Thunder Journal: Thunder Beats the Pelicans. Dang It, Daigneault!natashapanchal.com

Thunder Journal: Thunder Beats the Pelicans. Dang It, Daigneault!

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We have been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok and flat out deceived.

Where is this tanking Thunder team that’s going to cost Cade Cunningham over 64 miles in U-Haul gas money that we were promised?

OKC avenged the New Orleans New Year’s Eve beat down with a 111-110 win on Wednesday night. But at what cost?

The Thunder are going to be battling for the bottom barrel of the standings come crunch time, and a little 1 point win over the Pelicans here and a fun 1 point win over the Hornets there could end up being the difference between a Cunningham at #1, an Evan Mobley at #2 or a Jalen Suggs at #3 and a Some Dude at #9, a Hope He’s Good at #10 and a Raw Talent at #11.

The good news is the Thunder’s young returning trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Lu Dort might be pretty good.

The bad news is the Thunder’s young returning trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Lu Dort might be pretty good.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 21 points including 10 in a  crucial third quarter run, 9 assists that should’ve been more like 19 assists, and a career high 5 steals. He scored or assisted on 12 of OKC’s final 14 points.

Lu Dort scored 9 points on 3-4 shooting and covered Brandon Ingram so tightly on the Pelicans’ final possession that you could’ve mistaken him for one of Ingram’s tats. Ingram couldn’t get loose of Lu, so he passed off to SGA’s cousin NAW, who had the game winning attempt contested by… Lu Dort.

And then there’s Darius Bazley. At halftime, the Thunder were down by 5. And Darius took that personally. The 21 year old went on a personal 11-0 run to open the second half. He scored 15 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter. He notched his third double double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Shai gets the headlines, Dort gets the memes, but Baze has quietly become the story for the Thunder this season.

The Thunder’s young guns are off limits in any trade scenarios, but they’re the three main reasons why OKC has won three out of seven games. So what can Sam Presti do to ensure this Thunder Three turns into a Fantastic Four?

Mike Muscala must be moved immediately. This man has no regard whatsoever for Thunder 1st round draft picks. Last year, Muscala hit a game winning and 2020 1st round pick losing 3 to beat the Heat in a glorified Bubble exhibition. Now he’s back to his old tricks. The Pelicans beat the Thunder by 33 a week ago, so #33 hit three 3s in a 45 second span to balloon a 4th quarter lead to double digits. Muscala has no right recklessly rattling off an efficient 18 points with 5-7 3 point shooting. We have no room in the tank for a Moose. A Cade in the hand is worth two Mikes in Utah.

While we are sending Muscala to enjoy the mountains, let’s send George headed for the Hills as well. The veteran sharpshooter scored 13 points on the night including the two game winning free throws with 12 seconds left on the clock. Completely irresponsible clutch shooting that would’ve easily been bricked away by a lesser talent but more future conscientious thinker.

Al Horford must like living in Bricktown because he’s doing his best to stay in OKC by remodeling every hardwood into his own personal brick town. Big Al only scored 8 points on 11 shots, but he did have 3 blocks and 5 leaderships. Horford is an asset this season because he’s either helping with the tank or he’s recouping his trade value.

And the break glass in case of emergency tank plan? Poku’s development is accelerated by way of greenlighting at least 20 shot attempts per game, minimum.

We were led to believe the Thunder would be the worst team in the NBA this season. Turns out, that was a lie.

Because Shai, Bazley and Dort are the truth.

Notes:

  • The Thunder are currently tied for the #8 seed in the West.
  • The Rockets lost again, meaning if the season were to end right now, the Thunder would have the #6 overall pick courtesy of Russ and PG13.
  • Steven Adams got his first career triple double AGAINST THE THUNDER.
  • The streak continues: Lu Dort has hit at least one 3 in every game this season.
  • Darius Bazley has real potential as a versatile defender, but Zion weighs a Poku more than him.
  • Hamidou Diallo deserves more praise for his play this season. The forgotten young Thunderer is averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, a steal and half a block a game in 19.4 minutes. And he’s doing it on 50% shooting. If you ignore his 3 point percentage, he’s a quality bench player. Thankfully, he’s been ignoring the 3 point line.
  • The Thunder bench was fantastic in the first half. Playing against Zion, OKC’s backups went on a 10-0 run and took a 47-41 lead. Diallo, Muscala, Maledon and Roby all played well. Especially Hami.
  • Every Thunder fan knows that Steven Adams moonlights as an NFL quarterback. Pelicans fans got a taste of his passing skills with a pretty behind the back, no-look pass on a fast break.
  • OKC really drafted Baze at #23 and got Lu Dort in the $5 movie bin.
  • Yes, OKC wants a top 3 pick in 2021. But if they win, this is exactly how they want to win: because of the young core.
  • OKC’s three wins this season have come against teams who are a combined 13-11. OKC’s four losses are all against good teams. OKC avenged two of those losses. OKC is 3-1 on the road. This is why I say this team as currently constructed is too good to properly tank.
  • Mark Daigneault on the Thunder locker room: “It was a fun win. The guys are excited after that one.”
  • Up next: the how are they this good Thunder vs the but seriously how are they this good Knicks on Friday night.

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