Tag - fans

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.
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Utah Jazz Game 1 Meltdown 4.15.18

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Jazz after falling behind. Paul George exploded for 36 points and barely played in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City’s win really brought out the “blame the refs” fans. Jazz fans were pretty chill for the most part. Blamed the refs. There was one comment where someone wanted Royce O’Neale to take out Adams’ knee caps but maybe said in jest? Either way, enjoy the meltdown

  • I’m excited. Really anxious to see how we respond after the Portland game.
  • the refs will dictate this series
  • Please stop with this nonsense.
  • Just put on the lucky Jazz Hoodie. Time for the Jazz to have the whole league Take Note!
  • The poor man’s superteam. OKC
  • Westbrook BS calls counter is up to 1
  • We’re straight up embarrassing OKC.
  • Stomp these ****ers into oblivion.
  • Ahh Crymelo throwing up a brick, takes me back. Lol this is a poor excuse for a super team.
  • Last year we broke up the Clippers. Let’s do the same to OKC!!!
  • Joe ingles and Paul George are not going to be friends after this series.
  • This lineup is ****ing trash. Is Quin high?
  • At least kick his knee cap out, Royce.
  • Jazz are staying in it but the worrisome part is they are playing at OKC’s tempo
  • Get Adams in foul trouble. Go at him. Every ****ing possession.
  • Looking at Westbrick ‘s face makes me feel like I have diarrhea
  • Of course loser George starts hitting all his threes.
  • I’m gonna have a really unhealthy hate for PG by the end of this series.
  • Paul George needs to start missing again… I don’t like this Paul George.
  • These shots will stop falling for the thunder. Our defense will wear them down
  • I’m beginning to become worried that they’re just better than us.
  • Pg13 is defending the **** out of ingles and then getting the better of him on the other end too.
  • Lucky ****ing bounce
  • That crowder shot: no no no you stupid mother fu…… Yes!!!
  • If they ride Adams to get fouls on Rudy, I don’ know how we win.
  • vintage melo. my boy. trade him to jazz okc.
  • They’ve kept one of Anthony, Westbrook, or George on the floor the entire half. Staggering minutes.
  • Our bench got ****ing smashed.
  • Utah needs more points. They can win this game if they score more points.
  • PG has to cool off, right?
  • PG playing better than anyone in the playoffs so far. **** me.
  • **** Paul George
  • Lol okc fans. What a sad bunch haven’t they been watching basketball for almost 10 years now? No excuses.
  • Bull ****! Call it on Westbrook then, his was intentional.
  • I expected the superstar treatment from the zebras and I was right. We all were.
  • We don’t win if Rudy is off the floor. Just not likely.
  • Jesus Adams is a bull
  • Guess the honeymoon is over.
  • Quite a shot by pg13
  • Would be a tie game if not for PG just unconscious.
  • WTF was Adams doing. Let’s **** someone in the 4th.
  • Holy **** George.
  • When did PG become the greatest jump shooter of all time?
  • The thunder arena with the stupid cop sound ever single time there is a foul is aids.
  • How are we not down 30+
  • **** pg13
  • Thunder make everything or get the rebound.
  • Westbrook passes up a wide open 5 footer so he can go for the triple double, lol.
  • “They can’t shoot this well all series long…” Famous last words.
  • Wish we had been at home. George was eating that **** up.
  • Home court’s not important.
  • Royce didn’t stop PG one time this game, so stop pretending like he displayed any form of defense.
  • I’m not an Adams fan at all but he is tougher than Gobert and Favors.
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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.
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The Sneaky Charm of Jerami Grant

You know when you go to a fast food restaurant, and then you unexpectedly find a gift card in your wallet for said fast food restaurant that doesn’t quite cover the whole meal but still gives you a rush and makes you feel better about your purchase?

That’s what it’s like watching Jerami Grant play basketball for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Grant’s athleticism combined with his 6-foot-9 frame and over seven foot wingspan make him a unique and exciting player full of possibilities. In his second season in Oklahoma City, he has really blossomed into a versatile bench player.

