Thunder lose Andre Roberson for 2 to 3 weeks with sprained right ankle

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Thunder lose Andre Roberson for 2 to 3 weeks with sprained right ankle
Thunder lose Andre Roberson for 2 to 3 weeks with sprained right ankle

I mean, sure, why not? At this point, if you're the Oklahoma City Thunder, what's another injury amongst friends, right? Pile 'em on!

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The latest bit of bad news came down on Tuesday evening, prior to Oklahoma City's home tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers:

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Yep, that's right — Andre Roberson, who has started 61 of his 62 appearances for the Thunder this season, will miss the next two to three weeks nursing the sprained right ankle he sustained early in Oklahoma City's Sunday victory over the Miami Heat:

After coming down hard on his right ankle following an attempt to block a layup attempt by Heat star Dwyane Wade, Roberson exited the game and did not return, having logged just one minute and 29 seconds of playing time. The Thunder confirmed Tuesday that Roberson will hit the shelf for the next couple of weeks, marking his first absence from the Oklahoma City lineup since November, when the 23-year-old Colorado product spent a two-week stint on the shelf with a sprained left ankle.

Roberson becomes the third Thunder starter and fourth member of the Oklahoma City rotation sidelined, joining reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant (right foot soreness), rim-protecting power forward Serge Ibaka (right knee surgery) and veteran reserve Nick Collison (sprained left ankle) on the injured list. Roberson's loss doesn't figure to be felt nearly as much as the absences of Durant and Ibaka, but it's still a blow for a Thunder team that needs as many healthy bodies as it can muster as it pursues the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Roberson is averaging just 3.5 points in 19.3 minutes per game on the season, converting less than 50 percent of his field-goal attempts despite taking more than half his shots within three feet of the basket. He is a limited offensive player whose inability to consistently make anything other than dunks and layups — he's shooting just 25.3 percent on attempts not taken directly at the rim this season — can hamstring the Oklahoma City offense, as defenders unconcerned that Roberson will burn them often leave him alone in an attempt to clog the paint against a Russell Westbrook drive or an Enes Kanter post-up.

Replacing him in the starting lineup with trade-deadline acquisition Kyle Singler could help bolster a Thunder attack that's ranked as the league's second-best since the beginning of February, but has flagged at times due to a lack of spacing with the likes of Roberson, boulder-chucking Dion Waiters and interior bruiser Steven Adams on the court.

The former Duke standout's no game-breaker, and he has struggled mightily since coming to Oklahoma from the Detroit Pistons last month, shooting just 30.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. But Singler's got a track record of being able to hit perimeter jumpers, though, carrying a 37.7 percent career mark from beyond the stripe, and has more savvy as a ball-mover and cutter than Roberson has shown through the lion's share of his two-year pro career.

Given more opportunities to share the floor with all-world triggerman Westbrook and emergent interior beast Kanter, the 26-year-old Singler could find enough space to rediscover his rhythm and act as a valuable floor-spacer. Lineups featuring that trio have scored at a rate (113.5 points per 100 possessions) that would lead the league, albeit in a relatively small sample of 145 minutes over the space of 14 games, according to NBA.com's stat tool.

Those Westbrook-Kanter-Singler units have also allowed opponents to go off, too, giving up buckets at a clip — 111.9 points allowed per-100 — that would rank dead last in the NBA over the course of the full season. That's the flip-side of losing Roberson, who has manned one of the wing spots in six of Oklahoma City's 10 most frequently used five-man units this season; head coach Scott Brooks trusts Roberson, a quick-footed, long-armed and versatile stopper, to handle a variety of defensive assignments on a nightly basis and within the context of a single game. Whether Singler — not exactly a stopper, but at times a capable team defender — can earn that same level of trust is very much an open question.

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With premier interior mistake-eraser Ibaka and Durant (whose defensive improvements over the years have, somewhat understandably, gotten short shrift as he's evolved over the years into perhaps the world's most unguardable offensive player) out of the picture, Brooks needs as much defensive talent as possible available to keep opponents on the perimeter, out of the paint ... and, really, away from Kanter, whose inability to handle just about any pick-and-roll action is a big part of what made him expendable in Salt Lake City.

Losing Roberson reduces the number of legitimate defensive players on OKC's roster by one, at a time that the Thunder — who hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phoenix Suns and a three-game advantage over the New Orleans Pelicans for the West's final playoff berth — can ill afford to allow their defensive disposition to go from leaky faucet to burst dam. The Thunder's path forward, then, seems clear: give the ball to Westbrook and tell him, "Now we really need to score." If nothing else, we know it's a game plan with which the electric point guard and his band of marauding young bigs have become awfully comfortable.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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