Author - Ed Kleese

Five Thoughts Game 6 (Jazz 96, Thunder 91)

Five Thoughts Game 6 (Jazz 96, Thunder 91)

1. Simply too much swirling in my head right now to put together a coherent blog entry that addresses the season in totality while also looking ahead to what’s next for the Thunder; that will come over the next day or two via a Final Thoughts for the year. Right now, I guess I’m a little numb. I actually don’t feel the same deflation that I felt after the Game 4 loss on Monday. That was the night I truly felt we were done. All week there has been a feeling of impending doom for me. Without question the incredible comeback in Game 5 energized me and gave me hope. Yet, I still didn’t really believe we’d win tonight. You can only survive dangling on the edge for so long before you finally fall off. All season the Thunder had both missed opportunities to soar and dodged the kill shots that would bury them. Something had to give. They somehow wound up with the four seed; somehow wound up forcing a game 6; and there they were again…down 13 midway through the fourth and then out of nowhere down one. But life on the edge generally doesn’t end happily. Your pinky finger can only hold you so long. They finally slipped. Part of me wants to say that I’m relieved. And that might be something I ACTUALLY say to people when they ask. But it’s a lie. I’m not relieved. I’m bummed. I’m disappointed. “Sad” is a bit of a dramatic term given the subject, but I guess there is some of that too. Even though the season did NOT go the way I thought/hoped it would, I was still locked in… from the very beginning until the very end. Borderline embarrassed to say they played 88 games this year and I watched them all. I wrote a Five Thoughts about 84 of them I believe. That is a pretty serious investment in time (to say nothing of the financial end). So pretty clearly, Thundering Up is a big deal to me. To realize it’s over until October stings. The uncertain future makes it even a bit more painful this year.

2. I try not to be a Russ apologist. I believe even as a fan that I acknowledge his flaws. I definitely think due to his frenetic nature and unpredictability that he is a more difficult star to play with and build around. I can certainly see why teammates would at times get frustrated. And if you are a GM I think it’s tough to figure out exactly which pieces fit best with him. If you are a coach I think it’s tough to figure out exactly how to deploy him. How can you rein him in without eliminating what makes him so great? All of those things are valid questions that deserve answers. But you know what? Sometimes someone else just needs to freakin’ DO SOMETHING. Russ did not hijack this game from the start. Maybe he should have. He only went into bananas mode when there was no other option remaining. It was similar throughout the series. In hindsight I actually wish he would have been more aggressive at the end of Game 2. I was incredibly disappointed with PG tonight. I bet the narrative will be that Russ stifled the game and PG “only” took 16 shots to Russ’s 43. But that’s the thing about shots— at some point you HAVE TO TAKE THEM. PG had plenty of chances tonight to make an impact and help the team. He went 2-16 and he looked insanely (I’ll hold off on saying scared) tentative. He would dribble four feet inside the arc and just stop. Frozen. I understand the offense wasn’t doing anything and that PG wasn’t exactly getting great looks. But you know who else wasn’t getting great looks? Donovan Mitchell and Russell Westbrook. And both of those guys kept making tough, tough shots. This stuff isn’t easy. If you want to be a star on a team that advances in the playoffs, you are gonna have to make things happen. I do not “blame” this game, this series, or this season on PG alone— not even close. But the bottom line is that he was absolutely absent tonight. And they really, really needed him.

3. On top of everything else, it was also fitting that the Thunder also were dealt a dose of bad luck— another season-long trend. They lost a lot of games this year based on crazy made shots from opponents, bad bounces, and some bad calls. Tonight, it would have been nice if a few of those drives from Mitchell (which were well defended) came up short. Moreover, it would have been nice if one of the two Big calls went their way at the end. On the final shot from PG, I think that was a foul. It’s a call that has generally been made all year across the league. That said, in THAT situation it’s tough to rely on a ref to give you that call. It wasn’t overly egregious. And PG was for sure fishing for it. Dangerous to lay the season on the line hoping for that. It was however, probably a foul. My bigger issue was on the play prior when they did blow the whistle but didn’t award him free throws. He was CLEARLY going up for the shot when they called the foul. That absolutely should have been three free throws. Very frustrating to not get either of those. But it fell in line with the general theme.

4. Donovan made some good adjustments in Games 5 and 6. Our defense was better. We didn’t allow 100 points in either game. It took some serious heroics from Mitchell for the Jazz to get much going offensively. We changed how we played their screen game and it was generally effective. Scoring became more difficult for Utah the past two games. But man, I think he messed up playing Melo as much as he did. I was fine continuing to start him just to not upset the apple cart TOO much. It also allows the bench guys to stay in their roles. But specifically in the third quarter, he just left Melo out there far too long. He was cold shooting the ball and he’s been struggling defensively all series— the hook came too late. The metrics make this plainly clear- Melo was a massive weakness in this series for the Thunder and Donovan didn’t do much of anything to mitigate that.

5. Again, the end of season wrap up along with the “what do we do now?” Thoughts are still to come. Right now it’s 1:23am on April 28th and our season has been over for about 90 minutes. We were 1-2 shots away from pushing this thing to seven back at The Peake. But much like the season, those 1-2 shots proved to be far too difficult and far too elusive. And now we have a long wait to see if they can figure it out.

