Hey, at least it was just a 14 point loss and not double that. Right? RIGHT?
Here’s what I’m telling myself: I wanted a split and a split is what I got. So the back end of this Florida back-to-back was very ugly. Very. Ugly. But yet, Oklahoma City comes home 6-6 with a winnable game Friday night.
Yes, that was a whooping. Yes, it doesn’t feel good. There are a TON of negatives to take out of that game, but consider: This was the fourth road game in five days for a very young team and the sixth overall in nine days. Oh, and playing at a fully rested Orlando Magic team that played for the big trophy last year. It’s not justification, it’s reality. This is a league where you play 82 times. Mail in efforts happen and they happen a lot. The Lakers just got walloped twice last week. The Nuggets took a beating a couple games ago. Heck, the Magic got smoked by some team by 28 if I remember right.
Obviously, the piss-poor putrid defensive effort is not something to just say “Oh well” about, but again, all’s not lost. It’s not like these guys forgot how to play defense. It’s not like the first 11 games were a fluke. The Magic hit everything, the closeouts were poor, the team was very flat and nobody could hit a shot. And on the road against an elite team, that’s the formula for a butt stomping.
This was really just the opposite of the first meeting this year. The Magic made a ton of 3s early. OKC did not. The Magic played really good defense. OKC did not. I know what some people will say. “This is what would have happened if Orlando would have been full strength in the first matchup.” I suppose that could be true, but it’s kind of unlikely. The Magic didn’t have it that first time and OKC surely didn’t have it this time.
You do have to like the fact the Thunder’s second team seized the opportunity, played very hard and cut a 30-point deficit down to 14. James Harden hit 6-7 from deep, scored 24 points, had three boards and three assists. He actually tied Kevin Durant for the franchise record in 3-point makes. Serge Ibaka played alright. Kyle Weaver saw his first burn and did some nice things. So at least there’s SOMETHING to take from this game that feels OK.
- I blame myself. I’m sorry Thabo. I should have waited until after this game. Vince Carter still has something left and had 18 on 6-13 shooting. You’re still a good defender Thabo, I know it.
- When Durant is missing, it makes my heart hurt. He keeps trying and keeps trying, but things just don’t happen for him sometimes. He scored just 12 on 4-12 shooting, went 0-4 from 3 and 4-7 from the free throw line. It was just a bad night for The Durantula. I don’t know what the deal is with his 3-point stroke, but surely it’s going to come around. Surely.
- I continue to love D.J. White. He hits his shots, plays hard and does his job. He’s a bit undersized for his position and he doesn’t have the athleticism to be a stud, but you’ve got to love his effort and steadiness.
- At one point during the third quarter, I honestly didn’t think a single shot would ever go in for OKC. I think Nenad Krstic set the tone early with three straight airballs in the first quarter.
- When the Magic shoot like that, they’re unbeatable. It’s simple. You can’t beat a team when they’re hitting like crazy and they have the inside presence of Howard.
- Kyle Weaver! What I found most interesting about the DreamWeaver’s appearance was that he ran almost exclusively point guard. With Shaun Livingston now a big question mark, OKC needs a third point guard on the roster behind Kevin Ollie. Harden can handle the duties some, but Weaver may have to start stepping up. He was good: 11 points, four assists and two steals in 15 minutes. Solid.
- I thought it was a great move by Scott Brooks to give Serge Ibaka extended minutes on Dwight Howard. I actually thought Serge did OK. He got lost on the screen and roll a couple times, but he grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes and busted his butt. He’s lost half the time he’s out there, but he goes hard and actually looked pretty decent.
- Interesting note: Every player that checked in scored in this game. That’s unique.
- Oklahoma City’s starters scored 35 points. The bench had 59.
- Thabo has lost all confidence in his shot. He wasn’t a great shooter by any means, but he just can’t see it going in right now. Every shot is guided.
- I know it’s silly, but I hate stat killing games like this. Westbrook’s numbers took a big hit as well as Durant’s and Green’s. I like looking at sexy stats, alright?
- I really liked Scott Brooks getting his first technical there. His star was clearly fouled and showed more emotion to an official than normal. So Brooks backed up Durant and went after the official. I like that.
- Hey at least James Harden got a career high. That’s cool, right?
Again, not a fun game and not a fun effort. There is a lot to be upset about. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint and one really stinker of a game, a season does not make. It’s still obvious this team is going to have some nights like this. But there will also be nights like the 28-point blowout and the win in Miami. It’ll all come together. It just takes a little time.
Next game is Friday night against the Wizards at home. A good chance to wash this one out of our mouths.