Oklahoma City Thunder (3-25) vs. Atlanta Hawks (17-10)
Tuesday, December 23
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
The last time these two got together, Oklahoma City led an undefeated Atlanta squad for about 40 minutes and then a late 18-5 run doomed the Thunder as the Hawks won 89-85.
When the Hawks are focused and are playing hard, they're good. Like good as in they can play and win with anyone. But they are also the type of team that can potentially come out flat, overlook an opponent and lose. And that's precisely what OKC fans are hoping for tonight. A lackluster effort from Atlanta enabling the Thunder to stay close for four quarters and maybe squeak one out.
One thing about Atlanta though, is they're good at home. Like 11-2 good. They've played very solid defense this year and when they're hitting from three, they're nearly unstoppable. And they do it even better at home.
It's a weird feeling to be a Thunder fan right now. Somehow, someway, my excitement for the team is beginning to catch a second wind. The expectations are gone and the team's playing so much better. The wins really haven't come as a result, but knowing the team will likely be competitive each night makes losing constantly a little bit easier to take. The Thunder's average margin of defeat has fallen from 13.0 points over their first 16 games to 4.4 in the last 12, but they're still 2-10 in that span. We knew the team would be bad, but watching it steadily improve and get to the point where it can compete each night is fun. And knowing help is on the way in Nenad Krstic, it's really fun to watch the building blocks come in to place and see a team built from the ground up.
No expectations tonight, except to be competitive. Hang tough, give yourself a chance. I know some readers and like to poke fun at "improving yet losing." But with any team, what are you supposed to take out of a game? If the Team A doesn't have near the talent, the ability or the intangibles of Team B, what are you to hope for if you're a fan of A? Is it realistic to hope for wins against superior opponents and be pissed if you lose? Or do you stay realistic and hope the team plays as well as it can and stays competitive and if it wins, then that's just a bonus? Because that's the mindset of Thunder fans. Play hard, play well and just hang tough. At this point, that's all we can ask for.