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-25-18 (Game 5 Thunder 107, Jazz 99)

Five Thoughts 4-25-18 (Game 5 Thunder 107, Jazz 99)

1. First of all, it’s 12:46am and I am on my second draft of the blog for tonight. Because this had the potential to be the last home game of the season I decided to live it up…lots of libations pre game. Then due to the outcome a pit stop post game as well. On the uber ride back to Edmond I almost had to tell the driver to pull over because I thought I was going to hurl. I’m 40 years old; that probably shouldn’t be happening— especially on a Wednesday night— and in the midst of this, I somehow deleted my original draft of this blog entry. Perhaps chalk it up to fat/drunk fingers. But tonight— who cares, I’ll write it again. I might want to relive this night many times over as a matter of fact. While the pursuit of rings should be the goal of any organization; as a fan I also very much value the entertainment a team provides me. That entails putting a competitive product on the court/field consistently and at least dangling the HOPE of great things. If it doesn’t ultimately all come to fruition I can live with it. As long as I’m getting to experience moments along the way. And that is what tonight did. It made this entire season worth it for me. This season was feeling a bit vacant. Decent enough fun, but lacking the thrills and moments of elation of previous seasons. But now we will always have THAT. And I was there. I will never forget it. I’ll never take it for granted. It was the damndest thing I’ve ever experienced as a sports fan and it was a truly great moment in Thunder history as well as my own personal sports fan history. So no matter what happens Friday or beyond I’ll always be able to say “I was there that night.” And that matters to me. A lot.

2. In all seriousness, WTF happened? I mean, what in the holy hell was that? Crowder hit a three with just under 9:00 to play to put Utah up 71-46. That was NOT the moment I thought the game was over. Oh no, I had already given up at halftime— or late in the second quarter even. I knew that the game and series was over long before Crowder hit that shot to put the Jazz up by 25. That shot was just sort of the realization that not only was our season ending, but we were going out by getting our asses kicked for the third straight game. That was pretty surprising to me. I thought we might lose, but I never would have guessed we would get humiliated under these circumstances. My buddy and I discussed leaving. We didn’t stay because we had hope; we stayed just because. Just because it was still kind of early. Figured we’d just go late in the third or early fourth. In the meantime I was just contemplating our season and where we might go from here. Kind of started planning the blog in an obituary fashion. And then, like seven minutes later the game was tied. What? It almost seems like a mathematical impossibility. How do you erase a 25 point lead in half a quarter? That’s just stupid. Makes zero sense. I’ve watched basketball my entire life. I’ve seen some crazy comebacks. But I’ve never seen a combination of point margin/time like that. Once we got it around 15 I started thinking if we got it to 12 by the end of the quarter we could at least dream. To erase the entire lead by the end of the quarter? Well, don’t be silly. Then, it happened.

3. It is sort of like Russ and PG waited 87 and a half games, looked at each, winked, and said “OK….now!” For what may have been the first time all season they were both awesome/unstoppable at the same time. Russ was obviously the catalyst. Over the final 20:00 minutes of the game the score was Russ 33, Jazz 28. That is nuts. He started it with two three’s. He mixed in drives, he drew fouls, he canned mid range jumpers, and he kept firing in three’s. He also grabbed 15 rebounds and had some key assists (including one to Abrines for three that really helped push us over). But unlike last year, a Russ virtuoso performance was not a solo act. PG was a cool customer down the stretch. He was extremely aggressive driving the ball and he kept attacking Gobert. He also hit a massive three to put us up 6 late in the fourth. To see them complimenting each other that way was gratifying.

4. It’s 1:15am now so I gotta wrap this thing up. I am not even sure how to fully process this right now or dissect what it may or may not mean. I don’t think Utah will just fold. I don’t think they will panic. However, this HAS to rattle them at least a little. And it has to energize the Thunder, at least a little. No doubt we benefited massively from Gobert being in foul trouble. We erupted precisely when he sat. But this game was all about Russ going nuclear. Doing what we know he can do. I think he’s probably stifled himself in the name of spreading the ball around. Tonight we saw him throw the entire city on his back. I’m out of words and my eyes are fluttering. I can’t comprehend what I just witnessed.

5. Wow!

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-21-18 (Game 3 Jazz 115, Thunder 102)

Five Thoughts 4-21-18 (Game 3 Jazz 115, Thunder 102)

1. Before the game I predicted Utah would win game 3 and Thunder would come back and win a close one in Game 4 to escape by the slimmest of margins. While I won’t completely abandon hope of that, tonight was beyond troubling. Quite simply, Utah appears to be the better team. Since mid January, Jazz have best record in NBA. They have the best defensive player in the NBA. They have the best rookie in the NBA (or second if you prefer Simmons). They have the best three point shooter in the NBA. They are the best defensive team in the NBA. They have one of the (if not THE) best coaches in the NBA. I expected us to lose tonight. What I didn’t expect was to get so overwhelmed. One thing we know— Russ and Adams are tough. They aren’t pushovers. Tonight, they got bullied. Rubio owned Russ and Gobert owned Adams. Both of our guys looked borderline intimidated. I don’t think they WERE intimidated, but they were dominated. That was surprising to see. And it leads me to believe that Utah is simply the better team. They are pretty fun to watch to be honest. Well constructed, well coached, very balanced. They play differently than just about every other team in the league. Much more old school with true bigs and a pass-first point guard. It was somewhat frustrating tonight, but I’m really not upset post game. We look inferior, both in talent and in preparation.

