I don’t even know what to say. I’m sitting here, staring at this screen, trying to figure out a way to accurately sum this game up. And whatever comes spilling out of my fingers isn’t going to do it justice. It was a great, great game – the greatest in Oklahoma City’s short history – that was given a black eye by referee Tony Brothers who didn’t blow his whistle in a crucial moment. Such is life in the NBA.
First, the non-call. It was horrible. It was awful. It was ridiculous. As Brian Davis put it, it was tragic. Really, that’s the best way to describe it. This was one of the best games of this NBA season, one that will surely be seen again and again on NBA Hardwood Classics. And for it to end that way is a shame. If Kevin Durant’s jumper would’ve airballed, I could’ve lived with it. If C.J. Miles would’ve got the ball clean, I can deal with that. But for Durant to shoot his team back in the game the way he did – bringing OKC back from 11 down with three minutes left in regulation – and then to get robbed there? Tragic. As John Hollinger put it: “Note to Kevin Garnett: Michael Jordan gets that call.
I could spend 2,000 words writing about the no-call on Miles, but that would also be a shame because this game was too good to completely waste on bullcrap officiating. So just watch this over and over again and then go burn down a house or something.
The reality is, Oklahoma City had other chances. James Harden missed a free throw in overtime. There were two big turnovers by Russell Westbrook. Carlos Boozer grabbed seven offensive rebounds. I don’t want to be That Guy, but there were chances for OKC to win this game. But then again, if the correct call is made at the correct moment, the Thunder gets it done too. So whatever. No, I’m not bitter.
But there are encouraging things to take from it too. I was ready to throw in the towel with five minutes left and OKC trailing by 13. We’ve seen the Thunder win some big games, but we’ve never really seen them put together a big comeback run. But Russell Westbrook hit a 3. Kevin Durant went bananas from deep (HOW ABOUT THE 30-FOOTER?). Jeff Green hit a big time shot. And by some miracle from the heavens, OKC tied the game and forced overtime.
In a big game, on the road, against a great opponent, the Thunder showed an incredible amount of fight and determination. They may have not won the game, but I think they built something positive leading into the postseason. They grew up some tonight. Bad calls happen and you have to deal with them. You hope they don’t decide games like that but now there will be a little more energy under the Thunder’s butts next time. We’ve seen Takeover KD before, but this was a new level of it. He scored 17 of his 45 in the fourth and put his team back in the game. But not just that, he blocked two shots at the rim, created for teammates and LED them to overtime. If he gets a call on the final play of OT, he probably grabs a bunch of MVP votes right there. But it didn’t happen and now I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. Alas.
- In any sport, at any level, it’s tough to beat a team four straight times. For whatever reason, when you’re trying to beat a team a third or fourth time, stuff like this happens. Better now than in the playoffs, right?
- I get asked a lot who a potential rival for the Thunder could be. Dallas seems like an obvious choice because of the proximity. Denver would be good because of the division rivalry and the same could be said for Portland, especially if you add the Durant-Oden thing. But for my money, I’d say Utah has the most potential to be OKC’s first rival. Especially if they find each other in the first round of the playoffs this year. The games are always great. The Jazz have players that are easy to dislike. There’s a great head-to-head in Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. And they both have a great fanbases so the atmospheres are great.
- Clark Matthews was all over hating the Jazz weeks ago and if you don’t feel the hatred flowing through your body now, you’re either not a Thunder fan or you don’t have a pulse.
- Hey, Nick Collison hit a 3! That was neat. A buzzer-beater at the end of the third no less. That makes him a solid 1-15 for his career.
- Russell Westbrook hit one too! That’s his first 3 since March 2. He’s now 2 for his last 26.
- I don’t even want to hear about people saying the no-call on Durant makes up for the foul that put Nick Collison on the line New Year’s Eve. In my mind, they’re not even close to the same level. Collison’s foul was questionable. I’ll admit, if I were a Jazz fan, I would’ve been upset. But it was at least not clear as day. Plus, Utah had a chance to win after it. Tonight’s no-call ended the game. It was over right then and there. Not in the same ballpark.
- Another reason to dislike Utah: Carlos Stupid Boozer. I’m over his yelling at everything. He sets a screen: AHHHHH. He takes a charge: AHHHHH. He grabs a rebound: AHHHHH. He drinks some water: AHHHH. Enough already. The NBA needs a no yelling policy for Boozer like tennis has for grunters. Plus, his little stare-down after dunking over Serge wasn’t cool either.
- Speaking of Serge, he was great tonight. 13 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. Great effort off the bench for him.
- Deron Williams is simply fantastic. I had no doubt he was going to make a jumper to win it for Utah. None. He’s that kind of player. He missed two big shots before it and wasn’t about to miss a third.
- I am not a fan of the force-it-in-to-Durant-for-a-last-second-shot play (re: last play of regulation). I want KD taking my game-winner more than anyone. But a falling, 40-footer with one arm? Nah thanks.
- Jeff Green is just a crunch time player. The big shots, the big blocks and the big plays. I look forward to the many clutch plays he will make this postseason.
- Thabo did a solid job on Deron Williams, but didn’t help out much offensively. In a game his team scored 139 points and he played 30 minutes in, he didn’t score a point. That’s hard to do.
- This game was just even all around: Utah shot 52 percent, OKC 50. Utah was 12-21 from 3, OKC 13-30. OKC 36-41 from the line, Utah 30-37. The rebounds were even at 43. OKC had 29 assists to Utah’s 27. Seven steals a piece for each team. 18 turnovers for OKC to Utah’s 16. But the biggest difference of the night: Utah 140 points, OKC 139.
This wasn’t just one game. This was bigger than that. In terms of playoff implications and seeding, it was huge. What if the Thunder winds up in eighth as a result of it? That would be something worthy of kicking a small animal over. But it was also big just for the reason it had a playoff feel to it. It was important to both teams to come out with a win. After this classic, I can safely say the Utah Jazz are my least favorite team in the league and I want OKC to draw them in the first round more than I want Tony Brothers to fall in a manhole. I want blood. I want fistfights. I want Brothers to call the entire series and have to watch the wrath of a pissed Durantula first-hand.
We needed this. We needed a game like this not only for our team to grow, but for us to step it up a level as NBA fans. It’s easy to hate the Lakers just because they’re good. But really feeling the pain and anguish of a loss and thus deciding you hate every stupidly combed hair on Deron Williams because of it? That’s what it’s all about. Irrational, emotional, heat-of-the-moment hatred of a team. These are the same feelings you’re going to get in a grueling seven-game series. I’m effing pissed we lost. It was crap. It was a shame. It was tragic. But it’s also not the end of the world. And maybe, hopefully, it’s for the best.
Next up: Denver tomorrow night.