Good morning my friendly Thunder fans. I am out of town today so there’s not going to be any bolts for you to soak in. I know, it sucks. This is like the first weekday that’s missing these bad boys since… well a long time. So as an early morning replacement in an effort to not throw off your morning routine (because I know so many of you go to bed looking forward to these), I’m tossing up an old column from earlier in the year. Enjoy and I’ll see you Friday.
Let me tell you up front, this is the toughest post game recap I’ve had to write.
I wanted this game. I mean, I wanted it.
I know it’s some meaningless mid-season game for a 13-40 team. I know by all appearances, this game is just another in a long season. But it was more than that.
Everybody could feel it today. The Thunder were the talk of the town today with the big Tyson Chandler deal. Everybody was buzzing about the Hornets in town with a new mascot to be unveiled. The Thunder had everyone’s attention in this state. The phone lines on the Sports Animal were full all day. But not to talk about Blake Griffin or OU football. Nope. People wanted to talk about Kevin Durant and Sam Presti.
And tonight, with our first love in town, I saw this as the night we turned the page. We could close the book on the Hometown Hornets and completely open up a new one for the Thunder. I envisioned a back-and-forth game with the Thunder pulling out a tight one in front of a ballistic crowd with our new hero, Kevin Durant leading the charge. It all set up to be the story-book way to officially make this team our own.
And everything was going to plan. The Hornets dominated the first quarter and the Thunder couldn’t throw a ball into the ocean. Everyone was groaning and having flashbacks to opening night where OKC got rolled as a crowd that was ready to explode had to sit on its hands.
But then things started to turn. Nenad Krstic played his best game of the season giving awesome energy on the glass and playing great defense on the interior. Kevin Durant shucked the jumper that wasn’t falling and went in the paint and stuffed it in NOLA’s face. Jeff Green got tough and pushed back against David West. Kyle Weaver was playing hard-nosed defense and containing Chris Paul. Earl Watson was making me want to run out into the middle of I-40 with a black jump suit on. So maybe that’s not a good thing. But with everyone thinking about halftime and the new mascot, OKC went on an electrifying 9-0 run to close to within 53-47. Game on.
Then Rumble the Bison came lowering from the rafters pounding away at a drum set. And while something just looked slightly off with him (too much hair? Head too big? What is it?), everything was complete. There was nothing left to wait on. Everything was unveiled, announced and completed. This was our franchise.
The two teams went back-and-forth and our new star took the game over. It was the game we wanted. KD had a ridiculous night scoring a career-high 47 points and hitting an impossible fadeaway three to knot the game at 98-98. The crowd was as loud as it’s ever been. Nobody cared about Chris Paul or David West. They were the enemy now. We wanted blood and it didn’t matter that we were going to take it from our first love.
But then CP3 did what CP3 does, hitting a shot with a second left and crushing our hearts and souls as the Hornets won 100-98. It was over. The night the Thunder became our own and the Hornets were put to rest ended in disappointment. OKC lost and the dream night didn’t happen.
But honestly, as I sit here writing this, I realize it actually has happened. I feel a pit in my stomach and I’m genuinely pissed about losing. I don’t feel any “Oh, well at least it was to the Hornets!” consolation at all. It sucks more that it was to the Hornets. Those jerks. There were moments in the game where Paul would flop and whine and I would think, “Oh come on. Grow a pair you wiener.” I thought that. About Chris Paul!
As if I didn’t already feel the connection with this team, I’m really feeling it now. I watched Kevin Durant put it all on the line, playing with everything he had. I watched Jeff Green make play after play, taking it to the hole and finishing. I watched Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic battle for every rebound and scrape, scratch and claw. I watched Kyle Weaver grind out defensive possessions and Russell Westbrook dive for loose balls. I watched an entire team give everything they had – even though they were 13-40 and this game wasn’t supposed to matter.
I envisioned OKC beating the Hornets and this being the night to remember – the night the Thunder became our team. And ironically with a loss, maybe it was hammered home even more.