2. The Rubio/Russ thing tonight was very surprising. I certainly did not expect Russ to get his arse handed to him the way he did. Obviously there is simply no way the Thunder are going to sniff a win in any game where Russ gets completely dominated by Ricky Rubio. No doubt the presence of Gobert is having an effect on what Russ does offensively. He is struggling to finish at the rim and tonight you saw him get gun shy and either pass the ball back out or force a pass to nowhere resulting in a turnover. So it’s not like Rubio himself was eating Russ up defensively, but the point is that in the head to head match up one point guard was awesome and the other was subpar. The fourth quarter really highlighted it. With Russ on the bench, PG got going a bit and we cut the lead from 14 down to 7. Russ came back into the game after a Utah timeout. Very first possession, Rubio loses Russ and hits a little jumper. Russ then turns the ball over shortly thereafter. From that point on it’s all Jazz. Thunder were actually having more success with Russ on the bench. You aren’t going to leave him there; I’m not suggesting that. Simply outlining how striking it was tonight that Rubio outplayed RW. Surprising and disappointed. We’ve seen Russ look bad before. We’ve seen him go wild. But it’s been pretty rare where we’ve seen him essentially stand down. He looked shell shocked tonight.

3. Can’t blame any of this series on Melo. He’s done his job. His job for the Thunder isn’t to be a star. It’s to be efficient with the shots he gets and to occasionally bail the offense out with ISO when it stagnates. He’s done that in this series. He’s also made some nice plays on the defensive end with active hands. He will never be an overall positive defensively but with the exception of Game 2, Favors hasn’t really hurt us and in that game he did some of his damage from far away from the basket. Melo is a role player that is supposed clean things up for the top two guys. Can’t point a finger at him when the other two aren’t setting the stage.

4. I liked Donovan inserting Patterson early tonight (clearly Billy reads the blog). It worked out pretty well too as we went on a big run around the time PP came in. Beyond that, Donovan didn’t have any answers tonight. It’s possible the answers aren’t there to be had. Maybe the mix just isn’t right and the experiment was destined to fail. Maybe they just need more than a year to get it all worked out. Maybe he’s done the best anyone can do. It’s also possible there are strings to be pulled that haven’t. I don’t really have any specifics I want to see from Donovan. The rotations are mostly fine. Perhaps some nit picking here or there, but I’m OK with it overall. But if you watch the game tonight it’s pretty clear that one team had something over the other that is hard to replace: Confidence. Utah looked like they had that game totally under control-even when they didn’t. We were the opposite— tentative, confused. There just wasn’t much to like tonight and virtually nothing that would give you confidence that they can figure it out before Utah wins two more. I’m not sure how much of the problem Donovan is or was tonight, but he clearly didn’t have any solutions either.

5. I doubt Russ plays this poorly again. He knows he got abused tonight and I imagine he will come out Monday with some ferocity. It’s possible that could filter throughout the team. It’s also possible that the free and easy spirit with which Utah played could tighten now with some pressure shifting. So I don’t necessarily expect a repeat in Game 4 from what we saw tonight. But I don’t have any confidence that we can do what it takes for four quarters on the road against this team. Perhaps the point guard match up shifts in our favor or at least levels out, but then maybe we don’t shoot the three as well or someone else for Utah picks up where Rubio left off, etc. It would also help if Adams could stay on the floor. The thing is if this was ONLY a gut check game, I’d feel OK about it. But it’s not. This isn’t just a matter of playing harder or smarter. There are real basketball issues here and they aren’t going away. The one thing this team has done well all season long is to wiggle themselves free right before the train comes barreling down the track. Every time I’ve been ready to kick dirt on them they do something great. Something that keeps hope alive. Well, here are again.

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-18-18 (Game 2 Jazz 102, Thunder 95)

Five Thoughts 4-18-18 (Game 2 Jazz 102, Thunder 95)

1. First of all, nothing I saw tonight really changes the way I feel about the series. I feel no panic and I feel no relaxation. I predicted the series to go 6, but I was 50/50 on whether or not to predict it to go 7. I figured this would be a very tight series and I didn’t expect the rollercoaster Thunder season to suddenly even out— especially against a team as sound as Utah. Tonight was frustrating of course as all losses in the playoffs are; but I don’t feel particularly bad or pessimistic about the remainder of the games. Through two games this series appears to be what myself (and many others) figured it would be: fairly evenly-matched with a real lack of easy baskets for either team. I also am not overly caught up in the home court for this series. I don’t see either team sweeping all of their home games. I thought this thing was going at least six and nothing I’ve seen through two games leads me to change my thinking.

2. Sports fans always view the games through the lens of their team. As someone who has spent an embarrassing amount of time on message boards over the years I feel as if I’ve become pretty well versed in how fans act and react. Rarely, if ever, do fans account for the OTHER team. Every loss usually gets pinned on their own failings or the failings of the coach, etc. There is very, very little of tipping the cap to the other side. It kind of drives me crazy. Sometimes, your team blows it. Sometimes, your team stinks. And sometimes you just lose. Sometimes the other guys are pretty good. I thought Donovan Mitchell had a virtuoso stretch tonight and I give him all the credit in the world for saving his team. If Utah falls 2-0 in the series I wouldn’t have liked their chances at all. When we went on our 19-0 run to take the 10 point lead, the Jazz season may have very well been on the line right then and there. Mitchell had struggled all night with Brewer harassing him; but suddenly when his team desperately needed a lifeline, he came to the rescue. He scored 7 points in the final 53 seconds of the third quarter and helped cut the Thunder lead from 10 down to 5. It was a massive moment in the game. It had a scoreboard impact of course, but it also seemed to resuscitate his team. His final numbers weren’t overly impressive, but his timing was impeccable. That kid is a real player. A budding star if you ask me. And he did it against hounding defense from all angles. Hats off to him. He was the best player on the floor tonight in the clutch. He outperformed all of our guys. Looks like the Jazz have a very special player on their hands.

