Seeing Chicago and the Lakers lose their first games at home had to make you feel at least a little better, didn’t it? No way the Bulls, Lakers and Thunder ALL lose their second-round series, right?
But it seems likely that at least one of the three will go down. Let’s just hope the Thunder isn’t that team.
In the first round, only the Lakers won their series after losing the first game at home while the Spurs and Magic couldn’t recover. That’s not a great recent sign for Oklahoma City, especially because it was Memphis that did in San Antonio. But it shows, as if you didn’t know already, that an opening loss at home is not necessarily a death knell.
If the Thunder has shown us anything this year, it’s that the team is resilient. The few back-to-back losses on the year provide some evidence, as does the stellar record in close games, the ability to go on a tear following a trade that sent away a popular teammate, late-season road wins in Miami and Los Angeles and particularly the Game 5 comeback. With the proper mindset, the Game 1 loss in this series could simply be viewed as an opportunity to rise (together … couldn’t help myself) to another challenge.
Grasping at straws? Maybe. But the idea that the Thunder’s season is already teetering even before Game 2 has tipped off is ridiculous. It was certainly disappointing from the vantage point of DT readers and Thunder fans at large, but allow me to bring back up a quote I borrowed from Gregg Easterbrook for a Nov. 1 column I wrote after the Jazz blew out the Thunder early in the season: Don’t panic. There will be plenty of time for that later. (In this case, the excruciatingly long three-day layoff between Games 2 and 3.)
In fact, if OKC can manage to win tonight and then steal Game 3 in Memphis, the Grizzlies will face an uphill climb for the first time this postseason. We haven’t yet seen how this incarnation of the Griz would react to trailing in a series, but at least with last year’s Thunder team we saw they showed little fear at a 2-0 deficit against the Lakers (that admittedly was cured by a two home games, not two games in a rowdy FedEx Forum).
It’s time, right now, for all of those Thunderisms like “It’s a process” and “We’re growing as a team and as individuals” to prove to be more than just boring canned quotes. If the Thunder is growing as a team and as an individuals, then it should come out determined and get a win in front of the home crowd. If this is a process, then surely part of the process is overcoming a deficit in a postseason series in which you have home court advantage.
The only thing fans can do, other than continue to fret, is to make that home court advantage real. For most of Game 5 of the Nuggets series and Game 1 on Sunday, the crowd let the visitors’ lead get inside their heads. There was desperation, worry and tension in the air. That may be unavoidable to some extent when the Thunder digs itself a rather sizable hole, but if there was ever a night for the crowd to refuse to let itself get out of the game, this would be it.