Author - Ed Kleese

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!

Five Thoughts 3-29-18 (Spurs 103, Thunder 99)

Five Thoughts 3-29-18 (Spurs 103, Thunder 99)

1. The rollercoaster can be really fun. It’s exhilarating and can get your heart pumping. The adrenaline rush is amazing the first time you make that turn or go through the loop. And the rollercoaster can also make you want to puke. It can make you wish it would just stop and you could get your feet back on the ground. This Thunder season has been all of the above. It is absolutely maddening that every time they’ve appeared to turn the corner or elevate their play they follow it up with a slump or curious effort that makes you wonder if they will even make the damn playoffs. Then, right when you are ready to bail on them and just accept it as a failed experiment they go out and destroy the Warriors at Oracle or win a thriller in Toronto or rattle off seven in a row, six in a row…The inconsistency is incredible. It isn’t even that it’s a consistent inconsistency. It isn’t like when they are bad it’s because they struggle offensively or defensively. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other. Then they will randomly take a major strength (rebounding) and for one or two nights they get beat on the boards and it costs them a game. The thing that probably keeps the glimmer alive for me is that you don’t have to be consistent in the playoffs. You can lose three times in seven games and still win a series. Thunder could essentially keep doing what they do and if things hit in the right places at the right times, they can still be very dangerous. Scott Van Pelt always asks the question “how good is your good?” For the Thunder, their good is REALLY good. Like, REALLY good. But it’s also fleeting. Very hard to guess or gauge what things will look like in a couple of weeks when everything changes— assuming of course that they make it there in the first place.

2. Continuing on the maddening theme, Russ and Adams have been out of this world lately. Dominating. Tonight, they were terrible. Both of them. This may have been the worst game Adams has played all year. Very rare to be able to say this, but he got his arse handed to him by Aldridge tonight. Not only was Aldridge scoring on him early, Adams also appeared to be a step slow and little tentative. And he couldn’t finish near the rim worth a damn at all. With 1:00 to go and down by one, Adams allowed LMA to slip right by him for an easy drive and dunk. Just a really terrible night for a guy who has been a rock for the Thunder all year. And Russ? My God he was dreadful in the fourth quarter. WTF was that? One thing he has really cleaned up this year is the RDS— Really Dumb Shot. At the end of the game tonight he went bonkers with the RDS; maybe getting them all out of his system at once perhaps? He was also sloppy with the ball, struggling to make simple passes and driving the ball wildly with nowhere to go. He has been brilliant in the fourth quarter lately, and really for two years now. He and Adams both get a pass for a bad night given how well they’ve played, but SOB it’s the story of the season that they pick the same night to crap themselves.

3. Donovan is going to put me on blood pressure meds with his silly usage of TFerg and Abrines. I don’t care if I make it one of my thoughts after every game, it’s driving me crazy. TFerg is NOT READY FOR A REAL ROLE ON A CONTENDING TEAM. Abrines may not be either, but now is the time to find out about him once and for all. He’s shown signs lately of being a contributor. But his minutes are so limited that there is no chance for him to get anything going. Keeping him cold on the bench until the fourth quarter is just stupid. It puts an awful lot of pressure on him. I’m glad Donovan has cut Huestis out and gone to a 10 man rotation. That’s smart. But it really needs to be more a 9 man at this point and Abrines should be ahead of TFerg. Then you can insert the rookie if someone gets hurt or there is foul trouble or the score dictates extending the bench. Right now neither player is being put in a great position to succeed.

4. I wanted two out of three during this stretch of games between tonight and Sunday night. I would have preferred this be one of the two for tie-breaker purposes but it really doesn’t matter. The pressure is on now to win tomorrow against Denver and in NOLA on Sunday evening. Thunder were rolling at six in a row. Then, the Boston choke seems to have derailed them. They must get back on track immediately. Beyond the obvious playoff implications, there are only six games left to get the mojo right— although with this team maybe that doesn’t matter? Maybe the team is a lot like Russ: win or lose, good or bad, sink or swim, what happened yesterday simply doesn’t affect tomorrow. Every game, heck every possession is like a blank slate. In the short term though, a loss at home to Denver would put OKC back into “uh oh” territory. Right now they are still in pretty good shape. A lot of the other teams are shaky right now too. These next two games are legit important. If they win them, the last four games may not be all that tense depending on other results. If they split them they likely stay about where they are and the last four will dictate everything. If they lose them both, it’s absolutely red button time.