3. On the flip side, don’t need to say much about tonight other than 0-14. That was the combined 4th quarter shooting from Russ, PG, and Melo. Good luck with that. Oddly enough I actually thought we moved the ball and took better shots in the fourth quarter as opposed to earlier in the game. But wow, nothing fell. Utah is the best defensive team in the league; we aren’t going to get very many “easy” looks against them. They are going to force us a little out of our comfort zone. We need to make some shots. In game one, we made them all. In game two, we didn’t make any. If we meet in the middle the rest of the series we should be alright.

4. I am fine with our rotations and strategy thus far in the series. Our defense has been really good. We allowed some easy stuff in the paint game one, but we cleaned that up tonight. Our perimeter defense has been fantastic. Utah is working for everything. Effort has been excellent and they’ve also been pretty smart. Not many breakdowns and we’ve forced turnovers and bad possessions. Rubio and Favors taking three’s is what we want— they hit them tonight, but that is not what Utah WANTS to do offensively. Offensively, we’ve struggled some. It’s due mainly to Utah being so good on D. I think Russ has been pretty patient though; tonight more so than game one. The one criticism I have is that Melo is being extended too long. I don’t like seeing him play the entire first and third quarters. He’s played pretty well thus far; he’s battled with their bigger guys and he’s given them some issues when we have the ball. He’s having a solid series. I just think he needs a slight minutes reduction— those minutes can go to Patterson and/or Grant. Jerami is often already in during those times so Patterson would be the main beneficiary. Not that I’m head over heels for what Patterson is currently offering, but a few more minutes might help get him going and may also result in a fresher version of Melo at the end of the game. Otherwise, in terms of strategic analysis, I think we’ve done fine through two games.

5. I let out a little sigh walking out of the arena tonight; not because I felt dejected, but because we were pretty close to taking this to 2-0 and while 2-0 guarantees nothing, it would have allowed ME to feel more relaxed these next few days in advance of games 3 and 4. Now, the playoff tension has officially set in. It’s a familiar feeling— and I’m grateful for that. It’s almost like that pain you feel when working out. You don’t like it in the moment, but you know it’s all for the best. Without that feeling, the fun of being a fan is sort of wiped out. So, I’ll take it. One of these teams is going to win three more games in this series. It is such a grind. Every possession seems so difficult for both teams. The Jazz fans will be rocking on Saturday night just like we were in OKC. It will likely light a fire early for their team. But then it will settle down and we will have these two teams waging a now familiar battle. I expect to see more of what we’ve seen already and I expect at least one of the next two games to be decided in the final minutes. I kind of wish we didn’t have to wait until (late) Saturday for Game 3 and I also kind of wish it was three weeks away. These games are tense, exhausting. I don’t foresee that tendon lifting until the series officially ends. Buckle up.

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-15-18 (Thunder 116, Jazz 108)

Five Thoughts 4-15-18 (Game 1 Thunder 116, Jazz 108)

1. As a die hard sports fan that has languished more often than not for the past 25ish years tethering myself to teams (Redskins, Reds) that have only experienced very brief (and very modest) levels of success, I am forever grateful for the Thunder and what they’ve brought to our city (and my fandom) for the past 10 years. Playoff time in OKC is truly awesome. I don’t take it for granted and I know for sure that someday I will look back on these years with fondness (regardless of how it all eventually turns out). One reason I love it is because so many other people reach “my level” this time of the year. Pretty clear that I’m a locked-in Thunder fan from the opening tip of the opening game. Once the playoffs roll around it ratchets another level and many others who may watch more casually join me and the other mentally unstable die hards for the playoff run. I welcome it. Makes it more fun. It was another typically raucous atmosphere at The Peake tonight. Crowd was pretty lit. Thing is for me, I love the build up to playoff games; the chatter; the anticipation. And I love the aftermath of wins. Makes the days in between fly by and just puts me in a great mood. But the actual games? Oh man, I really don’t like those. Can’t say I really enjoy them all that much. So tense. Lots of nerves. Such a grind. Tonight wasn’t too bad because the lead was comfortable enough throughout the second half. But I could feel it coming. I was still pretty tight. It’s just starting. Looking forward to it. Mostly.2. Don’t get too caught up in the carry-over from game to game in the playoffs. Thunder won tonight in large part because PG went bananas and the team overall was scorching from beyond the arc. You could easily spin it as “well, George was unconscious and the Thunder hit a trillion three’s and it was still close— what are the odds they do that again?” Well, the odds of THAT happening again aren’t good. It is highly unlikely PG is that insanely timely or efficient again in Game 2 or in any game this series. It’s unlikely the Thunder sniff 48% from three again. But don’t get lost in that. In the playoffs everything resets game to game. Tonight they were hot from deep and they rode that to a W. Game 2 is likely to have a different dynamic. Maybe the game will be decided in the paint. Or on the boards. Maybe PG will cool down and someone else will need to heat up. You do what you have to do to win THAT game. This differs from the regular season where you are pacing yourself. You sometimes do things that may lessen your odds in that game in the name of future rewards. That doesn’t happen in the playoffs. It’s all-in game to game and possession to possession. Thunder got the job done in Game 1. Book closed on that. No need to worry about repeating that performance; it’s a whole new show on Wednesday.

