Two crucial, vital, make-or-break possessions. Two Thunder pull-your-hair-out, yell-at-the-TV turnovers.
How frustrating for Saturday's 103-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks to end in such a sloppy way for Oklahoma City after playing arguably its best all-around game of the season. Down two 99-97 with the ball, OKC marched up the court with under 30 seconds remaining and a chance to tie or take the lead. But Jeff Green - who was stellar - tried to force the ball to the post to Kevin Durant - who was also stellar - and the pass sailed wide out of bounds.
Then after two Dallas free throws and down four, Damien Wilkins - who had a solid game - lost control of the ball virtually sealing OKC's fate.
And while this goes down as No. 22 in a rapidly expanding string of losses, this one looked good. On the road against an above average West opponent and you lead for most of the game, stretch a lead to nine at one point late and have a chance to win. It's not the "We can build on this" game, but there's no reason to complain. The Thunder played hard for 48, executed all night, rebounded, defended and hit shots. This was a fun game to watch, even with the unfavorable result.
OKC spread the scoring as Green tied a season-high with 25, Durant had 22 and Russell Westbrook clocked another excellent game netting 19, but also had six assists and eight rebounds. As Brian Davis loves to say - over and over and over - that's a glimpse of the Thunder's future. If those three can turn in that type of performance on a consistent basis and you add in two or three role players, this is a contending team. That's a big "if" because all three are under the age of 23, but that's also encouraging because they sky is the limit for them.
But how about Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Those two combined for 74 of the Mavs 103 points (Nowitzki 46, Terry 28). And at times, Dirk was literally unstoppable. There was no one to guard him. Green wasn't long enough to alter his shot and while Durant had the length, he didn't have the strength. That was quite a show from that duo. The next highest point total was eight from Jason Kidd.
Make fun all you want but this was just a good basketball game that OKC came up short in. The Mavs are the better team but the Thunder hung around because of great effort and better execution. It will be tough to match the energy and intensity tomorrow night in San Antonio, but this game was a tiny, baby-step forward. I know it's a loss but considering how the previous game went down (loss at home to Memphis after leading by 21), I'll take it.
And yay for Sam Bradford. Heisman winner No. 5 for Football U. Now on to winning the next trophy.