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Uh oh. We are starting to have expectations.
The Thunder lost a 1 point heartbreaker to the Celtics on Sunday afternoon. Mind you, a Boston team that had won 6 in a row and 9 of 10 coming into the game and was trotting out a fully healthy starting lineup for only the 15th time all season. The 3 seed in the East. A title contender.
Rewind this game to November or December 2019 and across the board, the reaction from fans would have been one of impressed pride and total satisfaction. But now, fans are yearning for a bit more.
Not that anyone can blame the fans for being spoiled into heightened confidence. This OKC team had won 4 in a row and reeled off wins in 9 of 10 previous games as well. And when it comes to crunch time in close games, or even games with seemingly insurmountable deficits, the Thunder have found ways time and again to pull off the improbable.
But this time the point guard coming up with the biggest clutch play of the game wasn’t Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, nor Dennis Schroder. All three had moments in the fourth quarter that helped OKC keep the game winnable, but it was another point guard with Oklahoma ties who turned the tide in closing time. After a brilliant block from Dennis Schroder on an attempted layup from Gordon Hayward, SGA ended up with the ball in his hands with just over 10 seconds on the clock. That’s when former Oklahoma State Cowboy Marcus Smart stripped Shai clean for a dagger defensive play that sealed the game before the Thunder could attempt a buzzer beating 3 to force overtime.
Now, nobody amongst the Thunder faithful are maddened or overly saddened by a 1 point loss to a top tier Celtics team. There’s just a sense of disappointment and disheartenment that were absent from the fandom’s postgame feelings earlier this season. No sky is falling Chicken Littles, but maybe some sky is cloudy Eeyores.
Are we past the point of celebrating moral victories with this once believed to be tanking Thunder team? Perhaps we should be. After all, the reality now is OKC is a 6 seed on pace for 50 wins. Those kinds of teams are supposed to beat up on softer squads and take down tougher teams at home every once in awhile.
But I can’t help but feel that after a summer in which the franchise was turned on its axis, making the playoffs is a huge win in and of itself, and higher seeds, better records and victories over elite teams are just gravy on top.
My expectation is that the resilient Thunder will bounce back and close out the pre-All Star break schedule with two wins.
- One silver lining about any potential losses from here on out: the odds go up for the Thunder to get to keep their 2020 1st round draft pick. The pick conveys to the Philadelphia 76ers if OKC finishes 1-20 in the overall standings, and the Thunder had temporarily climbed up to the #21 spot before this loss.
- Darius Bazley hurt sprained his knee and had to leave after only playing 3 minutes. Roughly 2 minutes of which he was trying to gut it out on the bum knee.
- The injury hurt the Thunder in two ways. One, Bazley came off the bench and was immediately impacting the game in a positive way. He scored 3 points in 3 minutes, including an impressive finish at the rim in traffic. Two, his replacement Hamidou Diallo really hurt the Thunder in his minutes.
- One of my favorite storylines early this season was Diallo’s apparent transformation from raw athletic prospect last year to a guy this year who looked like a real rotation player. He was playing solid defense, racking up steals, finishing so well at the rim and seemed to have refined his overall game. Since coming back from injury, though, Diallo no longer looks the part of an NBA rotation player. It’s still early and Hami has the tools and the work ethic. But let’s just say, I hope Bazley’s injury won’t keep him out long.
- The Thunder led by 10 going into the third quarter. At the end of the third quarter, the game was tied. Needless to say, OKC lost this game in the third quarter.
- The Thunder may have lost, but not too many teams are scoring 111 against a fully healthy Celtics team. They have one of the very best defenses in the NBA.
- I love how consistently Thunder fans give Enes Kanter huge ovations despite it being several years since he’s played in OKC. No matter where he plays the rest of his career, he’ll never be more loved than he is in Oklahoma City.
- Steven Adams shot a 3! A quarter ending buzzer beater! From the logo! The Dame shot! He missed. Badly. Air balled it, actually. But still cool, right?!
- Talk about balanced scoring. The Thunder’s big 4 scorers against Boston: Shai 24, Gallo 24, CP3 22, Schroder 22.
- In the final couple minutes with the score a one possession game, the Thunder had two easy buckets at the rim bounce in and out on consecutive possessions. Kemba Walker hit two tough contested 3’s on consecutive possessions. And that was the difference in an otherwise toss up ball game.
- Just because it’s Oscar night and I’m a movie junkie who loves making lists and has no shame in taking advantage of my DT platform… here are my Top 10 Movies of 2019: 1. The Irishman 2. Parasite 3. Rocketman 4. OUATIH 5. Knives Out 6. Dolemite Is My Name 7. Freaks 8. Spidey: FFH 9. The Lighthouse 10. 1917
- Up next: the Spurs in OKC on Tuesday night.