3. The formula was on full display tonight. How do the Thunder keep winning and ultimately advancing in the playoffs? You saw it tonight:

A) Either PG or Russ needs to play at a superstar level
B) The other one needs to at least be solid/productive
C) Defense needs to be on point and creating turnovers and break out opportunities
D) Melo (or someone else) needs to efficiently fill in any offensive gaps

Tonight it was check, check, check, check across the board. We had one of our two best players playing at an elite level. Russ wasn’t superb tonight, but he was good enough for sure. Defense was good all game with the exception of a few breakdowns in the paint leading to easy dunks for Utah. And I thought Melo was great— especially in the first half. He was active and made plays on both ends. With the team struggling a bit early he helped get things on track. It was really a perfect blending of three players.

4. No Thunder game is EVER over until the final buzzer. This cuts both ways— whether they are ahead or behind. I’ve never seen anything like it. They are capable of making amazing comebacks and they are capable of blowing seemingly insurmountable leads. It’s remarkable. Even when the other team waves the white flag and takes their starters out like Utah did tonight, it STILL isn’t over. Now, truth be told the Jazz never REALLY threatened late. But they did make it a little uneasy and they certainly added another five to ten minutes (in real time) that were totally unnecessary. Tonight, it was mainly due to Russ being careless/dumb at the end. With an 11 point lead and a little over a minute to go, Russ attacked the rim early in the shot clock for some reason. He could have bled it down to about 45 seconds. Even if they miss, eleven points and 45 seconds is virtually impossible to overcome (even against the Thunder). But a quick shot, followed by a quick three and now it’s an 8 point game with over a 1:00 remaining. Still a long shot, but you’ve now at least given Utah reason to keep trying. And it just muddies up the end of the game. Russ made a few shaky decisions tonight but that was the worst. I understand not wanting to go stagnant with the lead and just hoist something at the end of the shot clock, but with that little time remaining, it’s fine. Not a good “time and place” decision by Russ there. We’ve of course also seen him do the opposite and get a game within shouting distance that was long before lost. So it goes both ways. Luckily it only cost us a few extra heart palpitations and a few extra minutes tonight.

5. All around good effort. Team was well prepared, they played with great energy, and gave an excellent effort on the defensive end for 48 minutes. They did a good job of protecting the six point halftime lead. They didn’t slack to start the second half and maintained the lead throughout the remainder of the game. PG was sensational. Russ solid. Melo and Abrines with positive contributions. The Thunder are clearly the more explosive team here. Utah is going to have to win this series by grinding the Thunder down and frustrating us into consistently poor decisions. The bad news for Utah is that OKC is pretty adept at winning ugly— they’ve had a lot of practice with that this year. A grind doesn’t bother the Thunder. As a matter of fact, I think they welcome it. Now is the time for adjustments. Both coaches have seen the initial strategy from the other. Game 2 of a series is often where you will see the biggest changes/shifts in approach. For the Thunder, I don’t think much will change defensively other than maybe trying to throw a few different looks at Mitchell (he’s fantastic by the way). Utah defended us well tonight— we just made tough shots. Not really sure what else they might try and do that we didn’t see tonight. It was a really good effort and a solid win. Nice to be able to enjoy it for two days. Game 2 should yield results that get us farther down the road.

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

Five Thoughts 4-11-18 (Thunder 137, Grizzlies 123)

1. You know how in the movies there is sometimes a ridiculous scene where the protagonist narrowly escapes death by a matter of inches? You know, they untie themselves a half second before the train roars over them or they grasp on with their pinky to the ledge just before they fall 100 stories to their death? The kinds of scenes that can almost a ruin a movie because they are so absurd. You just don’t slip off the roof of the Sears Tower and save yourself by the narrow margin of a hangnail and then walk away clean ten seconds later. Yet, it DID happen for the Thunder this year. There were multiple occasions this year where the season was on the verge of tumbling over the cliff. Just five days ago, the Thunder were facing a road game at Houston with the VERY real possibility that they could miss the playoff altogether. Their last three road games they trailed in fourth quarter in all of them. They won them all. So here we are five days later… Not only did they make the playoffs, but they somehow managed to claim the 4 seed and home court advantage. And now they line up on the opposite side of the Warriors on the bracket. In a season full of tough luck and bad bounces, nearly everything went right for the Thunder over these final days. All the hand-wringing, all the frustration, all the worry about the colossal failure of potentially missing the playoffs…and here they are: home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs in a highly competitive conference.

2. No sense in diving too deep into the Memphis game. I am neither going to gush over how we manhandled them for the most part and I am not going to be concerned about sleepwalking for much of the second half. The Grizzlies didn’t put an NBA team on the floor tonight. Dillon Brooks is a good looking rookie, but that was a ragtag bunch for the most part. They had their bags packed and were ready to get to the beach after that one. Been a long year in Memphis. So the Thunder did what they were supposed to do and buried them early. Then, they jacked around the last quarter and a half and allowed the score to be more respectable. I didn’t care. It was meaningless in my eyes. What I liked was that PG seems to have found his stroke again and Adams looked much more spry tonight than he has recently. Schedule has been brutal lately— it was nice to end with a game where the opponent was almost literally physically incapable of being you on any night.

3. Loved that Russ went ahead and attacked the glass to secure the triple double average. I viewed it as a bit of a middle finger to his critics accusing him “stat chasing.” Personally, I would be happy to field a team of guys who all “chase stats” the way he does. No doubt Russ snatches rebounds from his teammates on occasion. But when he rebounds the ball, the offense also starts much, much faster. By allowing Russ to grab a rebound that would otherwise be easy for a big man, is that it jumpstarts the offense. He so damn fast that he’s often at the mid court line in what seems like one dribble after the rebound. Averaging a triple double is insanity. Doing it two years in a row is double insanity. There is nothing wrong with chasing an accomplishment simply for the gratification of accomplishing it. He is in the record books (again) and I would have been disappointed had he just let others do the glass work tonight. He is who is he. Glad to see he didn’t pretend to be someone else.

