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Five Thoughts 11-15-17 (Thunder 92, Bulls 79)

1. I thought the Thunder did a really nice job tonight of TRYING to respect the game and take the Bulls seriously. However, that ultimately proved impossible. I get it. I tried too. Again, impossible though. As you might imagine considering I operate this blog for free and completely for my own kicks, I’m a basketball/Thunder nerd. But not even I could fake it tonight: that was boring as hell. My God, I started watching the clock about midway through the first quarter. The Thunder came out and played hard early on, completely stifling a pathetic opponent, but as the game progressed, it just wasn’t realistic to maintain 100% focus. They were bored. They did what they needed to do. They took a big lead early, never allowed the Bulls to threaten, and they even coveted the spread (albeit barely). Along the way they also took a nap, as did I.

2. Due to the above, my analysis for this game is neutral. I won’t give them any real credit for their win and I won’t deduct anything for some of their more ugly moments. It is very hard to eliminate human nature from the game. They knew they could win this game even giving a D+ effort and in those cases it is difficult to then show up with your A+ game. I think they likely dropped a C+ and called it an easy night. That’s fine. Again, they didn’t mess around to a point where the game was ever in doubt so it didn’t bother me. It’s a long, long season– you can’t go balls to the wall every night. Pacing yourself is fine. The Bulls are atrocious. It would almost be rude to give 100% effort against them. The Thunder have played them twice and destroyed them both times. Whatever.

3. My only actual takeaway from this game would be to point out that Russ is getting off to very slow starts lately. Even last year as he was rewriting the record books he often started more methodically. His aim was often to get others involved early and then go into bananas mode as the game wore on. But he was still dominating the flow. This year, it’s more of a struggle early in games. As a matter of fact, the offense didn’t flow well at all tonight until Felton relieved him late in the first quarter. That is precisely when things opened up and the Thunder calmed down a bit and started getting better shots. The defense was great all around, but the offense was ugly– until the switch at PG. Then, once he came back in I thought Russ played quite well and had his hands all over the game. They extended the lead to an insurmountable level and Russ was a big part of that. But I do think it is worth noting that he seems a bit off at the start of games right now. It isn’t anything I’m worried about, likely just part of the feeling out process, but it is something that could hurt them against better teams if it causes them to fall behind.

4. There was some frustration and tension after the four game losing streak and 4-7 start. This week at home was just what the doctored ordered. You don’t often get weeks like this. The Thunder were home for 7 full days. From Friday through Thursday they were in OKC, playing three games; all being games they should have won– two of them against teams EVERYONE should beat. It was a good time for a breather and a good time to get some extra practice, extra rest, and low stress minutes. I’m not going ga-ga over the fact that they went 3-0 this week and by no means do I think everything is fixed or that they’ve worked out all the kinks. But things did look better. PG13 was quiet tonight, but flashed big time in the first two wins. And you can’t discount that they didn’t have Adams for any of the three games and still did just fine. Hopefully this calmed everyone down and allows them to focus on getting better. Aside from a few breakdowns (mostly by Russ) late in the Clippers game, their defense was fine. Offensively it was more up and down, but more guys were involved and there were more signs of movement. Most importantly, they were MUCH more patient on that end of the floor and much more aggressive.

5. Now they need to translate whatever strides they’ve made against much stiffer competition. Looks like Kawhi will still be out for the Spurs on Friday night, but as always, Pop and friends are doing their thing anyway. They lost in Minnesota tonight but otherwise they’ve been very good thus far. Aldridge is off to a hot start and Rudy Gay is playing very well. They just always do their thing and seemingly never miss a beat. It is always very difficult to win in their building and Friday night will be no exception. I think it is an important game for the Thunder. Silly to call anything a “must win” at this stage of the season (it isn’t), but it would be disappointing to win these three games and then immediately lose once the competition stiffens. They then play Monday at New Orleans before their home date with the Dubs the night before Thanksgiving. They need to win at least one of these next two on the road. It would obviously be preferable to get both and enter that game against Golden State with some real momentum.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.

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