Must. Count. To. Ten.
It seriously might be a good idea to wait until tomorrow to start writing this. Game 2 hurts, and it hurts for a whole lot of different reasons, some best left unsaid. Seven missed free throws for a second consecutive game? Hurts. Shane Battier banking in a miracle dagger 3? Hurts. Kevin Durant having a look at a game-tying shot but coming up short (…because he was fouled…)? Hurts.
Losing the first home game in the playoffs, giving away homecourt advantage in The Finals, letting Miami back in the series, now being forced to win a game on the road and failing to put a vice grip on this thing? Hurts. Real, real bad.
(A bogus goaltending call that gifted the Heat two big points, multiple questionable calls going against the Thunder in the second half and again, the final play where Durant doesn’t get the call? Stab in the face, it hurts. See, I told you I needed to wait a while. The wounds are too fresh.)
But it was always going to be a tough series. Losing a game doesn’t mean it’s over, it just means it’s going to be more challenging than some were thinking it would be after Game 1. It’s painful for a reason. Losing always sucks, but losing in games of this magnitude with each game being so vitally important and the series so incredibly fragile, makes it rough to get over.
Especially when you consider the way the game went down. An 18-2 hole to start the game, going nearly the first six minutes of the game with two points. Digging a big hole that reached as many as 17 points is just completely unacceptable.
“That was the game,” Durant said. “We can’t start off down 18 to 2.”
Yes, I was very impressed with the resiliency the Thunder showed in fighting back. Down seven with 54 seconds left and they pulled off some incredible plays, hit some ballsy shots and had possession down two with 12.3 seconds left. The steal and Durant 3 was one of the more incredible moments I’ve ever witnessed. I thought KD was about to Doodle Jump the Heat. And maybe he would’ve, had, you know.
But Durant wasn’t biting on the no-call after the game. When asked if there was contact, he said, “I think I shot a good shot. That’s a shot I shoot all the time. I just missed.” Asked again if there was contact, he said, “I was just worrying about the shot. I really couldn’t tell you. I’ve got to watch the film, I guess.”
Clearly KD was trying to take the diplomatic approach, not allowing the media to bait him. But one more reporter gave it a try, asking, “Are you saying you don’t think you got mugged by LeBron on that last play?” Durant, in a very stern, straightforward tone: “I missed the shot, man.”
Said Scott Brooks: “That’s one play. We have so many other plays that we could have done better to put us in a position to stay closer in the game. I’m not going to get into that. I haven’t in the past, I’m not going to start doing it now. It was a play, he didn’t get the call. The bottom line is we play aggressive basketball, we play tough basketball, and we didn’t do that to start the game. The last minute, I won’t even look at that.
“I’m going to focus on the first six to eight minutes of the game,” he continued. “That’s more important than the last minute of the last play of the game. You know what, he missed a shot.”
I hate to be That Guy, but Brooks is definitely right. Put yourself in a 17-point hole and you place yourself at the mercy of that type of no-call. It’s the crappy reality, and it’s a whole lot more fun to say that if the right call is made, KD sinks two free throws and the game might still be going on for all we know. There’s two ways to look at it but the hard truth is the game is over, the Thunder lost and no amount of complaining or whining is going to change that.
(Though I will admit, it does feel at least a little better to do that stuff.)
The Thunder didn’t come close to playing to their ability but gave themselves a chance based just on heart and effort. I’m still pretty sure the Thunder are the better team, but that doesn’t matter when you lose. The series has turned on its head, it’s 1-1 now and there’s the grim, sobering reality that the Thunder potentially have played their last home game of the season.
But as we’ve seen, this team has it within to fight back. Game 3 has just become the next most important game in the history of everything. And there’s reason to believe OKC has what it takes to go to Miami and win a game or two. They’ve proven they can do it. It’s early yet in these Finals and while Game 2’s outcome is near excruciating, it just means the Thunder have to do a little better.
You can’t get too high, you can’t fall too low. Game 1 felt great, Game 2 doesn’t. But it’s a race to four and there are still games to be played.
Keep the faith.
