Growing pains have followed the Oklahoma City Thunder from their previous home in Seattle. The backsliding since their last playoff appearance in 2006 appears to have continued for the Los Angeles Clippers regardless of where they play.
These one-win teams meet Wednesday hoping to build a foundation for a potential winning streak.
The Thunder (1-10) have lost eight straight games, showing little progress from last season’s 20-win effort - their last as the Seattle SuperSonics. Oklahoma City has given up 100 or more points in each of its last five defeats and is 22nd in the league in scoring defense (100.3).
But the Thunder’s shortcomings are more glaring offensively. They are 28th with 89.8 points per game and last in shooting percentage (40.7) and 3-pointers made (29). Kevin Durant had 29 points on 13-of-23 shooting in a 100-89 loss to Houston on Monday, but his teammates went 21-for-61 as the Thunder scored 59 points over the last three quarters.
“We had a stretch, particularly in the early third and there was a stretch a little bit later, where we stopped running,” Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo told the team’s official Web site. “We were either tired or we forgot what had been good to us. Running got us to the free throw line, it opened the floor up, got us a couple of chances to get offensive rebounds.”
It was Durant’s best performance in his new home, where he had averaged 16.8 points on 38.0 percent shooting his first four games. He averaged 23.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games against the Clippers (1-9) as a rookie last season.
The eight-game skid is the longest for the franchise since an 11-game slide from March 4-22.
Since reaching the second round of the 2006 playoffs on the strength of a 47-win season, the Clippers have dipped to 40 wins in 2006-07 and 23 last season before struggling out of the blocks thus far. Like the Thunder, Los Angeles has lacked consistency on the offensive end and is 29th in scoring (89.2), shooting percentage (41.2) and 3-point percentage (30.8).
Additionally, the Clippers are 26th in scoring defense at 102.0 points per game allowed. While their defense tightened Monday, it still wasn’t enough in an 86-83 loss to San Antonio that capped a 1-4 homestand. Baron Davis had 11 points and eight assists, and failed to convert a potential game-tying 3-pointer as time expired.
“With two of their top three players out, we felt that if we just came with the intensity and the focus to play, we would be able to pull it out,” said Davis. “But what you saw over there was their machine and their system.”
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, though, saw a team struggling to run his offense. Davis was 0-for-8 from beyond the arc, and the Clippers are 9-for-42 from 3-point range over their last two games after going 10-for-20 in a 103-98 loss to Sacramento on Nov. 12.
“We had some situations on turnovers that were careless turnovers, but the biggest factor to me was shot selection,” Dunleavy said. “We probably had 10 bad shots in this game. You can’t give that many possessions away and expect to win.
“Until we get the discipline we need, as far as taking good shots and not making careless turnovers, we’re going to struggle.”