Playing an average 20.3 minutes each game, he’s been a great source for explosiveness and extra buckets. Carmelo Anthony sat out the entire fourth quarter in an overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets last Friday because Grant, who finished the game with 16 points, was doing too well to be taken out.

The lanky forward can play from almost any position, and he always knows how to get to the right spot at the right time. He’s been on the receiving end of a lot of Russell Westbrook dimes and lobs that usually end with a fantastic display of graceful hang time or rim-rocking jams.

“It’s fun to be able to play whatever position coach needs me to,” Grant said back in February. “I think it’s big for the team just to be able to kind of fill in whatever role the team needs you to play.”

Grant is currently averaging more points at 8.2 per game than any other Thunder bench player. Shooting a career high 52.8 percent from the field and being able to knock down the occasional three certainly doesn’t hurt either.

A lot of opposing defenses have a tough time guarding him under the basket because of his length and quickness. He can drive on the baseline and kick it out to the open man or use his magical body control to pull a finger roll out of a hat.

On a team that struggles to find consistency, Grant has been a steady presence lately. He shot 5-of-5 on his way to 12 points in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Easter Sunday.

We also can’t forget how well he played against Houston on Saturday night.

He’s one of those under-the-radar good players who are just so much fun. Let’s be clear though, I use the term “fun” in the sense that he plays basketball in an entertaining way, not that he is a fun person in general. As much as I love him, he seems to always be this emotionless figure with no personality. Seriously, the guy’s interview videos look like he’s being fed lines in a hostage situation.

But who needs personality when you can capture hearts on the court?

Some of Grant’s biggest moments that make fans lean way back in their seats come on the defensive side of the ball. Fast footwork and long arms prove to be effective weapons to take charges and block shots.

He’s averaging 2.2 blocks per 100 possessions this season, and he has a 4.1 block percentage according to Basketball Reference.

There’s just something about watching Grant come out of nowhere on defense to send a shot right into the stratosphere that makes me feel like I could literally climb Mount Everest without any training whatsoever in that moment.

Grant is quickly becoming a staple in Oklahoma City. His two-way impact is not lost on the Thunder and should be important in the playoffs. There are still a few kinks to work out, but at 24 years old, Jerami Grant looks to only be on the rise.

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One year ago: Russ makes history with No. 42, then does the impossible

It is crazy to think it has already been a year since Russell Westbrook made history with 42 triple doubles in a season, but it is almost crazier to see how much the roster has changed since then. Out of the 13 guys that were on the active roster for that game at Denver on April 9, 2017, only six are on the current Oklahoma City Thunder roster.

It was a big game in few ways: Russ was looking to put his name in the history books, the Thunder were looking to gain some rhythm heading into the postseason all the while the Denver Nuggets had to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Pepsi Center was packed and electric. They wanted a win to maintain hope for a playoff spot, but they were also not so secretly hoping to witness Russ make history.

There were plenty of fans in the arena cheering for the road team, but they weren’t the only ones keeping count of Westbrook’s stats as the game went on. It seemed with each Russell bucket, assist, or rebound that the crowd grew with anticipation waiting for him to get that triple double.

For much of the game, it was an offensive battle as both teams were scoring at will. Each team was getting close to putting 30 points up for each quarter, at least for the first three quarters of the game. Denver even opened up the second half with a scorching 38-point third quarter performance.

The Nuggets obviously knew what was at stake; losing was not an option as they wanted to make the playoffs. They led for most of the game, and were even up comfortably by double digits for the majority of the second half.

Much like many times last season, the fourth quarter was Westbrook’s quarter. So many times last season he won games for Oklahoma City that they most certainly should have lost. Not only with big time game tying or winning shots, but with improbable comebacks when the Thunder were down late in games.

Oklahoma City found themselves down by as much as 14 points midway through the fourth quarter. Westbrook was just a couple rebounds and one assist away from his 42nd triple double, and the Nuggets crowd could feel it.

