Tag - fans

Jazz 96, Thunder 91: What they said after Game 6

In another wild game in what has been an insane series, the Utah Jazz were able to hold off a surging Oklahoma City Thunder to take the first round series and advance to the conference semifinals. Utah won the series 4-2.

Russell Westbrook had to do a lot by himself offensively, as Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were nonexistent scoring-wise. Russell finished with 46 points, hitting 18 of his 43 shot attempts. Without Westbrook going into the mode that he did, Oklahoma City would have been absolutely blown out.

Donovan Mitchell was phenomenal for Utah, and helped them a ton when Rubio went out of the game early with an injury. Mitchell finished with 38 points, 22 of those in the third quarter.

After a very active offseason in 2017 and having high expectations, the Thunder will now go home early in the postseason with a lot left unaccomplished.

Here are some key quotes from tonight’s wild game six:

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“I thought our guys came in and competed, we battled. I think if you look at the six games that both teams have played in, there have been incredible runs in both directions.”

“We gave ourselves a chance and an opportunity. It has been a great group to work with, I really really appreciate all these guys, and what I really appreciate is when you bring a new group of people together, you never know how it’s going to be in the lockerroom and how guys are going to get along. Those guys did a great job. I think there is great optimism and hope, in my opinion, of what the team could end up being going forward, because I think there is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow from this and get better from it. So, we are disappointed our season has come to an end, but we give a lot of credit to the Jazz and how they played here today.”

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“I think other people are finding out, stuff that we’ve known. Alec Burks is probably the best example of that tonight. A guy that, we’ve said, that all year long whether it is an injury or a game or foul trouble, we have had guys step up. That’s been what these guys are about, and Alec was that guy tonight. Found himself a situation, that he didn’t envision, at shoot-around today. He stayed ready….You saw tonight as good as example as you can have of a guy that was able to do that, and we don’t win that game without Alec. There’s no question about it. He is a reflection of what our whole group has been about all year.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

Every night I play, man. I leave it on the floor. I continue to say this every time I play, I’m not saying it for my health, that is just how I play. Regardless of win, lose or draw, I leave it on the floor, everything I have. Sometimes you come up short, sometimes you win. That’s my job, to bring my energy, aggressively for my team and that is what I do.”

“I don’t confront fans. Fans confront me. Here in Utah a lot of disrespectful things are said to the players. Truly disrespectful, talking about families and kids. I’m tired of going out and playing and fans saying whatever they want to say.. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t come up and say that. I don’t play that shit. I think it’s just disrespectful they can do whatever they want to do. Especially in Utah.”

Oklahoma City’s Paul George:

“It is our first year playing together. I knew that coming here. High expectations to win. I think you have to figure out the in between stuff. It takes time to become a championship team.”

“It is too soon. I would love to remain a Thunder, but that’s what the summer’s for.”

“[Russell]’s unbelievable. Amazing. A stand up guy. Its not cliché, people say he’s an amazing player and amazing person. That’s truly how you can describe Russ. He’s one of the best teammates by far. Just learned a lot. He’s an unbelievable person.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“Man, I don’t think words can really describe it. [Thunder] are a great team, they play with heart and passion, but the way we play together, we weathered the storm when they came out hot early. We stuck together that’s been our motto all year. To beat a team like that, says a lot.”

Utah’s Joe Ingles:

“It was a fun game, we obviously did not want to go back to [Oklahoma City], we wanted to finish it in front of our home fans. It is going to take a little while to wind down after that tonight. It’s a quick turnaround for Houston, and we will figure out what we got to do for that series. But obviously, tonight, is something we want to enjoy together. We’ve been a great team all year, sticking through the ups and downs, and tonight was just an example of that.”

 

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Jazz Meltdown! 4.25.18

The Oklahoma City Thunder made a historic comeback and sent their first round series with the Utah Jazz back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. Jazz fants went from cocky, making Hamilton the Musical jokes, to melting down with all of the meltdowns. They gave Westbrook actual credit. That’s weird. Enjoy!