4. The Nick Collison tribute tonight was both heartfelt and awkward. I figured there would be some acknowledgement of this potentially being his last regular season home game. I just didn’t expect it would come from Russ holding a microphone before tip. That was a nice gesture from Russ even if it produced a bit of red-faced moment for Nick. It was clear Russ wanted to let everyone know how he feels about Nick and it was clearly an honest statement from the heart. It was cool. Then the “we want Nick” chants made things a little uneasy. They came too early in the game. The other thing is that he isn’t the team trainer or some Rudy-esque walk on. Collison was a star college player and a darn good NBA contributor for over a decade. He’s now been relegated to something of a team mascot— and while I am sure he appreciates the love from the fans and understands it is completely well intentioned— he is probably also a little embarrassed by it. Then, what are the odds that a guy gets hurt shooting a three and the OTHER team is the one who decides to put Nick into the game? That was an oddly tense moment. Poor Collison had legit pressure on him with the entire arena wanting to see him score. It was kind of painful to watch him miss all those free throws. Then a relief when he finally got one to go. In the end, he got his well deserved ovation and acknowledgement. It’s cool that both the player and organization have felt it important enough for him to remain here his entire career. And we can’t forget that by all accounts Russ is a someone who prefers the routine, the familiar. He also appreciates loyalty and toughness. It’s no surprise he respects Collison. And keeping Nick around these past couple of years likely hasn’t hurt. Very nice to see Mr. Thunder have a little moment— even if it was a clunky moment.

5. Now, it’s on to Utah and the postseason. What to expect? Honestly it’s almost midnight and I’m tired. I mean this both literally and figuratively. It’s been a long grind. Five Thoughts multiplied by 82 games is well, a lot of thoughts. Let’s call it a night and drop a playoff version before the games start this weekend.

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

Five Thoughts 4-9-18 (Thunder 115, Heat 93)

1. At the end of the game tonight as the starters exited for the last minute or so, I am pretty sure I FELT the same way the team LOOKED. That was the happiest/most relaxed looking Thunder team I’ve seen all season. There was relief (I was definitely feeling that), but I think there was a bit more than that. It wasn’t just relief that “oh we clinched a playoff spot finally.” It was more along of the lines of “oh, we can be pretty good after all.” These last two games have been essential for obvious reasons, but not only did they GET the Thunder into the playoffs, it feels like they also have some real momentum now. They’ve won three of four. The three wins were all on the road against playoff teams (Pelicans, Rockets, Heat). The middle team there just so happened to be riding a 20 game win streak in their arena. All three games required fourth quarter comebacks. The Thunder delivered all three times. Quite frankly, in those three fourth quarters the Thunder have looked awesome. Dominant even. Tonight was off the charts. 39-12? Goodness. So while I am of course happy to finally shake free of the potential deflation of missing the playoffs entirely, I am genuinely excited to see what this can do now that they are there. There could be a silver lining to our struggles throughout the year. Thunder were forced to focus and gel at the end. They now enter the playoffs as underdogs of sorts. And as long as they win Wednesday, they will avoid Houston and GS in round one. It’s not a terrible spot to be in.

2. I was not feeling relief or happiness early on. As a matter of fact, that brutal start had me feeling about as frustrated and tense as I’ve felt all year (and that’s saying something). They started the game 0-10 and were down 23-5 for crying out loud. Even early, that’s a tall mountain to climb. The fact that they somehow managed to get it down to 6 by the end of the quarter was huge. Abrines may have hit one of the bigger shots of the year. He made their first shot from the field; after that things started to flow. The starters literally didn’t make a shot before that sub was made. Miami helped by missing a boatload of three’s (although they were killing us in the paint). I also thought Melo was key to the game not getting away early. Good energy and one huge block on the defensive end to stop a momentum turning play. The bench overall was massive tonight. I didn’t like the way we played the third quarter—especially Russ. Rushed, sloppy, quick shots. The game was starting to slowly slip away. Bench saved the day. Just huge to start the fourth with a big run like that. Patterson hasn’t been putting up big numbers, but he has been far more effective lately. And what can you say about Grant? He’s a beast. Glad to see Donovan extending him deeper into the rotation in the fourth quarter. He’s earned it. Starters did a great job of closing the game out, but the bench teed it up for them.

3. Been saying it for over a week now— I’m concerned about Adams. Everyone else is sort of rounding into shape and he is regressing. He’s struggling a bit to score inside, he’s missing more free throws, and he isn’t making as many impactful plays on either end. I wouldn’t say he’s been bad by any means, but he just sort of been so-so out there. I really wonder about him physically. He takes such a beating. He’s also had some tough match ups lately with Jokic, Anthony Davis, Capela, and Whiteside. Kind of looks to me like he is on fumes. I guess they really can’t with seeding on the line, but I’d love to see him sit against Memphis. They should be able to beat them regardless. It would be nice for Adams to get a legit 5-6 days off before the playoffs begin. Of everyone on the team, it seems he needs it the most.

4. Gotta give PG credit where it is due. He cost us the GS game (he admitted as much himself), but with our backs against the wall these past two games he has gotten the job done. Not a huge fan of seeing him hoist 13 three’s in a game, but the ones he made were pretty timely. Even with that volume of outside shots, he still drove the ball fairly frequently as well. Early in the game he helped keep us from drowning by getting to the free throw line— and he’s the one guy this year that has been reliable once he gets there.

