So that’s what an embarrassing win feels like.
Oklahoma City was clearly looking ahead to Sunday’s showdown against Miami on Friday as it wheezed past the Washington Wizards with a seven-point, double-overtime win in front of another packed home crowd. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score the team’s final 31 points and Westbrook had a triple-double, but there was hardly much to smile about after this one.
Just about everything the Thunder has been accused of doing wrong this season reared its ugly head. A slow, listless start to the game. Poor defense, highlighted by over-helping, over-rotating, not hustling until it was almost too late and generally not giving a crap. Strange substitution patterns. God-awful plays coming out of late timeouts. You name it.
It was not entirely bereft of good signs. Westbrook and Durant taking over the late stages of the game, albeit with some hiccups, is what you want to see in a close game — you just don’t want to see close games at home against Washington. Daequan Cook hit his first 3-pointer since November or so. And the Thunder once again made the plays it had to when it absolutely had to.
But then again, Oklahoma City couldn’t find a way to stop Nick Young. He’s been playing well of late, but raise your hand if you thought you’d spend the critical possessions of the game sweating Young. Heck, raise your hand if you thought there would BE critical possessions in this game. Going into it, I thought there was a chance OKC would play like it didn’t care tonight, but I certainly never expected to be downtown until 10 p.m. against the Wizards. I also never expected to be shaking my head this much after a game in which Westbrook goes for 35-13-13 and KD has 40.
At least it’s over and done with and the Thunder put another one in the win column. Now Oklahoma City can really move on to the Heat game, which it apparently was ready to do even before the Minnesota game.
- I think it’s best to start off with more whining about the long 3-pointer Durant took on the final possession of the fourth quarter. OKC had 13 seconds to deal with, and that’s the best it could come up with? Really? Atrocious. Lazy. Comical. Unimaginative. Pathetic. All of those things.
- James Harden. Wow. There’s a large contingent of folks out there who want to see him get more minutes, but this is a game that those folks will have to forget. Maybe it was an aberration, but he was horrible Friday. Six FGA in 40 minutes? That’s how many fouls he had, and most of those fouls were lazy and dumb. I know Harden is better than this, and he does too. But Friday was about as bad as I’ve seen him. Not the way he wanted to play on his first home start, I’ll bet, and not the way Scott Brooks or anyone else wanted him to play too. Six of his eight points came in the last three possessions of the first half, and four of those were at the line.
- Not a lot of Serge Ibaka tonight. Apparently Brooks said it was a matchup thing. I’m not normally one to complain a whole lot about the substitution patterns because I’m willing to defer to the NBA playing and coaching experience that the staff has and I don’t. But I’m a proponent of putting your best guys on the floor, and Ibaka is one of OKC’s best guys. Twenty-five minutes combined for Ibaka and Nenad Krstic. (I’m not saying Krstic is one of those best guys, necessarily, but in a 58-minute game, you need more out of your top two guys in minutes played at the five.)
- Andray Blatche had four points in the Wizards’ first two possessions, and Durant had four points in the entire fourth quarter. How often do you see something like that happen?
- Maybe I’m one of the few to care about these things, but I was miffed that it said “Jianlian” on the stats scoreboards high in the arena tonight for Yi Jianlian. Someone in charge of these things should know that the first name is the surname in China.
- John Wall’s stat line won’t wow anyone in a 2OT game (13 points on 5-19 FG, 10 assists and five boards), but he played in control the entire night and was a force late in the game even without scoring. He had zero turnovers — a big part of why Washington had only seven to OKC’s 16. The Wizards took care of the ball and the Thunder didn’t.
- That said, Wall needs a jump shot. Westbrook was able to stay about as many feet off of him as I would have to if I were guarding the guy. Also, those bricked free throws late in the game had to have John Calipari shaking his head and flashing back to Kentucky’s woes last year.
- The Thunder’s offense was so disjointed at times that I think it even affected the fans in the in-arena promotions that involved shooting. The guy in the Cox promotion shot about a half-dozen airballs, the half-court shot wasn’t even close and two guys combined to miss four from the stripe with a trip to Los Angeles on the line at halftime.
- Maybe the Thunder’s amazing performance at the line in Minnesota, where they missed only one shot, meant they had to miss some Friday. OKC went an uncharacteristic 31-41. I could have sworn Westbrook had all of them for a near quadruple-double if you counted the missed freebies, but he only had five.
- The fans were streaming for the exits at the end of regulation and the first overtime. Part of me thought it was a strange thing to do, especially on a Friday night, but part of me couldn’t blame them. It was an excruciating game to watch if you’re Thunder fan.
- How about Westbrook’s block on Wall’s 3-pointer late in the game? Maybe the only block of the year so far on one of those fly-at-the-shooter attempts that he and Jeff Green seem so fond of.
Well, it’s over for now, thankfully. Maybe the Thunder got all of its bad ju ju out of it in time for the Miami game. But four games in a row coming down to either the last shot or overtime or both have been four games too many for me — or maybe three games too many, because I was happy to see the buzzer-beater against New York. But I shouldn’t need an EKG against Minnesota and Washington. If Oklahoma City plays similarly on Sunday, it’s going to be ugly.
Next up: Miami at home at noon Sunday. As if you didn’t know.