  • This game is gravy.
  • Tonight is the Crowder game
  • Calling this right now. Mitchell goes for 40+. His 3 point shot will be fire tonight.
  • I can’t believe I am saying this, but I have Hamilton tickets for tonight and the only thing I am thinking about is the Jazz!
  • Hamilton is the ****.
  • THOMAS JEFFERSON’S COMIN HOME
  • Donovan > Jefferson
  • I am predicting a big win for Alexander Hamilton in tonight’s duel vs. Aaron Burr. No spoilers if you know how this turns out!
  • Brewer is a b**** a** roach
  • Pansy P with the fluke basket
  • I can tell right now that Thunder will play much better they did the last two games.
  • Billy just took Carmelo out… not fair put him back.
  • Crowder with the steal chair to his haters
  • Crowder is Larry Bird
  • Holy ****. Jae Crowder with the insane spark off the bench.
  • This game feels like a Jazz win. We are moving, rotating and hitting open 3s.
  • Dante slipped on Fatman Felton’s butter sweat
  • Joe Ingles giving pushoff P a Pushoff and hitting a 3 is the highlight of the series LOL
  • When Fatman Felton runs the floor Thunders
  • Stupid OKC fans dumb punks
  • I missed it, what happened?
  • Nothing really, I just hate them
  • Felton so fat he didnt even feel that he was pushin Exum out of bounds with his belly.
  • Get your Westbrick shot out of there Rudy molested you
  • Thunder arena sounds best silent,
  • kicking their assssss
  • Westbrick is not smart enough to even see what the problem is.
  • A tech on OKC. This is fun.
  • How many shots did Westbrook jack up? Holy ****.
  • I really hate Westbrick’s face reminds me of a kermit the frog on crack
  • OKC is incredibly dumb… can’t tell how much is players and how much is coach.
  • The way the crowd is acting I feel like I’m watching a game in early January – very low energy.
  • Gobert just destroyed Westbrick’s career. I mean destroyed whatever is left of it. He can still do a muppets movie as a 3d crack head Kermit the Frog
  • Time for OKC to start with the frustration fouls and starting fights
  • What is Crymelo postseason record against us… 3-8 now?
  • We’re up by 25 on a team that has quit.
  • OKC just doesn’t want it. Don’t let them think they do.
  • Personally I would love it if the arena emptied before the 8 minute mark in the 4th.
  • Westbrick finally shows up.
  • Don’t do this Jazz… don’t give them one damned breathe of air.
  • Down 18 stupid okc fans suck at match think they are down by a bucket
  • Westbrook hits 2 though shots. He’s now going to force 6 more in 3 minutes.
  • Let’s push this thing to 30, then we can relax
  • Keep your foot on their throat Jazz
  • damn looks like jazz got this
  • Jesus. So much for them laying down after being down 25
  • Okc will run out of gas.
  • This come back will be short lived
  • Adam Silver doing some wwe **** now
  • Jazz are completely falling apart.
  • What the actual **** i
  • whats happening. Our offense is awful
  • One of the biggest choke jobs in playoff history.
  • **** the NBA and **** NBATV. Why can’t I watch this **** on national TV. ****
  • I’m getting worried.
  • 25 point lead gone just like that.
  • Ingles gonna give okc a kangaroo kick
  • I’m gonna be in an awful mood if this continues
  • Son of a….
  • Wtf Are we watching
  • What an explosion from Westbrook.
  • One of the craziest quarters of basketball I’ve ever seen.
  • I don’t have a good feeling about this.
  • If your gonna give up a 25 point lead at least take a little more time to do it.
  • Give Westbrook some credit. Hell of a quarter from him.
  • I can only hope Westbrook is outta gas….but he’s an mvp…
  • seriously falling apart. no composure
  • Now when we win it will merely crush Westbrook’s will even further. So do not despair.
  • That’s it I’m done. I’m to frustrated with this ******** officiating. Wife is pissed because I’m yelling. Calling it a night before I end up in the dog house
  • Westbrick ain’t nothing, we got this.
  • Do not blame refs. No single lineup of NBA players should blow a lead that big that fast.
  • Not sure if I’ve ever seen a jazz team meltdown like this.
  • We have shat the bed.
  • If the Jazz lose I’m going to be worried about the momentum for Thunder in game 6 and 7.
  • So who were all the people on here earlier today saying they wanted Westbrook to play this game? Good call guys…
  • Game over. Jazz down and can’t stop Westbrook.
  • Let’s leave Westbrook unguarded so he can hit mid-range jumpers.
  • Terrible! I can’t get how you lead by 25 and blow it. If they lose this series. This will go down as the biggest let down in Jazz franchise history.
  • OKC vs Houston should be fun to watch
  • Absolutely unbelievably horrible performance.
  • Championship teams don’t blow 25 pt leads.
  • Our worst nightmare just happened. We let Westbrook find himself and this series just shifted.
  • I have a friend Chris who texted me saying we murdered them… and they immediately came back… I have informed him that he is no longer my friend and I am going to his house now to lay an upper decker in every toilet in his house.
  • DM finally looked a little shell shocked too…
  • Top three most pathetic game in Jazz history.
  • Wouldn’t be right the way this season has been to not have the Jazz set another record of some kind.
  • gonna long ****ing 48 hours
  • I was yelling so much I think I’m getting a divorce.
  • We ain’t coming back.
  • Guys seriously I think that game gave me cancer.
  • Surprised by OKC not giving up when they were dead in the water. Props
  • We got Westbrooked.
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Thunder 107, Jazz 99: What they said after Game 5