5. Thunder answered the call over the past week or so; certainly over the past two games. Now the Thunder can perhaps have a little fun. Memphis is a bad team when relatively healthy/trying to win. Right now, they are in a mad dash to get this season over with and get as many ping pong balls in their favor as possible. They essentially sat down half of their team tonight with various ailments. In the case of Marc Gasol they just called it “rest.” Because I guess he won’t get enough of that over the next 5-6 months once their season ends Wednesday. They actually hung with the Wolves through three quarters tonight because even when teams “tank” the actual players on the floor don’t. These are generally guys trying to stick in the NBA, so they will play hard— at least for awhile. On Wednesday the Thunder need to come out focused like it’s a playoff game and put it away early. Memphis will absolutely wave the white flag early if the score is ugly. Potential is there for Thunder to coast and an easy win with additional rest isn’t going to hurt at all at this point. They shouldn’t take the game for granted, but in all reality, this should be an open and shut game. For the first time in well over a month the Thunder SHOULD give us a stress free night. If they do, the guarantee the six seed at a minimum with the 4 or 5 still very much in play depending on other results that evening. This is a much more comfortable place to be than I thought it would be prior to the Houston game. If indeed the Thunder have figured something out, the my did so at the absolute latest point possible without causing irreparable damage to their chances. Hope lives.

 

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-3-18 (Warriors 111, Thunder 107)

Five Thoughts 4-3-18 (Warriors 111, Thunder 107)

1. I’m not a huge scapegoat guy or a big finger-pointer. It’s a team game and when things go wrong there are normally layers to it and the answer is often more nuanced than it appears on the surface. But sometimes there is a scapegoat. Sometimes the finger should be pointed. The Thunder had a good plan tonight. They played hard. They moved the ball. They got good shots. They weren’t overly sloppy. They didn’t allow many easy shots for the Warriors. Russ was awesome. But they lost the game. And the reason they lost was because PG didn’t fill his role. Russ did all of the heavy lifting. He made the tough shots/plays. He teed the game up. He simply needed someone else to come in and swing and knock it out of the park. It was right there. But no one did. Felton didn’t shoot it well at all. Neither did Melo. Adams missed some free throws. But those guys aren’t tasked with being the #2. That is the job of Paul George. He just failed tonight. He didn’t need to be a star. He didn’t need to carry the load. He simply needed to fill in some gaps. He just needed to provide the proper support. Instead, he was Brick City. In addition, he was also tentative when driving and had some costly turnovers/missed opportunities. Russ can’t do much more. We saw that last year. This year PG was supposed to make life easier. For awhile, he did. But as this season has come down to the nitty-gritty, he has slowly seemed to get smaller and smaller. I will wait to pass final judgement on him or anyone else until the season is over. He still has three games and MAYBE the playoffs to make a mark. But right now, I feel it would be in the best interest of the Thunder if he were to walk in the off-season.

2. The plan overall was fine tonight. Team was prepared. Again, the shots were really good. The shots we took were generally better than the shots GS took. But the one head scratcher for me with Donovan tonight was why dust off Huestis? Why does he wind up with as many minutes as Patterson and Felton? I suppose Donovan liked his length and athleticism against Klay or KD, but I’m just not seeing what he brings to the table. Especially at this point in the season. He had his chances this year and he proved to me that he is not an NBA rotational player. It isn’t just that he is horrendous offensively (he is); it’s that he doesn’t really do any of those “little things” that those types of players normally do. He doesn’t get offensive rebounds. He doesn’t finish at the rim. He doesn’t get momentum-making steals. He doesn’t wind up with loose balls. He play adequate one on one defense. He is a good shot blocker for a wing player. That’s it. It’s just silly to sit him so many games in a row (which was the right call) and then bring him back in a game of this magnitude.

3. Adams looks completely worn out. This is the time of the year where you’d like to rest any player who might be ailing. Adams appears to be in desperate need of some time off. He is clearly playing through some pain. Over the past week to ten days he hasn’t been quite as effective. He played his guts out against Anthony Davis the other night, but he just looks a step slower than he’s been all year. These next three days might help, but he is probably at a stage where he could use a legitimate week off. Unfortunately, the Thunder clearly can’t afford to rest anyone right now.

4. The volume of close games this team is playing is absurd. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It barely makes sense. The simple law of averages dictates that just randomly you will have one night where you lay an egg, or the other guys lay an egg, or you just can’t be stopped, or they just can’t be stopped. March 10th was the last time OKC played a game that wasn’t tense in the final minute or two. They beat the Spurs that night by ten; it was a much wider margin for much of the second half before a little flurry got it closer for SA. Since then the Thunder have played eleven games. All ten have been tight in the final minutes. The win at Atlanta was the only that wasn’t in doubt in the final SECONDS. OKC is 6-5 in those games. So they’ve actually improved their record over that stretch, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. They have currently lost 5 out of 7. All five were just brutal. The wins were also very tight. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. In a way it provides some hope because if you keep games THAT close in the playoffs then anything can happen. But it also means ANYTHING can happen. Like not making the playoffs at all. It’s just really remarkable how these games have gone. And honestly, it is absolutely exhausting.

