I almost forgot what it was like to be so frustrated watching your favorite team that you want jump naked through a pane of glass. So frustrated that you scream at the television, say you hate a player that you really love and then end up saying, “This is stupid. The NBA is stupid.”
But this game tonight was a nice reminder of those feelings. Ah, the ups and downs of being a hopeless, emotional fan. Because this Thunder team has gotten us all used to winning, closing out tight games and taking care of business, a loss like tonight just doesn’t feel right. It’s doesn’t feel like a “Oh well, it’s a long season” kind of loss. It feels like a kick in the nether region.
But here’s the reality: It’s OK. It’s really not a huge deal. The Thunder lost on the road to a playoff team that plays near .800 basketball at home. It’s the first loss in five games and this team is still 16 games above .500. It’s not fun to lose especially when you’re fighting for important playoff seeding, but this team wasn’t going to finish the year on a 22-game winning streak.
And while it’s not the biggest deal the Thunder lost, it’s just the way they lost that’s so darn frustrating. Oklahoma City was cruising. The first half was (almost) a beautiful thing. The Thunder held a 51-32 lead late in the second quarter, was executing offensively against a great defensive team and was holding Charlotte to around 30 percent shooting. Then the final two minutes of the half ultimately cost OKC the game. The Thunder turned the ball over four times in a minute and gave up an 11-0 run to the Cats to close the half, making it 51-43 going to the locker room. Charlotte came out of the locker room and made another bucket and just like that, a 19-point lead evaporated to six in a little over two minutes. The Thunder turned the ball over just 13 times, but those four gifts before halftime should count as three a piece. It’s what lost the game.
Oh and one more thing: Complaining about officiating after a loss looks petty and I try my darndest to refrain from it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tonight because it was such a glaring issue in this game. It was bad. And not on both ends. On one end. The Thunder end. One play kind of summed it all up: Jeff Green went to the rim, was clubbed upside the head and knocked to the floor by two Bobcat defenders. Who was tagged for a foul? Jeff Green. Later, on a 50-50 ball, Durant collided with Stephen Jackson and KD was knocked to the floor. Who was whistled? The fact I’m whining about this should answer that for you. That kind of night, I suppose. Charlotte shot 32 free throws. OKC attempted 18. The Thunder committed 26 fouls. The Bobcats 17. It was just a poorly called game and I’m not afraid to risk the “homer” tag and say it. Because it truly was.
- When Kevin Durant plays poorly offensively, the team does. It’s that simple. He was 9-26 from the floor and 0-7 from 3, scoring 26 points. Simply put, he missed shots he normally makes. Granted on some of those attempts, he typically gets a foul called and goes to the line, but still, it wasn’t some revolutionary defensive scheme from Charlotte. KD just didn’t shoot the ball well.
- One big bright spot in this ugly game was the play of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka. Both were extremely good off the bench for OKC. Collison had 15 points and six rebounds and Ibaka had six points, two blocks and three boards. And Ibaka also had a Top 10 play for sure, with his putback over Tyrus Thomas in the second quarter. The best part is that he followed that up with a swat of Thomas 10 seconds later on the other end.
- I think this is a game that really shows that the Thunder needs James Harden back badly. There was just no supplementary scoring for OKC. Durant wasn’t playing well, Russell Westbrook wasn’t tearing it up and while Jeff Green was solid, the Thunder needed Harden’s outside shooting and ability to create.
- Another point in highlighting the need for Harden: Do you know how many points Kyle Weaver has scored in his three games of filling in for Harden? Zero. Zero points. He’s 0-5 from the floor and has two assists. Now it’s pretty obvious how much OKC could use Harden’s 10 points, three assists a game.
- Stevie Graham picked a fine time to become the best player he’s ever been in his life. He scored 19 on 7-9 shooting and absolutely took over for a stretch.
- Gerald Wallace didn’t play and while obviously on the surface that makes this loss look bad, consider the Bobcats beat the Magic in Orlando without Wallace.
- Combine the game starting at six and the fact I think I had more people in my living room watching the game than Charlotte had in the arena, this game felt flat.
- I am thankful every day for Dr. Carlan Yates. Tyson Chandler is just not the player he once was. Theo Ratliff, Theo… Ratliff, looked more athletic and younger than Chandler. I’m glad we’re not saddled with that contract all wrapped up in a bad toe.
- I know they’re just shin pads, but I really like the knee-high sock look for KD.
- Westbrook played hard tonight, but he was just lazy defensively at times on Raymond Felton. He consistently let Felton get by him and into the lane. Felton is a nice player, but he shouldn’t go for 17 on 7-10 shooting against you. And if he does, it probably means you gave up more points than you should and likely lost.
- The first half, Charlotte played at around an 85 efficiency level. The second half, they were about a 130. The defense just broke down and Charlotte hit open shots.
I’m frustrated right now, because I’m not used to these games anymore. We’ve all been a little spoiled watching a young team close games, make smart plays and ratchet up the defense when it mattered. And it didn’t happen tonight. It’s truly not a massive deal, but for some reason it tastes bad. Had OKC just played a tight game throughout against Charlotte and lost in the last two minutes, I don’t think I’d think anything of it. But any time you blow a 19-point lead, something went horribly wrong. It’s one game, it’s one loss and it’s most likely not the last L we’ll see this season. But to be honest, that doesn’t make this one any less annoying. But that might just be me.
Next up: Toronto at the Air Canada Centre Friday. This game just became pretty important.