The Oklahoma City Thunder completed one of the biggest NBA comebacks in playoff history in Game 5, rallying back to beat the Utah Jazz 107-99. It was the fourth largest comeback in NBA playoff history, and the actual largest comeback in Thunder franchise history.

The Jazz own a 3-2 series lead.

Oklahoma City looked dead in the water, beginning late in the second quarter, and came out absolutely flat early in the second half. The Jazz were clicking on all cylinders, especially with their outside shooting.

Then, midway through the third, Russell Westbrook and Paul George went totally bonkers, combining for 79 total points on the night.

Oklahoma City ended up outscoring Utah 66-43 in the second half.

Here are some key quotes from the teams on Game 5:

Utah’s Quin Snyder:

“Then Rudy went out, and we were fighting it, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to offensively against the [defensive] switch. Got some good looks, missed them, and then the biggest thing is 37 points in the third quarter. Just let [Thunder] back in the game, and they had confidence and life, we did not do what we needed to do.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell:

“We stopped playing defense. We stopped getting back, and our offense got stagnant. They made adjustments, and we did not make the right adjustments back. We’ll watch the film and figure out what went wrong. But from my analysis we just stopped getting back.”

Utah’s Rudy Gobert:

“I got in foul trouble early in the game. Had a few stupid fouls that were on me, and had a fourth foul that was invisible. That was on me, I have to be smarter with three fouls and don’t put my teammates in that position.”

Utah’s Jae Crowder:

“I mean they made an adjustment, and we didn’t continue to get shots for our unit. Not just for me but for our team. They continued to go on a run, and we didn’t get looks that we wanted to get down the stretch. They made an adjustment, we didn’t make adjustments on the fly, and it cost us the game.”

Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan:

“It took a lot of toughness, a lot of resiliency, especially being down 3-1. To keep fighting, to find a way, at the end of the third, to be right there at the end of the game. Give them a lot of credit, we are excited about another opportunity to play, and extend the series. We will have to play a lot better than we did in the first half and we’re going to need a lot more in 48 minutes like we did in the second half.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook:

“We just know it is one game at a time. In the playoffs, you got to win on the road if you want to win the series. So, we know what we have to do. Got to go in there and take care of business.”

“Definitely, man, our guys fight all season long. Tonight is one of those nights where our crowd, everyone here in Oklahoma was behind us. We needed every bit of it tonight. Our guys stepped up and made big plays.”

Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant:

“We always had the capability, we always have the capability of coming back from whatever, with a lot of fire power with [Paul George], Carmelo, and Russ. It was just do or die, and we had a sense of urgency.”

“The crowd was amazing. We fed off their energy and they fed off ours. It was definitely a plus to play here in front of these great fans.”

Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton:

“I have no words for it. I’ve been in the league 13 years and one of the most amazing games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Up next: Game 6 back in Salt Lake City on Friday at 9:30 p.m. Thunder time on ESPN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog.
We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

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.
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!

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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