Just a couple possessions later, Westbrook had grabbed those rebounds he needed and all that was left to make history was one more assist. With just over four minutes left, Oklahoma City was down 13 with Westbrook driving to the lane. As Russ was doubled, he kicked it out to Semaj Christon in the corner, who was wide open. Christon, who shot 19 percent from three last season, hit the corner three to give Westbrook his tenth assist, and more importantly the 42nd triple double of the season.

The home crowd, feeling comfortable with the Nuggets still up 10, did not hold back as they cheered and acknowledged what Westbrook had just achieved. That should have been the story of the game for Nuggets fans: “Westbrook has historical moment, but Nuggets get win to keep playoff hopes alive.”

That isn’t what Russell had in mind, though.

With less than three minutes to go, Westbrook led the Thunder on another improbable comeback, this one maybe the most improbable of them all last season. Down double digits with three minutes left, and even down seven points with just 57 seconds left in the game, Russ was about to crush all the Nuggets fan’s hearts that had just once cheered for him moments ago.

As Oklahoma City got one more stop with just two seconds left in the game while down two, the Thunder were going to get one shot to either tie it or win it with a three. As Russ’ career shows us, we knew what shot he was looking for.

As Westbrook got the ball near half-court, he heaved it as the buzzer sounded and ultimately crushed 18,000 fans, making the most impossible shot go in, while simultaneously ending Denver’s playoff hopes.

It was a game that couldn’t have been better told if it was in a book. Not only did Russell get to make history, he also got to hit one of the craziest buzzer-beating game winners that happened in the 2017 NBA season. Westbrook finished the night with 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists.

It is a game, one year ago, that is still fun to look back on and hard to imagine how many things lined up perfectly to happen the way it did. It will definitely be one of the more memorable games Thunder fans will always remember.

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Thunder get important win over NOLA 109-104

The best present the Oklahoma City Thunder could’ve given fans on Easter Sunday today was a crucial 109-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans to avoid the season sweep and move back up to the fifth spot in the Western Conference with a 45-33 record.

I’d also like to think the last several brutal Thunder games were all part of an elaborate April Fool’s prank that was just revealed to us today.

Oklahoma City showed up in an aggressive way and played with an intensity that they haven’t brought in a while.

The main fuel source, especially in the first half, was Paul George. He had 19 of his 27 points by the 8:48 mark in the second quarter and shot 50 percent by halftime. George came out swinging on both ends of the court and racked up eight rebounds and three steals. During the few slow points in the game, he was always there to get the momentum to quickly shift back to the good guys.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” George said after the game. “I just tried to get into a rhythm early and sustain it.”

The Thunder shot 53 percent and outscored the Pelicans 33-22 in an electric second quarter dominated primarily by George to take the 53-50 lead at the half.

Russell Westbrook was instrumental in keeping the ball moving on offense as he secured his 103rd career triple-double and fifth straight against New Orleans. The fast paced nature of the game led him to 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists. If you like flashy Westbrook highlights of dunks, dimes, and drives, this was definitely the game for you.

The matchup between big men Steven Adams and Anthony Davis didn’t end up taking center stage even though Davis has gotten some MVP buzz over the past couple months. Davis ended with a significant 25 points and 11 rebounds, but he didn’t command control and just take over like he has been.

A tie game at 63-63 with around five minutes left in the third was the last real possible turning point for New Orleans, but they ultimately couldn’t keep up with Oklahoma City firing on all cylinders.

“I thought we did the things coming down the stretch that maybe in some of these previous games we weren’t able to do,” coach Billy Donovan said postgame. “I thought we were consistent for a good portion of the game.”

Despite getting three fouls in the first six and a half minutes on the court and having to move to the bench (where he then received a questionable technical foul to add to his resume) until the middle of the second quarter, Carmelo Anthony eventually put up 16 points on 4-of-8 from deep along with six rebounds.

