Tipoff: 7:00PM EST
Stephen Jackson – 17.2 ppg
Gerald Wallace – 16.7ppg, 8.1 rpg
DJ Augustin – 12.8 ppg, 6.2 apg
Nedad Krstic – DTD
Stephen Jackson – DTD
Gerald Wallace – DTD
The Thunder just finished a four game home-stand, tallying a record of 3-1 (oh how it coulda/shoulda been 4-0). The Bobcats, overachievers a year ago, are currently in free fall. How will they match up tonight?
Here are a few relevant if scattered tidbits about how the Bobcats have been playing these days:
- They just lost to the Wizards by 33 in a game where the Wizards were shorthanded (Arenas had already been traded) and had previously lost seven in a row.
- They have also recently lost to Boston by 31 and Memphis by 33.
- They managed a single field goal in a forgettable 3rd quarter against the Wiz where they scored a total of 11 points.
- Granted, Larry Brown is forever a Debbie Downer, but check out these quotes:
“We’re just not a team…We’re not well coached. We don’t play hard. That’s my responsibility.”
“I feel bad to put a team out there like that.”
“It looked like the first day of practice, maybe a pick-up team playing an NBA team.”
I get it that coaches are constantly working to keep their players both confident and hungry, but there is a difference between speaking out against your own team’s best interests when you’re struggling to beat the bottom dwellers and say a Phil Jackson trying to get the Triangle offense back in order.
Of course this defeatist ethos makes the Bobcats ripe for the picking for a Thunder team that played well below their abilities last game. I also think that, though playing at home is nice and comfortable and encouraging, the place where good teams make their bones is by beating good teams on the road. Some of the great players in the game’s history have spoken affectionately on the experience of playing road games. It heightens the focus, galvanizes the team, and is that much more sweet when the home crowd is silenced.
Obviously the Bobcats are not a good team, but never the less it is a road game at a time when I think the Thunder could really use a dose of focus. The last two games (1-1 record) have been games that were with barely any focus at all. It will do them good to face a little bit of adversity to test their willingness to rely on each other collectively rather than themselves individually.
I also get a sense that the Thunder have a tendency to play to the level of their opponents. They get up for the big games, but relax a bit against the also-rans. This state is pretty typical for young teams trying to find their way, but I was particularly disappointed to see Coach Brooks succumb to it late in the game against the Suns. With the game on the line, Brooks went to small-ball to try and catch the Suns. I understand that sometimes a change of pace is needed, but the fact is, the only way the Suns play is “small.” That the Thunder would choose to try to play the Suns’ game, rather than force the Suns to deal with the Thunder’s strengths when the game was on the line was a tacit condescension. The time for change-ups is when the game is undecided; when the game is on the line, you put forth your best solutions.
I hope that the Thunder don’t look past the Bobcats, because on any given night any team can be embarrassed. I am happy though that they are facing two road games in a row, with the Knicks awaiting tomorrow night. Following, the Nuggets will be coming to town on Christmas day. I think the heightened focus that these games will bring forth will help the Thunder regain their slipping competency.
Let’s all pay attention to see where it goes.