Five Thoughts 1-25-18 (Thunder 121, Wizards 112)

1. “Energy” is a word that gets kicked around a lot in sports. I find it to be over-used for the most part. It’s an easy/lazy way to describe a team/individual performance when things aren’t going well. Players are often the main culprits as it is sometimes easier to diagnose yourself as having “low energy” as opposed to acknowledging you might just be inferior. That said, energy isn’t fake news. It is a real thing and there are occasions where it affects the outcome of a game. The weird thing about it is that if one team has none of it, then it’s hard for the other team to deliver it as well. Tonight, the Wizards were absolutely lifeless in the first half. They looked terrible. Thunder defense was good, but the Wiz were a train wreck. Thunder looked like they came to play, but Washington was so plodding and emotionless that it was hard for the Thunder (or the crowd) to really fully get into the game. They did a fine job, carrying a 14 point lead into halftime, but it felt a little weird. In essence the Wizards killed them to sleep. And when Washington came out for the second New with a renewed attitude it was difficult for the Thunder to respond. Finally late in the third, both teams seemed to land on the same emotional plane and the game was rather well played down the stretch. I thought the Thunder did a nice job of recognizing it was time to turn it back up before it was too late.

2. Adams DESTROYED Marcin Gortat tonight. Polish basketball fans are probably hanging their heads in shame. It’s cliche to say that a player has an impact that goes beyond the box score, but I don’t know how else to say it in regards to Adams. He had 12 and 10 which is a solid night, but it doesn’t come close to illustrating the utter chaos he causes. Beyond the points and rebounds, he also had three steals and who knows how many tips, taps, shoves, arm-bars, scrambles, dives, and floor burns. There is an old saying about what gives when the irresistible force meets the immovable object…but what about when the irresistible force IS the immovable object? Gortat is a large man, generally a physical player. Tonight, he was reduced to virtual rubble. Emasculated by a Kiwi Monster. Gortat had one rebound. It was all Adams was willing to allow. The West is beyond loaded so I won’t say Adams not making the All Star team was a snub. But make no mistake, he has turned into an All Star caliber player. And he’s only 24.

3. Thunder lead the league in steals and they are near the top in several other defensive metrics. From a less formal point of view it is hard to imagine any team in the league makes bigger game-swinging impact plays than they do. It’s pretty remarkable. Washington played really, really well offensively in the second half. Beal was on fire and their shots were falling left and right. Sometimes it’s hard to cool down a hot shooting team. One way to do it is by not allowing them to shoot. Thunder has some huge steals/forced turnovers in the fourth quarter that allowed them to get stopes without the Wiz having to actually miss. PG and Roberson are the maestros of the steal show, but it also rubs off on everyone else. The starting five combined for 14 steals. That’s a massive number. And it doesn’t take into account any forced turnovers that didn’t get recorded as an official steal. The five Thunder starters now have a 15 game winning streak when they are all available. Clearly it’s an effective lineup. And it starts with stellar D.

4. As good as the starting five has been all year, they were actually -6 in the plus/minus category tonight whereas the bench was an eye-popping +51. After a called them a group of cadavers a few weeks ago, the bench has been far better. The development of TFerg is interesting.. and potentially extremely important. He is beginning to look very comfortable and on defense he is at the very least playing his heart out. I questioned Donovan going to these bench-only lineups to start the 2nd/4th quarters, but I’m starting to get it. This is helping to define roles and I also think it is empowering the bench players individually. It appears Donovan has landed on a rotation and he should ride it as long.

5. Pretty amazing that we are at Thought #5 and I’ve yet to mention the guy that had 46 points on 19-29 shooting. I ran out of words for Russ about midway through the season last year. Now I often just shake my head in amazement. It’s hard to see someone do that on blog. So just shake your head in amazement and you will get the idea. It’s a joy to watch him game in and game out. Six in a row ties the season high. Team is playing at a high level and looking very confident. Pretty tough back to back Sat/Sun with Detroit and Philly. Not brutal, but not the end of the world if they lose one. Thunder caught Minnesota in the loss column tonight. Here we come. Just lulled everyone to sleep early.

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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Ed Kleese