There were certain moments where he even started to drive and work more in isolation than he normally does. Anthony did a decent amount of post work, and even though the ball didn’t always go in, it was still an interesting change of pace.

Donovan’s rotations tonight also saw a lot of change. For instance, George came out for about two and a half minutes in the first when he normally plays that entire quarter. George and Russ seemed to be staggered more often, and perhaps the biggest surprise was rookie Terrance Ferguson didn’t even step foot on the floor even though he’s been playing about 14 minutes lately (much to the dismay of many Thunder fans). But, hey, I’m not complaining.

More time for some bench players meant more moments for Jerami Grant, who knocked down 12 points and made all five shots he took from the field. Two blocks were also fruits of his defensive labor.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Golden State Warriors on TNT on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. A win clinches the playoffs for the Thunder. Brady Trantham will be in arena for the Thunder.

Keys to the Game

Three-pointers: B

New Orleans has proven an ability to get hot from beyond the arc, and they showed spurts of that tonight. They made 34 percent of their three-pointers, just outshooting the Thunder at 29 percent. Melo sunk 50 percent of his perimeter shots, but didn’t really attempt a high volume of them. It wasn’t terrible, but players who are known to be able to make those shots, especially George, could still work on their consistency.

Rebounding: A

Having to battle a guy like Davis for rebounds can be difficult, but it didn’t phase Oklahoma City tonight when they grabbed 51 total boards compared to the Pelican’s 44. They now move on to 32-10 on the season when out rebounding their opponents.

Make your free throws: C+

The atrocious free throw shooting lately didn’t turn around overnight. George was the only player to make all of his shots from the line, and the team as a whole shot 72 percent. The fact that New Orleans also struggled a bit in this department may have been a little saving grace, but the Thunder have still got to figure this mess out.

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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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Nick Collison shows why you always have to be ready

It was only a couple of buckets and a free throw but that seven minutes we saw Nick Collison spit fire up and down the court on Saturday night gave Thunder fans that resurgence feeling that had been missing for a couple of seasons.

Sure, Russell Westbrook went bananas and won an MVP last season but there’s not a lot that rivals that of a Nick Collison, perfect hair and all, setting a fundamentally sound screen while curling to the basket. It’s like Steven Adams did it but without all the hair and accent.

“A total pro. He comes ready to play every day,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “Nick keeping himself prepared and going in there he did a great job.”

You wouldn’t believe it but the Thunder were two points worse with Collison on the floor last night. His energy and his attitude made it feel like the Thunder were on the verge of pounding the Spurs out of the playoffs in an elimination game.

“I’m really happy for Nick Collison because he’s a total pro,” Donovan said. “He comes ready to play every day. Not knowing Steven’s situation, Nick keeping himself prepared and going in there he did a great job.”

Seven points in six minutes on 3-of-4 shooting, two rebounds and all of our hearts.

While Collison isn’t a player who can play formidable minutes against an Anthony Davis or even some of the lesser players like a Jonas Valanciunas, his ability to relieve the injury of Adams in key moments on the floor were huge. When Collison checked in, the Thunder led by 10 but the lead ballooned to over 20 with Collison on the floor.

“He [Collison] got his number called,” Westbrook said. “He answered like he do every time.”

At the end of it, MVP chants flowed down from Loud City like an Oklahoma summer rainstorm. The fans chants “MVP! MVP!” as Collison split the two free throws, making the one on the chants.

“Sometimes, I feel like the walk-on in college games where everybody’s yelling at him to shoot the ball, one of the kids that gets in at the end of the game in blowouts,” Collison joked.

As the bench played with a renewed vigor of seasons past, Collison led the fourth quarter charge. Other players scored and had their own impact, i.e. Jerami Grant’s 15 points and eight rebounds and Patrick Patteron’s 10 points were their own influence, it’s just seeing a fan favorite who’s old and not able to jump as high to come in and make such an impact.

“Pat and Nick, those guys did a great job of forcing to our help,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of having their backs and making it tough for them.”