5. Thing is, while it makes you feel sick sometimes, riding the rollercoaster is still a lot more fun than just sitting on the bench. Ride is eventually gonna end. But I’m not ready for that yet.

 

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 3-25-18 (Blazers 108, Thunder 105)

Five Thoughts 3-25-18 (Blazers 108, Thunder 105)

1. Will start tonight with the subject that seemed to captivate most fans and media in the post game: Melo. Should he have been on the floor late in the game? My answer to this is a simple, yes. Melo has had a tough week, no doubt. He was just terrible tonight. Almost painful to watch him clang shots down the stretch. And he’s hardly had a big year. He’s been about what I expected overall. But one reason I haven’t soured in him is because he has been consistently clutch. Even on nights when he’s been off or quiet, he has often made big shots in the fourth. He did just that as recently as Sunday in Toronto. Heck, he actually did it in Boston too— just overshadowed by his free throw debacle at the end. For the most part this year, Melo has hit tough shots when the Thunder have needed them. He’s also their best “bad shot maker” when the offense bogs down. His entire reason for being on the team is because he’s an experienced vet that can provide an offensive option for Russ. I don’t blame Donovan for keeping him out there or getting the ball in his hands. They were good shots. Not exactly sure what happened on the drive that ended in a turnover, but other than that, his shots were clean. He has to take those shots. Tonight he just missed them… all of them. With Grant playing brilliantly and Patterson and Abrines looking better, it certainly begs the question, but for me, the answer is still that you ride with Melo late in games. Melo has lots of flaws at this point in his career, but I will still live with him taking open shots when we need them.

2. I’m going to be a little more harsh on PG. He and Melo play different roles and I have different expectations for them. We need more than what PG has been giving us lately. To his credit, he did do a nice job tonight to start the fourth quarter. He scored our first six points and he was working hard to do it— his jumper wasn’t falling so he put his head down and drove to the basket. But at the end of the day, he’s been struggling lately and that is a lot for the Thunder to overcome. They don’t need him to be Superman. They already have that. They need him to be an efficient Swiss Army knife. He was playing that role quite well until about a week or so ago. So it could just be a simple shooting slump. But he must snap out of it quickly. He and Melo were a combined 0-12 from three tonight. That is just a total anchor on the offense and makes life so tough for the others. Russ and Adams are both playing extremely well. The bench is also coming around and really contributing right now. We don’t need PG to carry the load. We just need him to level out. It’s a bad time of the year to go cold.

Portland is really good. And a bit of the Thunder bad luck when it comes to catching people at the wrong time continues. Our defense down the stretch of this game was darn near perfect. The entire goal of defense is to force the other guy to take really tough/bad shots. That’s exactly what the Thunder did. It’s frustrating as hell to watch those shots fall. And oh my God tonight with the long rebounds on misses for Portland. We got crushed on the offensive glass which is certainly not typical. We are a very good rebounding team. Tonight, so many Portland possessions were kept alive by long misses that found Blazers. There was one that made me laugh. Connaughton missed a shot so badly that he was literally falling out of bounds in the corner by the Portland bench. But he bricked it so bad that it somehow bounced right back to him in the corner— like a boomerang. I muttered some things I shouldn’t mutter during that play. On the shot that McCollum hit to put them up with 22 seconds to go… that was perfect D. It was a terrible shot. Honestly the worst shot you can take— it was a highly contested two pointer— a very long on at that. But he nailed it anyway. Credit to him, he was sensational and made a plethora of shots that I was happy to see him take when he released them. The Portland offense was brutal at the end of this game. They didn’t move the ball, they didn’t have anything going, and they couldn’t get anyone open. But they kept making shots in spite of all of that. Just incredibly frustrating from a Thunder perspective. But also a simple lesson in what it takes to win in the NBA: you gotta make shots. Often, they will be difficult shots. It was the difference in the game tonight. It’s not like one team was running some great system and the other was going all ISO— it was a junkyard game and one team find what it took to sink shots at the end and the other didn’t.

