Five Thoughts 3-13-18 (Thunder 119, Hawks 107)
1. Let’s start with the good. Tied at 103-103 with about 4:00 to go, the Thunder closed the game out like bosses tonight. RW was in total control down the final stretch. And Jerami Grant? My goodness he is playing good basketball right now. He is an absolute force in the paint. And he isn’t totally reliant on someone setting him up for the finish. He does that very well, but he has also developed into a guy that take people off the dribble or back them down. Then, he steps out and is capable of hitting a big three. He was sensational tonight and he was incredible over the final few minutes. But really, he’s been damn good all year long. He’s earning himself a fat payday this off-season. It’s looking more and more as if the Thunder will want to be the team writing that check. Russ and Grant completely took this game over at the end. It was tied and it was tense. And then just like that, it was over and the final 2-3 minutes were a breeze.
2. Two other guys deserve recognition for their second half efforts tonight. Corey Brewer didn’t have a huge statistical output, but I thought he was a catalyst behind the turnaround in the third quarter. He was a menace defensively and he was also getting out in the open floor, creating offense. One play in particular stands out where he drove the length of the floor and dropped a perfect pass to Grant for an easy dunk. Brewer also hit a three during that run which helped flip the script of the game. It’s somewhat coincidental that OKC is now 4-0 with Brewer starting, but it isn’t ENTIRELY coincidental. The other guy I really noticed tonight was Patterson. Things felt shaky to start the fourth quarter with Russ sitting and Adams and PG both out for the game. Patterson came through tonight; he provided the offense we needed in the fourth to keep the Hawks at bay— he helped buy time until Russ returned. He’s been playing better the last few weeks; the bench as a whole is starting to contribute quite a bit more.
3. The “ugly” tonight would be the second quarter. Disaster— similar to the third quarter against the Kings last night. Here is the thing about “tanking” teams. While the organizations might be making decisions on purpose that lessen the ability for their teams to win, the players actually on the floor are trying hard. As a matter of fact, a lot of these teams are probably playing HARDER than normal because they have so many guys trying to make it in the NBA. So even if you are up against a team with half a roster of G-Leaguers, if you give them a little life; if you let them hang around, things can get sticky. Prince and Schroeder for the Hawks are both really nice players and a few of their no-name youngsters got hot from beyond the arc. The Thunder are still going through stretches of games where they completely crap themselves. Once the crapping is complete, they are often left with an opponent that feels pretty good about themselves. It’s game on from there. Thunder need to find a way to get back on track faster after the my derail in a given game.
4. Pretty amazing tightrope act lately. Thunder have won 9 out of 12 games. All nine wins came against teams currently outside of the playoffs. Eight of them were against league bottom-feeders. Many of those games were tight or decided on the final handful of possessions. The Thunder went 9-0 in those games. The three losses were against the top three teams in the West. This is quite the contrast to early season tends— an exact opposite as a matter of fact. Early in the season the Thunder were beating the best teams and struggling against the lesser lights. Now all of a sudden the Thunder are taking care of business against the middling to bad teams and struggling against the contenders. This is par for the course in a season of contrasts and general weirdness.
5. Tough night in terms of getting any help/relief in the playoff picture. Pelicans, Wolves, Spurs, and Clippers all won. At posting time, Denver held a five point lead over Lakers in L.A. A loss tonight could have proved very troubling. Thunder took care of their business since the Houston loss. They played four teams they should have beaten and they walked out with a 4-0 record. Now things get tough. They have two full days off (good timing as I’ll be locked into the NCAA tourney Thursday and most of Friday) so hopefully Adams and PG can get healthy and be ready to go for this final push. Clippers in town Friday night— they also play at Houston on Thursday; the potential exists for us to make up 1.5 games on them in a 24 hour span.