5. Thunder didn’t get any help tonight either. The only two games I really cared about were Utah and Denver. They both won. I kind of like the fact that the Thunder don’t play again until Saturday night. Between now and then there are a number of games that could positively or negatively have an effect on OKC. One thing is for sure– the Thunder will at the very least take the court on Saturday in Houston with their destiny in their own hands. Even if every single other thing goes against them (it won’t), the Thunder will make the playoffs if they finish 3-0. Looking at the schedule, I would be SHOCKED if 2-1 doesn’t get them in. Now, it is entirely possible the Thunder could lose both games in Houston and Miami. That certainly isn’t far-fetched at all. It’s also possible they’d stay above the cut off line even if they lose both if other things fall their way. We will know a whole lot more by the time the game tips off on Saturday. I am certainly hoping they enter that game with a little wiggle room. Because even though my confidence has dipped to a very low level, I really don’t want to face the humiliation and disappointment of missing the playoffs altogether. Right now, that possibility is still very much in play.

 

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Five Thoughts 4-1-18 (Thunder 109, Pelicans 104)

Five Thoughts 4-1-18 (Thunder 109, Pelicans 104)

1. Well, at least we can exhale…for now. As always with the Thunder it was kind of a weird route to achieve the final result, but I did like the WAY they played tonight for the most part. First of all, they were very active on defense. This is when the Thunder are at their best– when they use their length and athleticism to disrupt flow of the other team. Even more importantly, it creates transition opportunities for the Thunder– and the Thunder are great in transition. There were a number of steals, tips, taps, and scrambles tonight; most of them went they way of OKC. This style of play seems to fuel the team and keep their energy at a good level. They inexplicably got a little soft defensively at the very end (perhaps trying too hard not to foul?) which created a brief moment of tension, but on the whole, they brought a great defensive effort to the floor tonight and it allowed them to escape a couple of ruts offensively.

2. I’ve talked a lot about luck this year. I think it’s an element in sports that is often overlooked. I don’t think it should be used as an excuse to explain-away an entire season of outcomes (the sample size is too big for that), but I do think it matters on a night to night basis and can certainly swing your won-loss record by at least a few games year to year based on which end of the spectrum you land. Usually, you wind up in the middle– law of averages evens things out. This year, the Thunder aren’t in the middle. They’ve experienced more bad luck than good luck. I doubt any team has had as many back-breaking shots go against them where the defense was exceptional or the ball takes a funny turn or bounce. Tonight, the law of averages helped. Thunder got the Pelicans on a night where Anthony Davis wasn’t quite right. I gives Adams a LOT of credit for this. Adams has been a little off lately himself and he didn’t have amazing numbers tonight, but defending Davis up and down the court for an entire game is about as tough of a task as you can ask of an NBA center these days. Adams fought his tail off and really helped neutralize AD. We were also fortunate that AD missed some easy ones he normally makes and that for whatever reason, he didn’t seem 100% engaged. NOLA really has no chance to be anyone of consequence on a night where AD isn’t himself. Alvin Gentry’s decision to essentially concede the game down 5 with 30 seconds remaining was also very curious.

3. Somewhat predictably, Corey Brewer has cooled after his fireworks arrival. He’s been fine, but he turned back into Corey Brewer after moonlighting as Scottie Pippen his first 6 games in OKC. Tonight, he had a real positive impact. He was one of the main linchpins for thought #1– hands all over the place and he kept several possessions alive with offensive rebounds or taps/quick steals. He was great defensively and then made two really big mid range jumpers in the second half– both came when NOLA was trying to make a run. Brewer isn’t a “good” offensive player by any stretch, but what is nice is that if the ball does happen to find in in a spot where he needs to make something happen, he is at least CAPABLE of getting the ball in the basket. He has been a good addition.

4. Good night for Donovan. Say what you want about him; they guy sure as hell isn’t afraid to make a change or roll the dice. He isn’t afraid to essentially admit a mistake and change something up it isn’t working. He made a LOT of changes tonight. A LOT. First of all, he yanked Russ from the game way earlier than normal in the first quarter. I don’t think he liked what he saw and I think he decided to go with Felton and PG for longer than he normally would. Secondly, he clearly reads the blog because he had Abrines first off the bench and only played 9 guys total. This is the 9 man rotation they should stick with come playoffs. Third, he altered PG’s rotation in the second half. He took him out midway through the third to create more of a stagger. There was also a key moment with approx. 3:00 to go: Thunder had allowed the 12 point lead to dwindle to 5. They had back to back lousy possessions on offense. Donovan called timeout. The play out of the timeout was a screen and drive for Russ– easy layup. That pushed the lead to 7. NOLA never seriously threatened again after that. When you factor in that the team also clearly came with the right mindset tonight, you would have to call this a good game for the coach. He needed it on the heels of back to back shaky games. I do like this about Donovan– he isn’t stubborn or a slave to his own ego.

5. Team needed that one. Needed it badly. In terms of seeding it really doesn’t clear much of anything up. In terms of simply making the playoffs, it was massive. Clippers lost at home. IT. The Thunder have four games remaining. In order to get passed by the Clippers, Los Angeles needs to make up four games on them. So the only possible way that happens is if OKC goes 0-4 and the Clippers go 5-0. I think it is safe to say the Thunder are clear of any threat from the Clips. Because Denver owns the tiebreaker, it isn’t quite as much of a done deal with them. They only need to make up three games. But if the Thunder simply finish 2-2, the Nuggets could win all of their remaining games and it wouldn’t matter. In summary: it is going to take an extraordinary chain of events for the Thunder to miss the playoffs. Now, whether they finish 4th or 8th or anywhere in between? All totally up in the air. On paper the next two are brutal– Warriors at home and Rockets on the road. But we already know GS will be without Curry. Kerr played all of his healthy guys both last night and tonight, so it is feasible he could rest one or more on the road Tuesday. Thunder can’t worry too much about that and need to assume GS will be giving a full-out effort. There is still a substantial amount of momentum to be gained or loss over these final four games.

 

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

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

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.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!