Sometimes, you really do need to lose. You start seeing your name at the top of the standings, you name at the top of everyone’s power rankings, your name on every shortlist for championship contenders.
And you think you’re good enough to just show up.
After winning seven straight and rising to the top of the NBA’s standings, the Thunder walked in to Washington where the league’s worst team resides and expected to win. And instead, completely pooped the bed losing to the Wizards 105-102 after Kevin Durant missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from about 200 feet away.
What’s sick is that the Thunder actually shot the ball well. Oklahoma City went 48.1 percent from the floor while the Wizards hit just 38.4. Why the Thunder lost this game was because Washington got 40 free possessions. Nineteen offensive rebounds to go with 21 Thunder turnovers. You give Edmond North’s middle school team that many extra looks at the basket and you play with fire.
It’s a complete shame because the Thunder appeared to have things under control in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook woke OKC up with a strong spurt in the second and carried things over to the third. OKC was never cruising by more then nine or ten, but it looked like one of those games where things weren’t really in doubt. And then the Thunder started handed the ball to the Wizards. And giving up an extra shot every possession. And stopped guarding Nick Young.
You lose to a team like the Wizards and all you can do is look in the mirror. A lot of people will say things like “Give the Wizards credit blah blah blah,” but forget that. The Wizards stink. The Thunder do not. This kind of stuff happens in the NBA from time to time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating, embarrassing and infuriating. The reason Oklahoma City lost this game was because of entitlement. The Thunder fell asleep at the wheel. The offense quit moving and executing, the bigs didn’t do any work on the glass, the defense went bad and were entirely too loose with the ball. Any time you lace ‘em up, you play to win. And the Thunder didn’t.
There’s a reason these type of losses are annoying. Because you typically live to regret it. Whether it’s a lower playoff seed or homecourt in the postseason, any time you drop a bad one, you have to check the rearview mirror constantly to see if it’s going to come back to bite you.
It’s not like this is a reason to panic or get mad. You move on and think about the next game. You’re still 12-3 and you’re still really, really good. One super dumb loss doesn’t erase that kind of stuff. But it does speak to the fact that you have to be focused for a full 48. The Thunder got humbled. They got a reality check. Teams lose. The Heat blew one at Golden State, the Bulls dropped a bad one there too. It happens from time to time. It’s really not about the loss; it’s about the way the Thunder played. They could’ve won quite honestly and I’d still feel like I needed a shower after watching that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather the Thunder won this game and we all sit back and say, “Man, they played TERRIBLE tonight!” instead of dealing with the reality of losing to the Wizards, a team that was having trouble breaking 70 at times this year. But it happened. I guarantee you the team probably has a hard time going to sleep tonight after this one, but all you can do is move on. If this happens just once or twice all season, we’ll all kick back and say the Thunder had a pretty terrific year. Be frustrated for the next 24 hours or so, but then forget it. I guarantee you’ll have done exactly that by playoff time.
- We should’ve seen the writing on the wall early on in the first quarter. There was an exchange of brutally sloppy play as the Thunder and Wizards took turns kicking the ball around. You set that kind of tone and sometimes it comes back to bite you.
- The Wizards got back in the game by hitting 5-7 from 3 in the third. Some were pretty ridiculous shots like a couple from Nick Young and Andray Blatche’s at the end of the third.
- OKC had 11 assists in the first half and just four in the second.
- KD had seven turnovers and just two assists.
- The entire starting five was a positive tonight with Thabo leading the way with +13. The bench were all negatives with Harden being a -15. I thought Scott Brooks made a mistake letting Durant guard Young in the second half. There was a reason Young was struggling — Thabo was guarding him.
- Durant was 9-16 early in the fourth quarter. He went just 2-8 down the stretch and hit 2-10 from 3 for the game. And I think he had 15 shots rattle in and out.
- Serge Ibaka has to get more decisive in the paint. A couple times he was set up right underneath the basket and pump faked his way out of a shot. Twice he rose up and crammed it home though. That’s the idea. Do that all the time.
- Westbrook picked up a charge tonight and it made me think: That’s the first one he’s had in a couple games, right? His turnovers are down over the past 10 games and that’s one of the areas you can point to as why.
- Speaking of charges, NBA officials are getting absolutely horrible at calling them. I realize Nick Collison is often a beneficiary of charges, but it is NOT a charge when a player is sliding underneath while the offensive player collides with him. His feet have to be entirely set. John Wall picked up two really iffy ones on Durant tonight.
- JaVale McGee was a tap-out machine. I think at one point he got the Wizards three extra possessions tapping the ball out to halfcourt.
- The Thunder had some fun highlights in the first half. Westbrook’s lefty bounce pass to KD for a dunk and then his behind-the-back for another. Nice plays.
- Westbrook nearly had a brilliant play but missed an easy layup. He got caught in the air with his jumper about to be crammed back in his face. Mid-air, he threw the ball off his defender, gathered it and went at the rim. But again, he missed. In hindsight, would’ve been nice if he made that one.
- OKC gave up 59 points in the second half. This is the first game the Thunder have allowed 100 points since their last loss, home against Portland.
- Wall didn’t offer any resistance on Westbrook when Westbrook posted. And Westbrook pretty much abused him because of it in the first half. And then he quit doing it.
- Nazr Mohammed’s airballed halfcourter kind of sums this one up. With five seconds left on the clock, Mohammed chucked one from 50 feet. I love how Mohammed doesn’t even acknowledge how stupid it was. He just keeps it cool like he’s hoping nobody will notice how dumb that was.
- Reggie Jackson blows into his fist a whole lot. Is he cold all the time, or is he just trying to warm up his hand? (Know what I mean?)
- For some reason, Brian Davis was all over Nick Young in this one for showboating and perceived selfishness. Even as he hit big shots for the Wizards, Davis continued to hammer on Young. Grant Long joined in and criticized Young for not pointing to teammates after they passed him the ball for a basket. The Wizards have character and culture issues, yeah, but geez you guys.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: After Nick Young made a deep 3 and pointed to a teammate after making it: “And look at that. Dude, you’re 1-out-of-8! You’re 1-out-of-8!” Of note: Young was actually 2-8 at the time and had just made back-to-back 3s and finished with 24 points and five 3-pointers.
Next up: At New Jersey Saturday. Bummer that we have to have this taste in our mouths for three days.