See, this is exactly what I was afraid of.
For some reason, something didn’t feel right heading into this game. Maybe it was because the Thunder was coming off a cakewalk against Orlando. Maybe it’s because it was on the road. Or maybe it was because the Kings have been playing better. Whatever it was, it just didn’t feel like a lock. Really, at this point, nothing does for this team.
Regardless of playing a pretty poo poo game, Oklahoma City had a shot to tie it in the end, with a Kevin Durant 3 falling short as the Thunder (3-4) lost 101-98 to Sacramento (4-4). It looks like a bad loss and in some ways it is. The Thunder was outrebounded by 15. At one point missed nine straight shots and went seven-plus minutes without a bucket. Shot under 40 percent. Missed a couple key free throws. And Tyreke Evans banked in a lucky jumper that basically broke OKC’s back. One of those nights.
Sure, they’re better. That much is clear. But we can’t forget this is a group with an average age of 24 and these nights are going to happen. If you expected a team that was going to be focused 82 nights and never lose to teams it shouldn’t, well, then you were expecting too much. The Thunder are a good team. They really are. But they aren’t ready to hit it every single night and win everything they should. Just aren’t.
Something just felt flat about this game. It could be that about 19 people showed up to see it in person. But I think in a backwards way, poor road turnouts hurt the Thunder’s energy. Hear me out. At home, OKC is used to playing in front of at least a semi-full house and pretty raucous fans. In situations like Tuesday night, the lower bowl was sparse and you could hear the players talking on the broadcast. And maybe that affects OKC’s energy. It shouldn’t, but the team looked flat, especially defensively in the first half.
One reason it may have been flat is because there was literally a whistle every time down the floor. Not that the officiating was bad, but there were 55 fouls called and 71 free throws shot. There was just absolutely no flow to this game. You weren’t going to see more than 30 seconds of continuous basketball in the second half. You just weren’t. I actually went back and counted – the Kings were fouled on 11 straight possessions in the fourth quarter. Seriously.
Not to be lost in this one was Durant’s solid game. He had a season-high 37 on 9-23 shooting, but hit 18-18 from the free throw line. He went 1-6 from 3 and it wasn’t a great shooting night for KD, but he did what great players do – when things aren’t falling for you, take it to the line and he took advantage of that in every way possible. He carried his team when it needed him and tried to get it done on his own. I thought he played a good, tough game.
- I think my plea has been heard. I have called for black/dark shoes on the road with the blue unis. And so far, in three roadies, OKC has sported dark kicks in every one. I think they look fantastic. What, nobody cares about this?
- Jason Thompson abused OKC tonight. After being in foul trouble in the first meeting, the Sacto big man had 21 and 14 tonight. Oklahoma City didn’t have a single guy with double-digit rebounds. Nenad Krstic led OKC with eight.
- Another night where the Thunder couldn’t put it all together. Russell Westbrook was 3-13 and missed a bunch of open looks. Krstic was cold early but finished with 12 on 5-10 shooting. Thabo went 1-7 from the floor and 0-3 from deep. James Harden went 3-5 from 3, but those were his only makes as he was 3-7 overall.
- With that said, I thought Westbrook played pretty solid. He had six assists to only one turnover and if some open looks go down, he’s looking at another 10 assist game and a Thunder win. It’s easy to “What if” but it’s not Russ’s fault when guys miss the open shot that he set them up for. Sometimes he misses shots and you’ve just got to deal with it. I know it can make you want to punch a wall, but it’s just the good and bad that comes with Russell Westbrook.
- Jeff Green had a decent game – 19 points, five rebounds – but again, just didn’t get it done on the glass. In a game like this, Green should have had at least 10 boards.
- James Harden saw some crucial minutes in the fourth. He played OK tonight, but didn’t really take advantage of his key time late. He missed an open 3, but hey, HE HIT A HALFCOURTER!
- Serge Ibaka saw a little burn with two minutes left in the first half. He registered one rebound and got tagged with a three-second violation. I like that Brooks hasn’t given up on him and is giving him a chance to come along.
- Durant did his best to take over in the second half. He wanted the ball and for the most part, got it done. The Kings absolutely bracketed him in the fourth and KD’s teammates just didn’t get the job done in his steed.
I know the perception is that this is a bad Kings team without its best player, but these guys have now won three in a row and are .500. It’s not like they are the suck. Sure it’s a bad loss and a game I think we all expected to win, but life goes on. Everything is not lost just because OKC dropped a game on the road against Sacto. I’d expect the Thunder to come out with solid energy and effort tomorrow night in L.A. Granted, it’s the first back-to-back of the season, so you never know, but I’m sure OKC has a little bit of a bad taste after this one.
Next up is the Clippers Wednesday night at the Staples Center.