Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 4/3/12
OKLAHOMA CITY Eddie Sutton was inside the Memphis lockerroom Monday night. He was watching his former team Kentucky play for the national championship. But he was smiling at his former Oklahoma State pupil Tony Allen. Allen and Memphis locked up the Thunder, who came into the game as the hottest team in the league, fresh off wins against Miami, Chicago and the Lakers. Yeah, the Thunder lost this one 94-88 kidney punch by a Memphis team that was stronger, more physical and more aggressive. But look closer. The Thunder were losers for the first time in seven games because one of their big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden didn't play well enough. "I don't know," Westbrook said. "Sometimes it happens like that." Here's how it happened Monday. Durant had 21 points. Westbrook had 19 and Harden had 14 which seems like an output Oklahoma City can live with, but Monday it killed them. Only Harden's 5-of-9 shooting was better than 50 percent and Westbrook needed a three-for-four fourth quarter to get to 5-of-16 shooting. Meanwhile, Durant was just 8-for-20. "Didn't happen tonight," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook's shot, but really he could have been talking about the entire effort as the Thunder shot 45 percent and turned it over 18 times. "Kevin missed some shots. He had an opportunity to get some easy buckets. If we can get those in Miami, we'll be pleased. He's going to make shots more times than not. Rarely does he have an off night. You're not going to make your shots every night." Nope, not every night and not from every star, but during a recent run of six wins in a row, when Durant struggled, Westbrook was there. When Westbrook struggled, Harden was there. When all three struggled Monday, there wasn't wasn't much else there. Not when the Thunder turned it over more and managed just two fast-break points. "We were out of sync," Brooks said. "That's all I can say. I'm not frustrated with our effort. We've played some really good teams. We played pretty good, but not good enough to win the game." The Thunder did play good enough, holding Memphis to 39 percent shooting, but Allen, who guarded Westbrook, instead of Durant, seemed to frustrate the Thunder guard. Meanwhile, Memphis reserve Gilbert Arenas did a good job of holding down Durant. "We're a defensive team," said Memphis forward Rudy Gay. "That's what we do. When we play like that, we're hard to beat." Still, the Thunder had their chances until O.J. Mayo hit a contested 3-pointer with 17 seconds left which gave Memphis a four-point lead. "It's one game," said Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha. "It's nothing to worry about." Certainly no need to panic, but what Monday showed is the Thunder can be had when its stars stall and the team is locked up in a half-court kind of game. No breaking news there, but then again, it's not like a lot of teams have had success doing that lately. OKC ran past Chicago, dominated the Lakers and scored easily on Miami, mixing in a blowout win over Portland in the past four games. Go back a bit farther and there's a road win at the Clippers and a game where the Thunder shot 53 percent in a win over Minnesota. That's six games where Oklahoma City had little, to very little problems scoring the ball. The Thunder did win three-of-four from Memphis this year, but they did need seven games to top the Grizzlies in the playoffs a year ago. And now, the Thunder face Miami Wednesday in a rematch of last week's Thunder win in Oklahoma City with the talk of being the best, the hottest and the most-consistent team tempered a bit. "They didn't turn the ball over and we didn't get out in transition, so it kind of slowed down our pace as well," Brooks said. "We were just a bit out of sync. I can't fault the guys. We've been playing high level on both ends. Tonight we were a little out of sync on both ends."
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