Collison may not play the rest of the season. He may get into a blowout game and just play a couple of minutes but we know the former Kansas Jayhawk will be ready.

“I’m always trying to stay ready,” Collison said. “I can tell when there might be an opportunity.”

 

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Five Thoughts 3-10-18 (Thunder 104, Spurs 94)

Five Thoughts 3-10-18 (Thunder 104, Spurs 94)

1. With the exception of the final 5:00 or so, the Thunder defense tonight was excellent. It was probably the best overall defensive effort since Andre went down. First of all, the team clearly took this game very seriously. From the outset, the energy and intensity was good. It was hardly a thing of beauty offensively, but their defensive pressure never wavered. Most importantly, it didn’t disappear either. Maintaining consistency game to game or even just within an individual game has been a problem all season long for OKC. Tonight, they didn’t jack around. Their effort to start the second half was equal to how they started the game. They fell asleep at the very end of the game and started allowing far too many uncontested shots, but it was pretty much over by that point anyway. For the overwhelming majority of this game, the defense was stellar.

2. Corey Brewer is sort of like the new dude who moves into the high school late in the year. He may not be the biggest stud the ladies have ever seen, but he’s being treated as such because they are just so tired of all the other dudes. He’s only been on the team for four games and he’s only had two starts. But keep this in mind, in those two starts he has scored 17 and 12 points respectively. In contrast, Huestis has never scored double digit points in any game HIS ENTIRE CAREER. Abrines has had his fair share of decent scoring games (tonight was one of them actually) but he generally follows it up with a Houdini disappearing act for chunks of games at a time. Brewer is a pro. I don’t anticipate him to average 15 points per game as a starter and I don’t anticipate him to keep draining three’s at an efficient rate. But I DO anticipate that his defense will be steady and that he will continue to move on offense and be a factor on the fast break. I anticipate he will remain a solid free throw shooter and I anticipate he can finish easy looks generated by Russ breaking down the defense. In other words, I anticipate him to continue to be an upgrade from what we were getting from that position.

3. A residual effect of Brewer potentially being an effective starter is that it also strengthens the bench by default. Now, we are asking less of guys like Abrines and Huestis which makes it MORE likely they will be able to help. We aren’t quite as desperate for someone (anyone) to help out the stars. So when those guys do get a chance to impact the game, the pressure is dialed back and they are more likely to be relaxed and confident. The bench hasn’t helped much this year, but they were great tonight. Jerami Grant has had a really, really nice year. He’s done it somewhat quietly, but he’s often been ALL they have to offer coming off the bench. I love his aggression— he plays bigger than he is. Even though he can hit three’s from time to time, he doesn’t park himself at the line. He also rarely settles for a jump shot. He drives the ball consistently and he has developed into a very good finisher at the rim. Impressive improvement from Grant this year.

4. The Nick Collison Show was one of the cooler moments of the season. I’ve mentioned a few times in the blog that I would have liked to see Nick get some “real” minutes this year. Not as a 15-20 minute per night guy, but as someone who can play a spot role and be a situational rotation player as opposed to what amounts to another assistant coach. So it was great to see him get into the game tonight while the outcome was still in doubt. It was even better to see him immediately put the ball in the basket. He started 3-3 and quickly racked up his 7 points. The crowed reaction was great (sort of) and the “MVP” chants were funny. The reason I say “sort of” is because of something Nick himself mentioned post-game. He said he often now feels like the college walk-on. Like the team manager who finally gets in the game and the crowd goes nuts. While this comes from a good place from the fans— they are simply showing their appreciation to Mr. Thunder, it also comes across as a little awkward. He isn’t Rumble. He doesn’t have fur. He isn’t the team mascot. We are taking about a star college basketball player who then became a very steady NBA player. I guess you can’t blame it all on the fans— his teammates do it too. Bench goes bananas when he scores. He’s gotta be wondering exactly how it all came to this? That said, there are far worse things than becoming a fan favorite.