4. The recent emergence of the bench is encouraging. Looks like Donovan has made the wise decision to shrink the rotation from 11 down to 10. Huestis isn’t playing much at all at this point. Now I think it’s time to shrink it down to 9. Felton and Grant have been off the charts lately. Heck, tonight it was as if we brought Magic and Kareem into the game when they entered. Instant offense and instant energy. Patterson hasn’t been as effective, but he’s doing more, he looks more comfortable and his spot the rotation seems about right to me. Abrines is on his hottest shooting streak of his career. I think he needs more minutes. He’s earned it. Time to sit TFerg down or at least make him the 10th guy. I want Abrines to be handed those minutes as the guy that comes in for Brewer. TFerg has a bright future, but I don’t think he can or should be trusted in a playoff rotation. Maybe Abrines won’t come through, but he is at a point now where we need to find out. Time to see if this is just a random streak or if he’s perhaps settled in and figured something out.

5. Very tough loss. It feels like the Thunder are SO close right now. So close to being REALLY good. Tonight’s loss isn’t so bad if they had won the Boston game. The Boston game isn’t so bad had they won tonight. In between they had a little bit of a shaky win against the Heat. This has been one story of the Thunder season: they have had a difficult time getting back on track when they detail— even just a little bit. They won six in a row and capped it with a fantastic win in Toronto. Then they blow a game in Boston. Follow it up with tow uneven (not bad) performances at home. So now they’ve lost two out of three and a little bit of that tension creeps in again. I’d say right now it’s not a massive deal. They’ve gotten some help the past few days with competing teams losing. They haven’t really lost any ground from where they were after the six wins. But they haven’t gained any either. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to take a real complete choke job to miss the playoffs at this point. And I personally don’t really care about the 3 seed as I don’t see any particular advantage to that over the 4 (caveat being possible injury situation for Warriors). But there IS big difference between 4-8. And the Thunder are locked in that battle no doubt. They get three days to relax/practice/contemplate. They could move up or down a little these next few days based on results while they are idle. Then they embark on what it likely to be a defining moment of this season. Three games in four nights all against other teams in the race. Spurs Thursday, Nuggets Friday, Pelicans Sunday. Home game sandwiched between two road games. Two out of three would be fine. The first one could be h biggest though— that game in San Antonio looms large because in addition to the obvious, it would also give the Thunder the tie breaker over the Spurs. Quiet week will give way to a massive 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.
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Five Thoughts 3-23-18 (Thunder 105, Heat 99)

Five Thoughts 3-23-18 (Thunder 105, Heat 99)

1. For the second outing in a row the Thunder were involved in a game that was mostly a drab snooze fest through three quarters before fourth quarter fireworks. On Tuesday in Boston it may have been better for the Thunder had the game maintained it’s flatline. Tonight, the virtual scoring bonanza benefited the home team. Credit Miami for locking the game down early. It’s what they do. Heat generally equal more than the sum of their parts. They slow the game down considerably and frustrate you into playing their game. Thunder fell victim to that tonight; although shots weren’t really falling for the Heat either so the game just sort of sat there and stewed through three quarters. Then, the Thunder started making everything from the outside and Miami countered by finding holes in the defense and getting easy shots at the rim. The teams had barely averaged 20 points apiece per quarter through three and then the fourth is 41-33 in favor of OKC. Had you told me before the quarter started that the Heat were gonna score 33, I might have walked out of the arena right then and there. Would have assumed Miami likely won the game easily. That’s the thing about having Russ though; for better or worse (usually better) you just never quite know.

2. Russ was incredible once he checked back in for the stretch run. Very similar to how to finished the Toronto game on Sunday. He came in cold and was just immediately on fire. He hit two long jumpers and two three’s and the Thunder took control. Russ closed the game beautifully. But make no mistake, the real hero tonight was Adams. No doubt the absence of Hassan Whiteside hindered the Heat, but that’s not Adams’ problem. He simply ate them alive. The first half could have been a disaster without his contributions. He has made the missed shot a deadly weapon for the Thunder. It’s one reason turnovers irk me now more than ever. Just get a shot in; even a terrible shot is better than no shot. Once that ball hits the rim or glass there is a decent chance Adams is going to grab it or at least tap it out for someone else to grab. And if he doesn’t do that, he may very well draw a foul because he’s beating the crap out of someone in the paint. He is playing at an all-star level. He and Russ are an insanely good combo on the pick and roll. With each passing game Russ seems to trust him more and more— with the lead hanging by a thread and Russ on fire, he chose not to take a jumper himself and instead dished to Adams for the slam that virtually ended the game. It’s one reason I don’t think all hope is lost if PG leaves after this year. A team built around Russ/Adams can be damn good.

