So much happened on this day even before tip-off. Oklahoma City traded for Tyson Chandler. The new mascot was to be unveiled. The old team was in town with our first love, Chris Paul. Basically, it was a wannabe sportswriter’s dream setup for a moving, look-how-far-we’ve-come column. And that’s exactly what I planned on writing, especially if the Thunder could pull off a win. But wouldn’t you know it, things weren’t going well from the start.
The Thunder trailed 32-18 after one quarter and shot the ball like they were trying to drop-kick the ball into the basketball. Closing the second quarter, OKC was down 15 and it appeared to be a remix of the first thrashing NOLA laid on the Thunder. But a 9-0 spurt right before the half energized the arena and gave the team a little hope going into the locker room. After an almost even third, the Thunder made another run, with Kevin Durant giving OKC an 83-82 lead on a 3 from about 28 feet with 10 minutes left. The rest of the fourth went back and forth with Durant and David West basically trading buckets.
It came down to the Thunder trailing by three with about 15 seconds left. Just like against Denver, everyone knew where the ball was going, but nobody could stop it. KD rose and drilled a 3, giving him a career-high 47 points and also knotting the game at 98-98. But it was not meant to be as Chris Paul hit a game winner on a little runner with a second left. After the game I wrote:
But then CP3 did what CP3 does, hitting a shot with a second left and crushing our hearts and souls as the Hornets won 100-98. It was over. The night the Thunder became our own and the Hornets were put to rest ended in disappointment. OKC lost and the dream night didn’t happen.
But honestly, as I sit here writing this, I realize it actually has happened. I feel a pit in my stomach and I’m genuinely pissed about losing. I don’t feel any “Oh, well at least it was to the Hornets!” consolation at all. It sucks more that it was to the Hornets. Those jerks. There were moments in the game where Paul would flop and whine and I would think, “Oh come on. Grow a pair you wiener.” I thought that. About Chris Paul!
As if I didn’t already feel the connection with this team, I’m really feeling it now. I watched Kevin Durant put it all on the line, playing with everything he had. I watched Jeff Green make play after play, taking it to the hole and finishing. I watched Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic battle for every rebound and scrape, scratch and claw. I watched Kyle Weaver grind out defensive possessions and Russell Westbrook dive for loose balls. I watched an entire team give everything they had – even though they were 13-40 and this game wasn’t supposed to matter.
I envisioned OKC beating the Hornets and this being the night to remember – the night the Thunder became our team. And ironically with a loss, maybe it was hammered home even more.
And with an offseason of anxiousness and excitement, I think that nail was driven down even further.