bucks are one of those teams fighting for the playoffs and playoff positioning. They have yet to secure a postseason spot but are currently in fifth place. But only three games separate them from fifth and being out of the playoffs.
Milwaukee (40-37) didn’t help itself by losing 109-105 to Dallas on Sunday. Matthew Dellavedova puts the loss on lack of defensive intensity — something the team can’t have in Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday night.
“I know everyone in this locker room knows it,” Dellavedova told the Journal Sentinel. “I think it’s pretty obvious watching us that we’re at our best when we get out and play defense. We can get out and run. That’s when we’re sharing the ball and that’s our identity.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo totaled 31 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as the Bucks remained one game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks despite a sub-par defensive showings.
“We didn’t play hard enough, we didn’t do what we usually do,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s the game, and we move on. We know how important these last five games are for us. We’re going to play together and try to finish it off strong.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com