3. I’m a baseball fan too and I always say that hardest part of a big rally is the guy that gets it started. Everyone remembers Mookie Wilson hitting the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs and Ray Knight coming around to score the winning run. But not many people remember that Gary Carter got that inning started. With two outs and no one on base, Carter is the one who kept hope alive and broke through with a single. That lit the fire. His teammates then fanned the flames. But getting flicker going is hard. Really hard. For the Thunder tonight, the “flicker” was Raymond Felton. Team was just ice cold. Miami had ceased momentum and gained a five point lead. Then just like that, Felton scores eight points in just over 60 seconds. Momentum shifted. Everyone else starts making shots. Thunder never relinquish lead after that. Felton has been tremendous this year. His window is very small each game. His margin for error thin. He has a limited number of possessions to make his mark and often he is called upon to keep us afloat until Russ checks back into the game. He has come through consistently all year. Would have been nice to have him in the playoffs against the Rockets last year. In terms of grading players based on how well they fill their designated role, Felton deserves as high of a grade as anyone on the team.

4. Not nice to see Melo and PG both go frigid simultaneously. Nice to see we are still able to scratch out a W even with both of them launching bricks. With Melo, I accept it. He runs hot and cold. He’s been clutch this year so I have no problem rolling with him in most every close and late situation. Team generally does a good job of feeding him when he’s hot and backing off when he’s not. I’m good with it. With PG, we simply can’t survive too many games like this from him. He has to be better. He did finally make a play tonight with the steal and finish to put the game on ice, but prior to that, he was terrible. This isn’t a matter of him not “meshing” either. He gets plenty of minutes, plenty of looks, and he has the ball in his hands more than often enough to get a flow going. Tonight was just a matter of him having a lousy game. He’s a chill guy. He paces himself. He isn’t overly emotional. That can sometimes be construed as lack of caring or laziness, but I don’t think that’s the case. I just think he has a more passive personality and his game is somewhat nuanced. He does a ton of different things that help you win games. And with Russ being the emotional opposite I think it’s a good thing and yang type of fit. But PG can’t let games get away from him like that. He needs to find a way to impact even when shooting is cold.

I think the Thunder can forget about the Clippers. They are too far behind at this point. They are also getting really close to being able to forget about the Nuggets as well. They also now have a two game lead on Utah in the loss column while holding the tie-breaker too. As a paranoid fan who’s seen it all, I won’t declare them out of the woods yet, but I really believe their worst case at this point is the seven seed. It’s a total battle to figure out 3-7 though. Portland was smoking hot and now they’ve lost two in a row. They come to town Sunday for what should be a very entertaining game. They are 0-3 agains the Blazers so there is some pride on the line in addition to the obvious. Thunder have been playing their way away from ledge… a win Sunday would allow them to inch a lot closer to safe ground.

 

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 3-20-18 (Celtics 100, Thunder 99)

Five Thoughts 3-20-18 (Celtics 100, Thunder 99)

1. I really have only one issue with the entire game/outcome tonight. I’m fine with it being a close game against an undermanned team and I’m fine with it being a fairly ugly slug fest for the majority. Boston is second in the East for a reason and they have a bunch of good players and they are extremely well coached. It’s that time of the year when legs are jello and the grind is wearing on everyone. Road games are tough. Thunder were coming off two excellent performances so I almost expected them to cool off tonight. I expected a struggle. I don’t think it is an indictment of them that the game was tight. They actually handled the game EXACTLY as you’d want them to. Midway through the fourth quarter, their execution went through the roof and they raised their play to a level Boston could not match. The Thunder actually scored on every single possession down the stretch.. with the exception of the final two over the last 8 seconds of the game. Literally the ONLY thing that blew this game was the free throw line. That’s it. That’s my only complaint/frustration. They weren’t anywhere near perfect in other areas, but that’s fine. You won’t always be perfect. Games will often be a struggle. Thunder put themselves in very good position to win and all they had to do was make free throws. Instead, they missed four massive ones. Adams missed one, Russ missed one, and then the obvious— Melo misses two when we are up two with eight seconds remaining. Otherwise we scored every time we had the ball. LITERALLY EVERY TIME. In other words, the offense was perfect down the stretch. Except…. It’s mind boggling. These are Hall of Fame players. Guys that are superb career free throw shooters and have certainly made them in the clutch as well. The drop off this season makes absolutely no sense and completely defies logic. You honestly can’t even address it. What are you gonna do, tell Russ and Melo to practice more? Baffling. It is a major concern heading into the playoffs. As we saw tonight, it can cost you a game you otherwise deserved to win.

