Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thunder lets one get away against Atlanta

For 46 minutes, Oklahoma City was the best team on the floor.

Every big shot, every big rebound, every big possession, went the way of the Thunder. Maybe it was pressure, maybe it was inexperience or maybe it was bad luck, but in the last two minutes OKC folded like Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot (hello Ari Gold) in an 89-85 loss to the Atlanta Hawks (5-0).

But honestly, this was probably the best, most complete game OKC (1-5) has played this year. The bench was great, Kevin Durant was solid and there was fight in the team for four full quarters - well, more like three and half, but let's not be too picky. If you don't walk away from this one being encouraged, you're either a Sonics die-hard or didn't watch the game.

With the score tied at 80, the Thunder failed to do the little things to win. Russell Westbrook, who was terrific tonight, made a bad decision and threw the ball into traffic. Joe Johnson hit a runner in the lane to take a 82-80 edge and Oklahoma City just didn't have an answer. That answer probably should've been Durant and something that bothered me was the fact that Kid Delicious didn't take one shot down the stretch. Now, I realize he had the ball in his hands and made a few nice passes to open men, but in the second half he was near unstoppable, though for some reason under two he didn't try to put the team on his back. Whether that's Earl Watson's fault for not getting him the ball in better scoring situations or KD's for not taking the initiative, I don't know. The fact is, he played 40 minutes (woo!), scored 20 points on 9-21 shooting, was overall great but didn't take over in crunch time. All part of the learning process I guess.

Something though that is becoming a little apparent with Durant is his slight deficiency in ball-handling. In traffic he has trouble controlling the ball and as a result, has trouble driving and pulling up for a shot. I may be wrong, but most of his sweet jumpers seem to come off one to three dribbles. Maybe he needs to bulk up a little to take the bumps and pushes that come with driving into the meat of a defense or just plain get a little stronger with the rock. Or maybe just keep popping those gorgeous one-dribble jays from 20. Whatever.

I don't want to be the guy that complains about officiating, so I won't. But let's put it this way - Hawks: 33 free throw attempts, OKC: 20. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. But even without that, the main problem was the Thunder just didn't have an answer for Joe Johnson. He had 25 and Atlanta's offense was clearly going through him down the stretch, but yet OKC couldn't step up and get the stop.

Back to the bench. Joe Smith was excellent. Just excellent. He had 14 points, nine boards off the bench and played the lane pretty well against the Hawks' bigs. Robert Swift made his first appearance of the season and was a huge boost. He could be a total game changer this season. He is so big and strong and looks like he could control the middle. If he turns out to be everything they thought he would, he could seriously elevate this team to a higher level. I look forward to more foul trouble by Johan Petro so we can see more Swift on the floor. Chris Wilcox left early with a knee sprain. Hopefully it's not too serious as he was playing pretty well tonight before it happened. Desmond Mason is playing wonderfully off the pine as he had nine points and seven boards in 27 really good minutes.

Again, Russell Westbrook was very good tonight. He had 15 points (career high) and ignited the sluggish offense in the first half, finishing with 11 at the half. And that dunk. Oh, that dunk. Probably my favorite moment of this young season. I plan on seeing that on SportsCenter later this evening and rewinding multiple times with DVR as Scott Van pelt says, "Oh, that was siiick young fella!" Too bad he didn't close better, but hey, that's just part of it. You take the good with the bad with a rookie.

No way that's a foul. All ball! All ball!

The Thunder didn't shoot the ball well again tonight (39 percent) but luckily, the defense was good again. As mentioned in the pre-game story, Atlanta plays good defense, so the fact Oklahoma City matched them on that side of the floor was the main reason it was in it. There has really been major strides defensively, which is great. There's lot of effort, lots of talking and the rotation is solid.

Overall, like I said, a very good game for the Thunder. Atlanta is probably one of the best team's in the East and OKC took them to the limit. A few bounces here and there and the Thunder walks away with a win. It was frustrating to watch the Hawks get three cracks with a four point lead woth under a minute left. OKC just couldn't secure the rebound and when it looked like they would, the ball went off Earl's arm. Like I said, a bounce in the right way and the Thunder might have got it done.

I truly think this team is turning the corner a bit and in two weeks they probably win this game. Guys are learning how to play with each other, but one major part of the learning process is learning how to win. How to close out games. How to secure that big rebound. How to lock down on their go-to-guy and get a big stop. Just things that you have to learn along the way. This will be a game that at the end of the year, the Thunder looks back on and says, "We should have had that one."

No time to sulk as Oklahoma City is off to Indiana tomorrow to take on Danny Granger and the 2-3 Pacers.


Anonymous said...

Your naivete is so amusing. Actually, I can sort of sympathize with you, because last year there were SO many games where it looked like we might have a chance, and then suddenly the opponent realized "F*** it, it's time to take this seriously" and proceeded to handle the Sonics down the stretch. Get used to being deluded into thinking you have a chance, only to be painfully reminded that you have BY FAR the worst roster in the NBA. It will take YEARS to recover from the intentional tankjob Bennett pulled in Seattle last year.

I also thought this was a cute quote: "This will be a game that at the end of the year, the Thunder looks back on and says, 'We should have had that one.'"

Yes, I'm sure the Sonics will look back at the end of the season and lament this loss. They'll look back and realize with dismay that if they could have just held on and won this game against "one of the best team's in the East" then they would have upped their season win total from 13 to 14.

