Loud City can be a pretty special place.
Even as the team it roots for is rebuilding, the fans in OKC can still shake the building.
For the first half of Friday night’s game against the young Pelicans, the Thunder crowd was enthusiastic but a bit subdued, maybe suffering the after effects of a collective turkey coma. The home team was methodically outplaying New Orleans, but not in a particularly exciting fashion. No high flying dunks (RIP Hamidou 2019), no flurries of threes falling, no Pelican soul crushing blocks.
Then the dreaded third quarter reared its ugly head, and the Thunder saw their once 16 point lead turn into a near double digit deficit. Loud City slowly morphed into Silent City.
Enter Dennis Schroder and Abdel Nader.
On the strength of Schroder’s game high 25 points (on 24 shots) and Nader’s 19, the Thunder stormed back in the fourth quarter, and The Peake crowd sounded like they were trying to do their best 2012 impression of themselves.
Schroder pulled off a fancy rope a dope with the ball, causing a Pelicans defender to look silly, and hit a big basket, drawing oohs, ahhs and a big roar. On the other end, Nerlens Noel swatted away a JJ Redick drive to the rim and the crowd was sent into a frenzy.
Then with just moments left in the game and the Thunder clinging to a 2 point lead, Steven Adams caused 18,000 fans to go hoarse when he slammed home an emphatic dagger dunk.
This Thunder team isn’t contending this season. The playoffs are overwhelmingly doubtful. More than likely, moves will be made to weaken this roster instead of improve it, possibly sooner than later.
Thunder fans know all of that, and yet here they were en masse on a Black Friday against the Zion-less Pelicans shouting with unbridled passion for backup role players Schroder, Nader and Noel in a comeback win that may ultimately do OKC more harm than good.
Judging by the decibel level in The Peake in the 4th quarter, you’d have no idea that OKC was cheering a 6-11 squad. Many talking heads questioned if Thunder fans would continue to live up to the hype as one of the NBA’s best fanbases when the on-court product stopped winning games and Russell Westbrook wasn’t wearing blue and orange.
Those doubters got dunked on by Adams and 18,000 of his mates tonight.
- This win tonight pushed the Thunder up to the 11 spot in the Western Conference standings, and even more shockingly, only 1 game out of the 8 seed and a playoff spot. Considering the Pelicans are likely a team they are competing against for lottery balls, Sunday’s rematch in New Orleans could have big implications down the road.
- The Thunder are caught in NBA limbo right now: not quite talented enough to be a real playoff contender, but too talented to fall to the bottom of the standings. You wanna be 1-8 or 13-15. But OKC seems to keep bouncing between 10-12.
- The schedule lightens up soon, so wins may start coming a little more regularly and the Thunder moves into playoff contention. But the December 15 newly signed free agent trade date is right around the corner, so maybe a trade is made and the Thunder moves into James Wiseman/Anthony Edwards/LaMelo Ball contention.
- Steven Adams scored 10 points in the first 4 minutes of the game, getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He scored 0 points in the middle 43 minutes. He scored 4 points in the final minute. It almost seems like the Thunder felt it was too easy to just keep going to Adams, so they had to challenge themselves and see if they could get the points elsewhere.
- Whenever I was a kid and played Madden on my Sega Genesis, if a play worked, I would just do it over and over and over again until my brother would stop me. Seems like the Thunder could’ve gone with the Madden strategy with Adams this game.
- Steven Adams threw one full court pass that threaded the needle between two Pelicans defenders and was caught by the outstretched hands of Deonte Burton. He later threw another full court pass caught by Danilo Gallinari over a defender. Adams’ stats on the night: 2 pass completions for 62 yards, 2 touchdowns and a perfect quarterback rating.
- Prime Hakeem, Mutombo and Shaq could all three be planted in the paint, and Abdel Nader would drive full speed to the rim with 100% confidence that he was getting a bucket.
- We gotta give it up to Nader, though. After setting his career high in points with 23 in garbage time minutes against the Blazers on Wednesday, he came back and scored 19 tonight in crucial game time minutes.
- While the shine is coming off a bit for Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, the other former young Lakers core member Brandon Ingram has really taken a leap with the Pelicans. He scored 26 points, grabbed 8 boards and dished out 4 assists against the Thunder.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored only 10 points on 13 shots tonight. I could be wrong, but it’s the first time I remember SGA having more attempts than points. He was clearly visibly frustrated with himself tonight, and I expect a big bounce back on Sunday in New Orleans.
- Steven Adams with maybe the coldest, sickest dagger dunk of his life and 18,000 people lose their minds. The only person in the building who wasn’t crazy hyped: Steven Adams. He was completely nonplussed as he walked off nonchalantly and his teammates mobbed him.