2. Also have to mention the ridiculously bad luck the Thunder have had this year on miracle shots. That possession by Boston is NOT what they wanted. That was hardly the goal. It was good D from the Thunder. The ball was forced out of Tatum’s hands and Morris caught it sort of awkwardly. He isn’t the guy you want shooting it anyway (if you are the Celtics) and it wasn’t really a clean look. All the credit to him for making it, but you aren’t going to pin that on much of anything but bad luck from a Thunder perspective. They also lost the game early in the season against the Wolves where Wiggins banked it in at the buzzer. Both of those were when the Thunder were winning. Gary Harris’ long three at the buzzer in Denver came when the game was tied. Even the night Russ hit the game winner in Sacramento— that was necessitated because the Kings had a miss and tip in to tie it with one second left. Let’s also not forget the game winner from Giannis where he stepped out of bounds prior to making the shot. Dennis Smith of the Mavs had one too. There have been some others as well. Generally these things tend to even out— and of course as a fan you remember the bad more than the good. But objectively I would say that this year the Thunder have had some abnormally bad luck when the other team has the ball in a game winning/tying situation.

3. If you were to nit-pick the game beyond the free throws, I think you’d look at a general malaise from the team throughout most of the game. The energy was just a bit off. I actually thought they played pretty hard/well defensively, but didn’t seem as dedicated tonight on the offensive end. Took the easy way out and were settling for shots throughout much of the game. Looked like they might have been trying to “feel the game out” to see exactly how hard they had to push it. I actually don’t have an issue with that. Good teams sometimes do it. They turned it on when they had too— and then got undone by their free throw failings. You could certainly argue that playing with a touch not focus earlier in the game could have avoided the issue entirely. This is a bit of an annoying trait for this team, but it’s likely not something that will haunt them in the playoffs. It’s pretty clear they know how to dial it up emotionally when the stakes are highest (or at leas the competition is stiffest). In the playoffs I doubt they ever try to “get away” with anything. There is also the reality of General fatigue at play here. Even Adams looked a bit slower and less engaged tonight. And I think we all know it isn’t because he was actively not trying to play as hard.

4. I guess I’ll just keep harping on it as long as it keeps happening: It is time to scrap the 11 man rotation. By playing Huestis, Abrines, AND TFerg it is preventing any of them from getting into a groove or contributing consistently. Specifically throwing Huestis out there with the bench bunch lineup makes no sense because it is just a killer on the offensive end. I think he should just sit, period. But if Huestis plays he should be out there with some of the starters/scorers. I like what Donovan is doing with the other parts of the rotation right now, but the inconsistency with those three isn’t helping any of them.

5. The playoff race is slowly becoming a bit more clear. The Nuggets and Clippers are fading fast. While I am not 100% ready to say the Thunder can officially forget about those two, I think we are trending that way. We have reached a point now where it would take an extreme result for either of those teams to pass the Thunder. That means that simply making the playoffs isn’t really a legitimate worry at this point. Catching Portland for the three seed is also not realistic (and I don’t care about that anyway). Looks to me like the Thunder are battling for the 4th-8th seed. They truly could land anywhere in that mix. The difference between 4 and 5 matters due to home court, but it isn’t massive. Falling to 6 isn’t a complete disaster, but it’s not good because now you get Portland and potentially Golden State if you survive the Blazers. The 7-8 seeds would be horrible for obvious reasons (and I also think both GS and Houston would likely feel the same way if they had to play OKC in round one). So the four seed is the clear goal. At minimum, don’t drop below five. Looking at all of the schedules for the teams at play, I like the Thunder to stay on the 4/5 line if they simply don’t crash down the stretch. With 9 games remaining something like 5-4 could very well keep them where they want to be. Friday is one of their “easier” remaining games. Miami is a really tough team; they max out what they have. They remind me a little bit of Utah in that regard (albeit a slightly lesser version). This is a game the Thunder need to win. Portland looms on Sunday followed by three teams in the middle of this race (Spurs, Nuggets, Pelicans). You can’t “make up” a loss like the one we saw tonight. You aren’t getting that one back. But you can sure as hell make it worse.

