Five Thoughts 3-30-18 (Nuggets 126, Thunder 125 OT)

1. This team is draining me. No real energy or desire to pour much into these five thoughts tonight. Beyond that, it really might be better to simple link anyone reading to last night’s entry as I really don’t have much to say that differs wildly from that. Speaking strictly from the fan standpoint I’ve felt all along the Thunder will be better in the playoffs than the regular season. That doesn’t mean they will be good enough to win or even advance past the first round. But whatever the best possible version of the Thunder is right now? I think we will see that version in the post season. I really do. So at this point I just want to get this maddening regular season over with, see what they have to offer in the post season, and then draw conclusions from there. Problem is, the standings are terrifying. You can’t just say “ah, wake me up for the playoffs.” Because you might be sleeping until NEXT April. The odds are still in OKC’s favor to get there. But it isn’t a done deal by any means. Just huge losses the past two nights that put the Thunder in a very shaky position with only five games to go.

2. Gotta talk about the last shot of regulation. That’s all Russ. That isn’t a coaching thing. That is 100% Russ being stubborn to a level of ridiculousness. Donovan did not draw up a play for a pull up elbow three. He did draw up a play for Russ to get the ball and make a play. That is exactly what he SHOULD draw up. Russ is the point guard and the star player. The ball should be in his hands. He simply needs to make a significantly better/smarter decision. Not only did he have 9 seconds to work with, Denver didn’t have a timeout. So that allows some leeway to start your move earlier. Even if the Nuggets get a rebound with 2 seconds left, it won’t be enough time to get downcourt for a shot. Russ is my favorite athlete of all time. But this is a flaw that could prove fatal in the long run. He simply does not accept his weaknesses or seems to acknowledge what is his highest percentage play. If we are down by 2 or 3 there, it makes some sense. If he tries to drive or dish and nothing works and he’s forced to take a three, fine. But that was just a fairly casual choice. Dribble, dribble, pull up, shoot. Other guys who are high percentage long range shooters it’s an OK choice. Russ is a very bad distance shooter— so why make that choice? It is without question the most frustrating thing about him.

3. They won six in a row; now they’ve lost four out of five. Two of those losses were by one point. One by four points, one by three points. In other words, the last 11 games, the Thunder have either won the game or lost it in the final seconds. They really are so, so close to being really good. But when you’ve played 77 games and you are still saying that, it starts to feel so, so far.

4. All of a sudden the Thunder can’t rebound. They are still pounding the offensive glass, but seemingly out of the blue they at giving up opportunities on the other end. Denver killed them on second chance points tonight. The biggest of those came after Grant hit his second three to put the Thunder up 110-104. Holding a six point lead at that point in the game and with the crowd going nuts, it’s closing time. They were probably one stop away from putting the game away. And they got the stop they needed— but Denver got the offensive board and it turned into a layup that got them back within four. Prior to that moment the Thunder had outscored Denver 31-12 in the fourth. They were dominating. From that point, the game slowly shifted back to the Nuggets. Grab the damn rebound.

5. At this point, I just don’t know. Who knows what lies ahead for the Thunder next week with the Golden State and Houston games. Those teams may or may not play their guys. We do know at the very least that they will face GS without Curry. Beyond that there is no well to know what they will be up against in those two games. The game on Easter in New Orleans is clearly massive. It is hard for me to see the Thunder winning that game and ultimately missing the playoffs. Conversely, it is hard for me to see them losing that game and not 100% sweating it out until the very end or possibly missing out altogether. They’ve been fortunate over the past week or so that other teams have piled up some losses too— everyone is still bunched. Thunder lose the tie breaker with most of the teams involved although they do get the nod over Utah and the Clippers if that comes into play. If they lose on Sunday we will officially be “Colossal Choke Watch.” And that isn’t fun at all. Forget what it does or doesn’t mean long term— I need them to win Sunday just so I can breathe a little. This is getting very constricting.


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