- I don’t know if I’ve ever been so confused with what Scott Brooks was doing as I was in the third quarter. Brooks wisely went small subbing James Harden for a big, leaving Thabo on the floor. But the big he subbed for was Serge Ibaka. Not Kendrick Perkins. He pulled the same move in the first quarter as well, and didn’t see any results (in three minutes, the score was 4-4). Brooks subbed Harden in for Ibaka with 5:39 left in the third and OKC ended up a +4 in about five minutes of play. But when he went with Nick Collison as his 5, the Thunder were a +5 the first six minutes of the fourth. I love Perk, but he simply doesn’t have much value in defending Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. This is a series built for Collison and Ibaka. I don’t think you should change your starting five, I don’t think a drastic move needs to be made. But it’s pretty clear Collison and Ibaka bring something much more important than Perk at this point. Just having “toughness” doesn’t cut it.
- Brooks on why he stuck with Perk and not Collison: “He’s one of our better players. We have three good choices: Serge, Nick and Perk. I thought Perk ‑‑ Perk is our best screener. He gets guys open. He scores by setting screens, and there’s no stat for that, but that’s what he does. Small ball, medium ball, big ball, that did not lose the game. Toughness lost the game. We didn’t come out with the toughness that we need to come out with. We’re an aggressive team, we’re a physical team, we are a ‑‑ defensive mindset was not where it needs to be, and hopefully we change that going into Game 3.”
- Here’s my thing: After the crazy awesome impact he had on Game 1, why did Collison only play 14 minutes and 32 seconds of Game 2. That’s my point. And question.
- It’s not much consolation, but KD was once again completely ridiculous in the fourth quarter. He went 5-9 for 16 points, hit a bunch of big shots and was a shot (or foul) away from turning in a LEGENDARY crunch time performance.
- And remember: Durant was playing virtually the entire fourth with five fouls. He couldn’t remain as aggressive as he wanted, had to pick spots and make shots. (He did get away with what was probably his sixth foul on an iffy block call on Battier halfway through the fourth.)
- James Harden showed up in a big way and kept the Thunder in the game for most of the night. He finished with 21 on 11 shots, and had 17 at halftime.
- Brooks was asked if he’d consider changing his starting five: “No, not at all. We just lost 30 minutes ago, so I just think we were missing shots. We didn’t come out with the defensive toughness, the disposition that we need to play with. We have to do that first, and then if it doesn’t work, then we’ll think about doing other things. But right now we have to play better from the very start.”
- But seriously Derek Fisher, get your freaking toe off the line on those long 2-pointers.
- Bill Hader was in the house, wearing a Thunder hat. He’s from Tulsa, so it makes sense. Also, Adrian Peterson was at the game.
- It seems important to note that the Thunder tied the second quarter, won the third by a point and won the fourth by seven. That first quarter man. That first quarter.
- Chris Bosh started and while I don’t know if that played into Miami’s great start, he did play a terrific game. He had a first half double-double, and finished with 16 points and 15 boards.
- After Bosh finished a dunk which seemed to seal things with 1:47 left, some fans hit the exits. But not that many. If I were guessing the number, I’d say it was 30. Pretty impressive that with the game all but lost, most everyone hung in there. And they were nearly treated to an all-time comeback.
- Perk on if KD was fouled: “In my opinion I think it was, but I’m not the referee. He must have seen something different. But it shouldn’t have come down to that possession. We should not have put ourselves in a position that it didn’t come down to the last shot.”
- OKC turned it over only 10 times. This is officially a thing now.
- Wonderful exchange between KD and a reporter tonight. Here’s the question: “Can you talk about the match up with LeBron? It seemed like he was able to get to the basket basically when he wanted to until he put up that three there late in the ballgame. Talk about his ability to get to the basket.” KD: “Was that a question?” KD called someone out on the horrible “Talk about…” journalism move. Well done, KD.
- KD on his slow start: “Yeah, it was just me. It was just me. I’ve got to make shots for my team.”
- I don’t get the impression that people are going to blame Russell Westbrook after this one, but then again, maybe everyone has had a chance to digest the box score. He took 26 shots, scored 27 points, turned it over twice, had seven assists and eight rebounds. He was reckless at times and took bad shots often. But the dude kept coming and was a major reason the Thunder had a prayer at all in the end.
- LeBron? Outstanding. Bravo.
- Wade? Solid. We saw Miami’s Big 3 all play well and what they are when that happens. And if I’m to be encouraged, I still feel like the Thunder should’ve won this game.
- I’m not really sure a massive adjustment is necessary in Game 3 other than maybe not completely sucking for the first six minutes of the game. Outside of that, things should be cool.
Next up: Game 3 in Miami Sunday.