 

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 3-13-18 (Thunder 119, Hawks 107)

Five Thoughts 3-13-18 (Thunder 119, Hawks 107)

1. Let’s start with the good. Tied at 103-103 with about 4:00 to go, the Thunder closed the game out like bosses tonight. RW was in total control down the final stretch. And Jerami Grant? My goodness he is playing good basketball right now. He is an absolute force in the paint. And he isn’t totally reliant on someone setting him up for the finish. He does that very well, but he has also developed into a guy that take people off the dribble or back them down. Then, he steps out and is capable of hitting a big three. He was sensational tonight and he was incredible over the final few minutes. But really, he’s been damn good all year long. He’s earning himself a fat payday this off-season. It’s looking more and more as if the Thunder will want to be the team writing that check. Russ and Grant completely took this game over at the end. It was tied and it was tense. And then just like that, it was over and the final 2-3 minutes were a breeze.

2. Two other guys deserve recognition for their second half efforts tonight. Corey Brewer didn’t have a huge statistical output, but I thought he was a catalyst behind the turnaround in the third quarter. He was a menace defensively and he was also getting out in the open floor, creating offense. One play in particular stands out where he drove the length of the floor and dropped a perfect pass to Grant for an easy dunk. Brewer also hit a three during that run which helped flip the script of the game. It’s somewhat coincidental that OKC is now 4-0 with Brewer starting, but it isn’t ENTIRELY coincidental. The other guy I really noticed tonight was Patterson. Things felt shaky to start the fourth quarter with Russ sitting and Adams and PG both out for the game. Patterson came through tonight; he provided the offense we needed in the fourth to keep the Hawks at bay— he helped buy time until Russ returned. He’s been playing better the last few weeks; the bench as a whole is starting to contribute quite a bit more.

3. The “ugly” tonight would be the second quarter. Disaster— similar to the third quarter against the Kings last night. Here is the thing about “tanking” teams. While the organizations might be making decisions on purpose that lessen the ability for their teams to win, the players actually on the floor are trying hard. As a matter of fact, a lot of these teams are probably playing HARDER than normal because they have so many guys trying to make it in the NBA. So even if you are up against a team with half a roster of G-Leaguers, if you give them a little life; if you let them hang around, things can get sticky. Prince and Schroeder for the Hawks are both really nice players and a few of their no-name youngsters got hot from beyond the arc. The Thunder are still going through stretches of games where they completely crap themselves. Once the crapping is complete, they are often left with an opponent that feels pretty good about themselves. It’s game on from there. Thunder need to find a way to get back on track faster after the my derail in a given game.

4. Pretty amazing tightrope act lately. Thunder have won 9 out of 12 games. All nine wins came against teams currently outside of the playoffs. Eight of them were against league bottom-feeders. Many of those games were tight or decided on the final handful of possessions. The Thunder went 9-0 in those games. The three losses were against the top three teams in the West. This is quite the contrast to early season tends— an exact opposite as a matter of fact. Early in the season the Thunder were beating the best teams and struggling against the lesser lights. Now all of a sudden the Thunder are taking care of business against the middling to bad teams and struggling against the contenders. This is par for the course in a season of contrasts and general weirdness.

5. Tough night in terms of getting any help/relief in the playoff picture. Pelicans, Wolves, Spurs, and Clippers all won. At posting time, Denver held a five point lead over Lakers in L.A. A loss tonight could have proved very troubling. Thunder took care of their business since the Houston loss. They played four teams they should have beaten and they walked out with a 4-0 record. Now things get tough. They have two full days off (good timing as I’ll be locked into the NCAA tourney Thursday and most of Friday) so hopefully Adams and PG can get healthy and be ready to go for this final push. Clippers in town Friday night— they also play at Houston on Thursday; the potential exists for us to make up 1.5 games on them in a 24 hour span.

