1. This might be my favorite game so far this year. The Cavs are not good. Not only is their roster a mish-mash mess, but they are also clearly emotionally defeated. The Decision Part 2 has left the collective tank on empty. It’s going to be a very long season in Cleveland. So winning this game even without Russ is certainly not cause for a parade. This game was ugly. It was plodding. But it was also a W. It was a road win sans your best player. What I really liked about it is how the Thunder just stayed within what they’ve been doing so well lately. Shots weren’t falling, but the defense was stifling and the Thunder were aggressive and just found a way to grind it out on the boards, with put-backs, etc. Then when it got a little too close for comfort late, they managed to hit some shots and put the game away. This performance would not have been good enough against the majority of the league. But that’s the beauty of it… they got what they needed. Last year was just so all over the place… play great, but lose on to a good team on a late shot and then come back and play lousy against a lousy team. This is steady. It is calm. It is consistent. When you win six in a role you can ignore style points.

2. My only negative take at all from this one would be that I’d like to see a tad more offensively from PG. Dennis came in tonight and saved the day on that end of the floor; he was the only one really making shots consistently or finishing at the rim. PG’s defense has been outstanding this year and he was all over it again tonight. In that regard he is flashing big time leadership– I think he is likely most responsible for the team-wide dedication we’re seeing to defense right now– very impressed by that. But I was hoping to get slightly stronger production on the offensive end. With Russ out, it will be tough for the Thunder to win many games if PG is just sort of so-so scoring the ball. That said, I’m loving the PG we’re getting thus far and this is admittedly a bit of nit-picky critique.

3. I’m not a hot-take kinda dude. I used to be… when I was a much younger and far less patient sports fan as I was all about blurting out what I felt in the moment. As time has gone on and I’ve realized that winning consistently in sports is actually really hard, I’ve come to appreciate the process a lot more and be far more patient with management, players, and coaches— as long as I felt there was at least a little light at the end of that tunnel. So while my “defense” of Donovan during his tenure could be termed as Presti-homerism or fanboy optimism, I just think it’s patience. Just because I’m glad Donovan is here doesn’t actually mean I’m a huge fan of his or even that I think it was a good hire. Just patience. I think the jury is still out. One thing I know… he’s not some glorified PE coach. If you listen to the guy he is thoughtful, articulate, and self-aware. He doesn’t spout cliches. Royce Young even often points out how long and drawn-out his answers can be– there isn’t much coach-speak with Donovan. I believe he understands the game and understands what the team NEEDS to do. The struggle of course is conveying that to the team and getting them to buy in. For me, Donovan’s entire tenure has taken place under duress. From will KD stay to…Oh My God KD left… to will Russ stay to… Oh My God we got Paul George… to oh my God will Paul George stay? Not only has the roster turned over many times, so have the expectations and target for the team. This is his first year where things are calm. First time he’s had a core return without any major clouds hanging overhead. So far I like what I see. Team looks composed, defense is strong. Lots of guys involved. So far I like what I see. And we will just leave it at that. I’ve watched this team for 10 games now and I find them to be (gasp) “well coached.” 72 to go.

4. I am assuming Russ will be sitting out again tomorrow night against the Rockets. It was probably going to be a 50-50 type of game with him, so obviously you’d have to give the edge to Houston now. The good news is that the six game streak sort of takes the pressure off in this game. It’s probably a game Houston SHOULD win, which puts the Thunder in a bit of a fun situation. Also hoping that the law of averages is on our side and the clank-fest we saw tonight will give way tomorrow to at least some of those shots falling. I’m looking forward to it though and it certainly presents the Thunder with an opportunity to make a big statement if they are able to pull it out. As far as Melo’s “return” goes… eh, I’ll give him a polite golf-clap. He was more or less a pro when he was here; exited with class. I did think it was always pretty clear this isn’t where he REALLY wanted to be and there was some body language stuff to go along with a few passive-aggressive type comments that rubbed me the wrong way form time to time. But all in all, I think he tried here. He tried to make it work. I believe he wanted it to work too. The fit was just not there for a wide variety of reasons. I think it’s pretty clear it was best for all parties to party elsewhere. So when he is announced tomorrow I expect a relatively warm (not raucous) reception and I certainly hope there aren’t any boos or jeers– that would surprise me quite a bit. So the best case for me is he gets a nice hand and then plays ole’ defense and shoots 2-14 from the field… if all of that happens, he should feel right back at home (sorry, couldn’t resist).

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Ed Kleese