Five Thoughts 3-6-18 (Rockets 122, Thunder 112)

1. I’ve only missed doing the big three times all year— two of them were the two games previous to tonight (win at Suns, loss at Blazers). I’m 40 years old and now have three kids ages 9 and under. Somewhat amazingly, I’ve dodged the flu or any major illness my entire adult life. I’ve always felt the karmic alignment would eventually catch up to me— and it most certainly did over the weekend. I’ll spare the details, but in addition to myself, my wife, and the one year old all being diagnosed with the flu over the past 72 hours, I also broke my face. Don’t ask. But I straight broke it. Miraculously avoided emergency dental surgery. Perhaps those that knew me before this accident will find an improvement has been made. Perhaps I will make the Lloyd Christmas half-tooth look fashionable in Edmond. In any event, while I did watch both of those games, I was in no frame of mind to write about them.

2. In addition to “Flu Face 2018” this is also the natural time of the year where I feel burnout as a fan. I’ve watched every single game thus far and attended the majority of the home games. March Madness is about to heat up and this is when I sort of want to tune out the NBA for a couple of weeks. I won’t of course, but my mojo is lower than normal. The past few games elicited less emotion for me than normal— partly perhaps due to the Thunder themselves, but mostly due to the general burnout— this happened even in years where the Thunder were rolling. Watching this team right now, it isn’t a bad time to check out emotionally for awhile.

3. Tonight was just reality. The only asterisk for me is that losing Andre really did crush the Thunder in terms of what they were capable of doing against elite teams. We briefly saw what the vision was right around Christmas. It looked good. But the reality is that he is gone and the Thunder should have been better equipped to survive his absence. If losing him was ultimately the fine-line difference in a close playoff series, so be it. But it shouldn’t be this drastic night to night. And tonight was checkers vs chess. If you are laying blame, you first start by tipping your cap to Houston and what they are doing. They are a machine— just eating up the league. There are few times that have been able to dance with them this year. But to look like just one of many teams that flail against them instead of a team that can possibly challenge them is highly discouraging. Donovan certainly deserves a lot of heat. It’s too late in the year for them to appear so disjointed. In Donovan’s defense I am sure the team isn’t exactly always executing his plan. And there is a reality there with Russ that he is a hard guy to coach and play alongside. Not in terms of strife or effort, but just in terms of how he plays and what makes him tick. Tonight, Russ was just too sloppy (even though he was shooting well early). If you want to beat a precision time like Houston, you need to be precise on your own. Losing to Portland and Houston individually aren’t bad losses at all (those teams are on a combined 23 game winning streak) but the idea here is that OKC can be one of the teams to make noise in the post-season— and if they can’t push the elite teams or the hot teams, it doesn’t leave you feeling overly confident.

4. One positive from tonight is Corey Brewer. Not only did he provide some offensive pop off the bench, he was very active on the defensive end. He played hard and looked like he had fresh legs (which he should). He’s been around a long time so there isn’t any real learning curve. Still not sure he will make any sort of real impact, but I’m a bit more intrigued now than I was when we signed him. I’ve already seen enough to say go ahead and start him in place of Huestis. I am still waiting to figure out what Huestis brings to the table. Thunder could use a little boost of energy right now and maybe Brewer can provide that as a starter.

5. My confidence level is low. Season has been a grind and they just haven’t made the strides I was hoping they would. No sense in bailing now though. Playoffs are a new game so I still very much want the Thunder to get there and to get there as a 6 seed or better so they avoid the two monsters in the first round. Who knows, maybe we get past round one and have some momentum. Maybe someone on the other side sprains an ankle. We still have enough top like talent to keep that glimmer lit for me. But first, they better make the damn playoffs. It’s scary right now for sure. They play three more in a row at home (Suns, Spurs, Kings) and then go to Atlanta. That’s three of the worst teams in the league and a Spurs team that is hurting. They really need to win all four of those games. If they do, you will likely start to see some cushion in the standings. 3-1 wouldn’t be a disaster, but would also not inspire me. If they go 2-2 or worse simply making the playoffs becomes a very serious and legitimate question.

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