No Anthony Davis. No Eric Gordon. No Jrue Holiday. No Ryan Anderson. No Jason Smith. No Brian Roberts. Then eventually, no Austin Rivers.
The gameplan for the Thunder coming in against a Pelicans team missing six of their top seven scorers was simple: Don’t play terrible. Play bad, play poorly, play below average. Just don’t play a horrible, terrible game and everything should be fine.
Annnnnnnnd whoops, because the Thunder played some kind of awful.
Somehow, the team with Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson were outscored by the Pelicans 31-20 in the fourth quarter, letting the chance to clinch the No. 2 seed in the West slip. I’m honestly sort at a loss for words. I keep going back and forth between getting angry and disgusted, to dismissive and unfazed. We all know the deal coming in here. The Thunder had two games left against two bad teams, and only need to win one to lock things away. It’s seemingly understandable to sleepwalk to a bad loss.
Then again, that was just a horrible game, circumstances be damned. A game where Durant and Ibaka play 83 combined minutes shouldn’t result in a loss like that. They both looked tired and Durant particularly appeared unfocused and disinterested. For instance, settling for 32 3s wasn’t good, especially when the Thunder got in the bonus halfway through the fourth.
Oh, and naturally, another player busted the Thunder for a career-high. This time it was Tyreke Evans who ripped off 41, nine rebounds and eight assists, joining the ranks of Jodie Meeks and Gerald Green. The most embarrassing part about it? That Scott Brooks saw it wise to go with noted stopper Derek Fisher on him down the stretch. Not Thabo Sefolosha, who sat on the bench the majority of the fourth. Not even Andre Roberson, who in six minutes provided a terrific spark off the bench. Nope, it was Fisher who got the call and you’ll never believe it, that didn’t work out.
If you’re mad and want to lash out and say things, go right ahead. When you lose in this manner, that’s what comes with it. But overreact? Worry? Demand change? Come on now. We all saw this game for what it was. The Thunder expected to waltz to a win, and the Pelicans played with some pride and gave them a game. With no Russell Westbrook, the Thunder lacked any sort of energy, and Jackson was plain bad (four points, 1-7 shooting). Durant turned it over seven times and missed 14 shots. The effort and intensity weren’t there, and because of it, the Thunder will have to try against the Pistons most likely.
This game reminded me of a high seed against a low one in the NCAA tournament that you know is so much better than the team they’re playing, but does basically everything wrong, starting with taking the game completely for granted. And by the time they realize they’re in danger and need to snap out of it, it’s too late because the other team is into the game. The Thunder never went on a run, never put the Pelicans in a hole, never made them think about how they shouldn’t be in the game.
The outcome leaves no valid excuse, but there are plenty for the performance. The Thunder are six days away from the games that really matter so getting stoked to play in an empty New Orleans Arena probably wasn’t all that easy. Still: That doesn’t mean they’re allowed to lose. Especially since their playoff position isn’t set in stone quite yet.
Sometimes, great emotional wins are really hard to recap and summarize, because so much happened that you don’t even know where to begin. This is the opposite. So much didn’t happen that I don’t really even know what to say. I hope the team is embarrassed. I hope they feel dumb.
And I hope they play better on Wednesday.
- The last two games, the Thunder are 16-60 from 3. That’s 26.6 percent. It’s a horrible habit they have, it seems. The worse they’re shooting them, the more they seem to take.
- Hey, Serge Ibaka played pretty good! Had 22 points, 16 rebounds and a career-high five assists. Good job, Serge!
- I don’t think I’ve seen KD less into a game since maybe the Minnesota one the second of the season. He was just so unfocused. Falling asleep defensively, coasting and drifting offensively and just sort of expecting points to come to him. He finally sort of tried to snap out of it late in the fourth, but it was way too late.
- The worst thing about a bad loss is definitely how it causes people to say really dumb things. It’s possible for a team to lose a game in a really terrible way and it not be related to the bigger picture and warrant sweeping generalizations and conclusions. This game was as pathetic as they come, but don’t let the frustrations and angst of watching that disaster overwhelm your common sense.
- Searching for reasons for the result? Look no further than to Nick Collison getting ejected in the second quarter. He had a brief skirmish with Austin Rivers, which led to both getting tossed from the game.
- Not so surprisingly, the Thunder’s broadcast didn’t show this angle, which explains Rivers’ reaction a little better.
- I liked my joke on Twitter, so I’m going to make it again: If Rivers and Collison actually got into a fight, Nick totally should’ve jumped on him and yelled “You don’t know where I’ve been!” over and over.
- The players didn’t show up, and that’s nobody’s fault but their own. But Scott Brooks certainly didn’t help much. He never got any kind of consistent, effective lineup on the floor and once he seemed to find a little spark with Roberson and then Steven Adams, he subbed both out. Playing Fisher — on Tyreke Evans, no less — extended minutes down the stretch made no sense whatsoever. And then tack on the fact that Ibaka and Durant both played more than 40 minutes in a wasted, losing effort a week before the playoffs and you have to wonder if Brooks has ever coached a worse game.
- Thabo Sefolosha: 0-5 shooting 0-4 from 3. And not a single one had the look of ever going in. Still: I think the Thunder could’ve certainly used him more than what Fisher was giving them down the stretch. Especially as Evans torched them possession after possession in the fourth, a quarter where Thabo didn’t play a single second.
- With the Thunder’s loss tonight, it keeps my streak alive of predicting exactly what their record will be. Going on three years right now.
- But seriously though, Jackson played some kind of terrible game. Maybe his neck was bothering him that much still.
- Bright side! Caron Butler did good things again. He had 19 on 6-9 shooting, including 3-5 from 3. For a good while, he was keeping the Thunder in it.
- I appreciate Brian Davis’ commitment to pronouncing Alexis Ajinca’s name the way he thought it was supposed to be, but that annoyed me greatly, for some reason.
- I’m pretty ticked we got robbed on probably seeing Steven Adams and Perry Jones play 40 minutes on Wednesday, with the likely debut of Grant Jerrett.
- After only turning it over 35 total times the last four games, the Thunder gave it away 18 times tonight.
- So who has the career-high for the Pistons? Peyton Siva? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Nah, it’s definitely going to be Kyle Singler.
Next up: Home against the Pistons on Wednesday