Didn't See That Coming
By Randy Renner
Well this week certainly hasn't started the way I figured. You see I thought the Thunder would go up to Indianapolis, take advantage of some matchup mis-matches and take care of business against the Pacers.
Then I figured since the Pelicans hardly had enough healthy players to fill out a lineup sheet the Thunder would beat them almost no matter what. Then on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons with absolutely nothing at stake, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks might decide to rest some guys or at least not play the starters their normal minutes and if the Pistons came in playing hard they might win because it would be a "who cares" game for the Thunder.
Yep kinda wrong on that huh?
Turns out the who cares game was last night in the Big Easy where everything seemed way too easy for the short-handed Pelicans.
New Orleans breezed to a 101-89 win, stopping the eight game losing streak they were on this season. They had lost 10 straight to the Thunder over the years. The Pelicans had been carved up like a holiday turkey just a few days ago in Oklahoma City by this same Thunder team.
Well not quite, remember Russell Westbrook played in that game, bringing his relentless energy and determination. None of the above was on the court for the Thunder last night.
Some are calling it the worst loss in franchise history (or at least Thunder history) and considering the circumstances that's pretty hard to argue with.
The Thunder could have wrapped up the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs last night then they could have taken the night off against Detroit on Wednesday.
Instead they now must hope the Los Angeles Clippers, who suddenly have new life, will lose at home to the Denver Nuggets tonight and hand the Thunder that second seed on a platter.
Knowing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and Doc Rivers that's not likely to happen. The Clippers smell blood in the water now and will probably hammer the Nuggets forcing the Thunder to actually play against the Pistons Wednesday with the #2 seed on the line.
There were of course some circumstances that affected the Thunder. They were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Westbrook was resting because of his knee, Reggie Jackson didn't appear quite 100 percent after being shaken up Sunday at Indy, their schedule has been grueling coming down the stretch and blah, buh-law, boo-LAW.
There is simply no sugar coating sweet enough to disguise the sour stench coming off of this one.
Once again the Thunder had problems on defense, constantly allowing the Pelicans to have their way inside. Once again the Thunder made an All-Star out of an also-ran. First it was Gerald Green with a career-high in Phoenix, then it was Jodie Meeks with a career-high in Los Angeles for the Lakers and now last night Tyreke Evans added to the career-high hit parade with 41 points. 12 of those came at the free throw line where he was 12-for-16. With two minutes left in the third quarter Evans had as many free throw attempts by himself as did the entire Thunder roster because the Thunder kept settling for jumpers, long jumpers, that missed.
Because of their injuries the Pelicans didn't have anyone inside who could challenge the Thunder but OKC was outscored 44-32 in the paint. Last Friday against the Pelicans at The Peake the Thunder outscored them in the paint 56-38.
Last Friday Oklahoma City dominated on the fastbreak 28-0, last night the Pelicans outscored the Thunder in transition 18-17.
Last night the Thunder launched 32 threes in their loss, last Friday in their win they put up just 13 long balls.
Last Friday Serge Ibaka blocked eight shots and altered 10 to 12 more. Last night Serge blocked just one.
The one thing that was pretty much the same last Friday and last night was that the Pelicans were playing without most of the good players. Their top four scorers were out and six of their top seven scorers didn't play.
So how could this happen? How could the Thunder so thoroughly dominate and obliterate a team one night and then LOSE to that same team (albeit on the road) just a few nights later??
The really sad thing is I knew you would ask that, I knew you would want an answer and you know what? I don't have one for you. I have no idea.
Maybe that game Friday served as inspiration for Pelicans and gave too much comfort to the Thunder.
Maybe the grind of an 82-game schedule and the strain of six sets of back-to-backs over the last month of the season and playing the second night of a back-to-back and playing without Westbrook did them in.
Maybe it was that blood moon thing...,maybe it was some sort of voo-doo curse...maybe it was a little bit of all of that.
One thing I do know though, if the Clippers beat the Nuggets tonight the Thunder had better bring it full bore against Detroit on Wednesday, stop the silliness of jackin' up a 3-ball every trip down the floor and play some lockdown defense or this long run through the playoffs everyone's counting on will end up being a short walk to nowhere.