5. Very nice win. Second game in a row Thunder have generally looked good in all facets start to finish. They did it tonight with both PG and Melo struggling mightily. They go to ten games over .500 for the third time this year. They’ve never gotten farther than that. Each time they’ve climbed that mountain they’ve lost the next game or games and had to start the climb again. They are about to have the easiest possible back to back you can imagine in the NBA. They have Sacramento at The Peake Monday and then go to Atlanta the next night. Neither of these teams are particularly interested in winning games right now. Thunder should help them realize their goals. No messing around. After this not-so-deadly duo, the schedule takes a pretty drastic turn so we would be wise to go into “take care of business” mode ASAP.

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. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Suns Meltdown 3.2.18

Sure, the Suns have been a thorn in the side of the Thunder for a couple of seasons. However, Russell Westbrook exercised those demons last night. The Suns fans were witty and not too insulting. They were riding the tank train the entire way.

  • Smelling a Westbrook quadruple-double With turnovers and offensive fouls not called.
  • Cough L Cough
  • booker airballing an open 3?
  • that might be the only time it ever happens remember this moment
  • Nice “camo” on the Purple Tank tonight…
  • we’re actually playing…well?
  • Booker is going for 4000 points in this game alone and he will not be denied.
  • Josh Jackson just put him in the spin cycle…
  • MAGIC WIN
  • What is this winning? I may be mistaken
  • refs always f***ing with booker
  • Harden has ruined the meaning of continuation
  • nice sequence, Chriss actually helped
  • We need to start playing some shred of defense
  • Nice to hear the crowd again.
  • The thunder are like the new blazers. No matter how good they are or how bad the Suns are, the Suns seem to have their number.
  • MAn for whatever reason we just own the thunder.
  • BOOKER BLOCK
  • That block probably should’ve been a foul lol…
  • My favorite half of the year
  • Dallas plays Yogi Ferrell in crunch time we have no chance of outanking them
  • Are the Suns sweeping the Thunder?
  • PIstons have a losing record since trading for Griffin, maybe we should’ve traded for him to help the tan
  • If the Thunder’s defense is this bad without Roberson, they weren’t going to get far in the first place
  • Suddenly my stream switched to a Agua Caliente Clippers game
  • Amare calls Payton’s hairdo “the wave.”
  • OKC looks like they didn’t plan on playing defense tonight.
  • This is flat out unacceptable We can’t have this guys. they’re just showing way too much effort right now.
  • Westbrook used to have great games against the Suns when we had Bledsoe. He seems uninterested now though.
  • Alright, lets turn on the fouls now
  • I’ve seen Westbrook do some amazing stuff. I’ve seen him jump over the most athletic guys in the world, average a triple double, and none of that compares to him picking up a mop. Good for you, Russ.
  • perfect tank execution
  • The thunders are tanking?
  • Screw Len man
  • Aaaaaaand it’s falling apart
  • Need to lose to keep pace lol
  • OKC getting some home cooking… on the road. Two bad calls against Jackson.
  • Wtf is this lineup?
  • book cold
  • this is one ugly game
  • if you came here for defense, well youre gonna be disappointed
  • warren used to be good at getting in position to receive passes
  • Are we really up 1?
  • Not anymore
  • I hear tank tracks…
  • RIGHT NOW If you want to lose, you have ice in your veins
  • Did Westbrook just rebound his own air ball?
  • Who are all the people that were going crazy on that dunk? Are there basketball fans from Oklahoma in Phoenix?
  • I would like to one day see Westbrook play in person, even though I’m a suns guy.
  • As a Suns fan I was oooooing and aaaaing at that dunk. Westbrook is a great player.
  • Adams hugged Bender from behind and no call
  • okc just played like crap but we tank harder
  • the degree to which okc is pumped up by beating this Suns team shows how screwed up they are. What a crappy underachieving team
  • Close, but we pulled out the loss.
  • My most hated half of the year
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