You write like a freaking 4th grader, and your basketball insight is nonexistent. I wish there was a legitimate Thunder blog somewhere out there, so I could actually pick fights with people who cared about basketball. Instead, I'm left with no option but to come to your pitiful blog and rip on your posts just so you get some comments.

Oh yeah, one last thing - it makes me sick to my stomach to see that, once again, you failed to sell out the arena. You guys have been short of capacity in HALF of your home games. What happened to the whole notion of OKC being a better home for the Sonics because it had fans who would support the team???

Steve H said...

Swift looks like he is going to be a keeper. I just wish peej had left him and Westbrook in for the stretch run- hopefully we will see some rotation changes in the near future.

Slade the dull blade said...

The post from the idiot from Seattle is hilarious. I guess he doesn't realize that turnstile attendance was less than 10,000 a game in Seattle last year.....of course he doesn't know because he didn't go to the games and support the team, just like the rest of Seattle. OKC is averaging over 18,000 through the gate. Here's how the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the crowd last night......"before a thunderous crowd of 18,231".

How are sports in Seattle these days? Karma's a bitch...

Dooney said...

What is pitiful, is that this guy comes to this Thunder blog to pick fights because apparently there isn't anything to do otherwise in Seattle. I'd rather be watching "almost there" NBA basketball than any sports team in Washington state. Good luck in the Apple Bowl, buddy. Someone's has to come out of there a winner...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you f*cking idiot, of course attendance in Seattle was terrible last year (BTW, I went to 30 games). Do you think people would be showing up to support the Thunder if they had an owner from North Dakota who had already publicly announced his intention to move the team and traded away every good player??

It is absolutely insane to compare attendance in OKC this year to attendance in Seattle last year. What you should be comparing is this year's OKC attendance to what one might reasonably expect for a team in its first year in a supposedly basketball-crazed city. I find it shocking that you haven't managed to sell out every game with ease. Back in the Sonics' glory days, tickets for the entire season were sold out by November. You had no chance of buying tix at the box office the day of the game. That's what a real basketball city looks like (not to mention an economically thriving city).

Funny you should say "Karma's a bitch." What exactly has Seattle done to merit such karma? And how are Aubrey and Tom Ward's bank accounts looking? If you do believe in karma, that would be the place to look.

slade the dull blade said...

Just to update the seattle sports scene for the scumbags who visit this site, The UW mutts were slaughtered again to push their record to 0-9 and further their cause of being the worst team in college football. WSU got creamed again moving to 1-9 but hey, they don't suck as bad as UW and the Seasucks got beat AGAIN ....
Washington...where losing's not just a score, it's a way of life.

Anonymous said...

I don't give a crap about UW, WSU, or the Seahawks. I was a SONICS fan, and a Sonics fan only.

PS - I noticed you posted the exact same little message at Creative.

slade the dull blade said...

I could care less who you like, just pointing out there's no loser like a Washington loser....and Aubrey and Tom may have lost some money but they're still rich, they still have their companies and they still own the Thunder.....How's WAMU doing? Yes, the biggest bank failure in our nations history was Seattle's own Washington Mutual...resulting in over 10,000 people losing their jobs....there's that word again...loser.

Anonymous said...

Oklahoma City's only professional sports team is on pace for 14 wins, so you might want to cut back on the whole "loser" theme.

slade the dull blade said...

You're the troll that came here hurling insults, dumbass. Seattle's two remaining major league teams are two of the worst in their respective leagues which makes you sound like a complete hypocrite when you put ours down....idiot.

#41 said...

So does that mean that the Lakers will win 82 this year? That's what they're on pace for!!!

Dooney said...

The Atlanta Hawks too! Last year at this time, the Sonics were on pace to lose every single game of the year. If you're going to come here and throw those kinds of statements around... at least make them legitimate. We'll practice rebuttals next week "anonymous."

Anonymous said...

"The Atlanta Hawks too! Last year at this time, the Sonics were on pace to lose every single game of the year. If you're going to come here and throw those kinds of statements around... at least make them legitimate."

OK fine, you're right - the Thunder are going to have a tremendous season. Their 1-5 start is statistically insignificant and has no bearing on the fantastic winning streak that is soon to come. And I'm sure that once you start winning with regularity, you'll have no problem selling out games.

"Seattle's two remaining major league teams are two of the worst in their respective leagues which makes you sound like a complete hypocrite when you put ours down....idiot."

No, it doesn't make me sound like a hypocrite. It makes YOU sound like a retard who brings up completely irrelevant facts just to put my city down. This is a board about the NBA and, more specifically, the "Thunder." I could care less how the Seahawks and Huskies are doing. It has no bearing on this discussion. Now, if Seattle and OKC BOTH had NBA teams, and both were terrible, and I still insulted the OKC team, then THAT would make me a hypocrite.

I hope you guys are content to watch your team toil in mediocrity (at best) until it leaves for a bigger city in 10 years.

1) OKC is BY FAR the least attractive market for free agents. Smallest media market, most conservative population, least cosmopolitan city.
2) Aubrey and Tom Ward both lost over 70% of their net worth in the past month. Yes, they are still rich...but no longer rich enough to spend indiscriminately to support a hobby. If Aubrey had that much cash lying around, he would have stopped the bank from selling all his stock in CHK.

Do you think these guys will be willing to pony up for a max-contract free agent? Do you think they'll be able to give KD a max deal in 2011? Do you think KD would have any reason to stick around in your cowtown? Nike is reportedly offering LeBron a huge bonus if he signs with NY. How do you think they feel about KD being in OKC??