 

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 3-12-18 (Thunder 106, Kings 101)

Five Thoughts 3-12-18 (Thunder 106, Kings 101)

1. Weird night. Thunder were all over the place. Defense in first half was a B+. Defense in third quarter was an F. Defense in fourth quarter was an A-. Offense was kind of herky jerky all night, but they hit three’s at an efficient rate (and it’s a good thing they did). I’ll give the Kings credit too— I didn’t think we tried to coast so much tonight as much as they just played pretty well. At the very least they played hard start to finish and didn’t wilt the handful of times it looked like we might pull away. Played them four times and had to scrape to go 3-1 against them. Our defense was atrocious in the third quarter when Sacramento racked up 39 points, but it was pretty darn good the rest of the night-they barely averaged 20 in the other three quarters.

2. Not sure what Donovan is doing with Abrines and TFerg. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Brewer is obviously the starter now. Huestis is being relegated to the very back of the rotation (I would remove him completely). Abrines had a nice game against San Antonio on Saturday. Tonight, TFerg is first off the bench and Abrines doesn’t get into the game until the fourth quarter. He subsequently hits two three’s that help the Thunder gain some distance. I don’t think either TFerg or Abrines is a particularly strong option off the bench, but at this point it’s likely made worse with the inconsistency of minutes. I’d just let Abrines be the first shooting guard off the bench—use TFerg if you need some extra relief. At this point I don’t see TFerg factoring into a playoff rotation, so I’d save his minutes for low stress stuff the rest of the regular season. Brewer’s emergence is allowing the rest of the rotation to settle in— Donovan needs to allow that to happen.

3. Speaking of rotations, Donovan has experimented with a subtle change in recent games that I think might work. Rather than stating the second and fourth quarter with Adams, Russ, PG, and Melo all on the bench, he has kept PG out there for the first 90 seconds or so to start each quarter. He then returns with Russ at his normal time. This bridges the gap a bit and limits the number of possessions the Thunder go all-bench on the floor. In the playoffs he may need to take this a step further and virtually eliminate the all-bench minutes. But by doing this now he’s allowing for a change to not be a cold turkey type of deal down the road. The offense is a wing and a prayer when Russ, Melo, and PG all sit together. Those minutes need to be mitigated.

4. I would like to freeze the standings tonight and keep it exactly the way it is until the end of the season. As good as Houston has been this year, come playoff time I still think any team would be better facing them than Golden State. Given a choice, I’ll choose to avoid the team with the better top line talent. Doesn’t mean I would be confident at all against the Rockets; just my preference if I had to choose. So I want to line up in the bracket with them. It looks like they will be the #1 seed. I also want home court in the first round. So the spot that accomplishes those two things is the 4 seed. That’s where we are today. This changes every hour or so it seems and we could still go anywhere from third to out of the playoffs, but we see a glimpse right now of what would be the ideal scenario for me— especially if we matched up with New Orleans in round one. As long as Houston stays at one, I don’t really care about getting the three seed— Portland is on fire so it may be moot anyway, but it’s not something I’m overly focused on. Stay in the top four, line up on opposite side from Warriors. That’s the aim.

5. Thunder have won 8 of 11 to go eleven games over .500 for the first time this year. It hasn’t exactly been a scintillating streak; at times it’s been shaky as hell, but it certainly beats the early season trend of losing to teams they should beat. And I like the defense lately. The Brewer addition has clearly been a positive as well. Tomorrow night in Atlanta is their last chance until the final game of the year to potentially take advantage of a bad team. After the Hawks, they will play 11 games in a row against teams either currently in the playoffs or within one game. This includes games against the top four teams in the league, three of which are on the road. Making sure they escape Atlanta with a win will provide them a little margin. It’s a big game. Hawks aren’t good and their roster is far worse from just the last time we saw them— they’ve unloaded some vets since then and have shelved Kent Bazemore for the season with an injury. That said, it’s a road game on a back to back in the NBA— those are always scary. Also seems like a good chance they will be without Adams. Thunder need to suck it up and find a way to get out with a W by any means necessary. Pretty, ugly, disgusting, beautiful. Who cares. Just don’t lose.

 

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!