I honestly wonder if it will ever happen. I wonder if this team will ever win another game. Because I know that feeling is what’s on everybody’s mind – the players, the coaches and all of us fans. And that’s the biggest difficulty in breaking out of a losing streak like this. The mental anguish of losing and losing and losing.
Games like tonight hurt. I mean really hurt. Oklahoma City (1-16) lost 105-103 to Minnesota (4-10) on a last second shot by Mike Miller. Before the game started, it seemed like this might be one OKC could win. Then after a half, everybody was sensing it. Then with under a minute left and up 100-99, everybody could feel it. This losing streak was over.
But then a bad call. Chris Wilcox – who was awesome tonight – was tagged with his sixth foul sending Al Jefferson to the line. And the events that followed Jefferson’s second shot seriously made me question everything about this team. I honestly wondered if a fourth grade pee wee club had more basketball intellect than these guys. With 10.8 seconds left, Jefferson missed his second attempt. And of course, the Thunder doesn’t put a body on anybody. Ryan Gomes snatches the board. Instead of having the ball with a chance to win, the game is now in the Wolves hands.
But it gets better. For some reason, Nick Collison absolutely loses his mind and hacks the crap out of Gomes, sending him to the line for two. He hits both putting Minnesota up 103-101. Now I realize Kevin Durant then tied the game with a dunk and it took a Mike Miller jumper to beat OKC, but this thing breaks down to the sequence with 10.8 seconds left. As I’ve harped on for three weeks now, this team doesn’t do any of the little things to win. The failure to secure big rebounds (OKC was outrebounded 43-33 tonight). Terrible free throw shooting (18-27). Total mental breakdowns.
To me, it’s simple why Oklahoma City has lost 14 in a row. It’s not because of a lack of effort. It’s not because a lack of talent. It surely isn’t because of a lack of good luck. It’s clearly just a total lack in knowing how to win. All the tiny details just don’t seem to get attention. It’s one thing to knock down a big three and thump your chest and do that weird jump-in-the-air-and-bump-sides celebration. It’s another to dive on the floor and force a jump ball in the middle of the third quarter. Those are the type of tiny difference makers that win these games. And this group either doesn’t understand that yet or hasn’t been taught that. I don’t know what it is.
This one is just a heartbreaker. I fully expect OKC to mail it in tomorrow night in Memphis. It may take days to get over this one. Don’t get me wrong. The team played pretty well. The Thunder shot extremely well from the field (50 percent) and four guys played really well instead of just one. There were only 10 turnovers. But like I said, the little things. Those freaking details.
I do like the way Scott Brooks is managing the game though. He found lineups that worked and stuck with it. He didn’t shake anything up for no good reason. He stuck with the hot hand and tried to ride it out. Russell Westbrook saw starter minutes logging 34 and netting 15 points and dishing eight assists. As mentioned, Wilcox was wonderful. If he can add that type of post play for the rest of the year, he can really help open things for Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green.
OKC takes on the Grizzlies in Memphis tomorrow and no one will be watching as all eyes will be on Bedlam. Maybe that’s a good thing.