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Thunder So Close, Yet Not Quite There Yet | January

The Oklahoma City Thunder are not that far away from being able to topple the elite teams in the NBA Western Conference. They are this close to being able to hang with teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.

So close, yet not quite there yet.

The Lakers were once again able to get the better of the Thunder at home last night, winning at the Staples Center, 101-94. The Thunder struggled offensively, and even a huge effort by Russell Westbrook could not bail them out from a tough shooting night from the field. They were a few three pointers short of being able to finally defeat the Lakers on the road. That has not happened since the team moved out of Seattle.

So close, yet not quite there yet.

Westbrook dropped a game high 32 points to go along with 12 assists and 5 rebounds. He was phenomenal from the field, shooting 12 of 23 from the floor and 8 of 11 from the free throw line. Kevin Durant scored 24 points, yet did so on just 8 of 24 from the field, including 1 of 8 from behind the three point line.

So close, yet not quite there yet. 

There in lies part of the problem. Westbrook and Durant are the highest scoring duo in the NBA today. They are as explosive as they come on offense, and can take over a game on any given night. But after those two, the production drops off steadily.

Take a look at last night's box score. After Westbrook and Durant, the rest of the starting lineup offered very little on offense. Jeff Green had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Nenad Kristic finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds, while Thabo Sefolosha did not score. Yes, Serge Ibaka scored 11 points off the bench, while James Harden and Nick Collison finished with 9 and 8 points, respectively. The bench has come up big at times, but the team is flat out not getting enough production from the starting five. When I say that, I mean the starting five minus two.

Westbrook and Durant are doing quite fine.

Now, take a look at the Lakers' statistics from last night. As for the starters, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol scored 21 points each. They also did so on a combined 15 of 31 from the field. Gasol also had 7 rebounds while Bryant added 7 assists. Derek Fisher scored 15 points and Andrew Bynum pitched in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The team's final starter - Ron Artest - only scored 7 points and had 5 assists, but he is relied on more for his defense. Lamar Odom scored 16 points in a reserve role.

The Thunder may have the better 1-2 punch. They may have the best 1-2 punch in the game today. But until they can get more production and solid minutes from the rest of the team, they will continue to fall just short of knocking off the powerhouses out west.

So close, yet not quite there yet. 

* Make sure to follow Kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24, as he was recently named one of the Most 1,000 Influential Sports Writers on Twitter.