Oh, wait…you mean it was the other LA? Oh me. Oh my.
Final Score: Clippers 107, Thunder 92
Points: Eric Gordon with 27
Rebounds: Krstic, Green, and Griffin all with 9
Assists: Eric Bledsoe with 8
This outcome was shocking, to say the least. What was even more shocking was that the outcome was virtually certain by the middle of the 2nd quarter. During this quarter, the Thunder, for all intents and purposes, stopped playing the game. In a dazzling display of nonchalance, the Thunder put on the performance of an AAU team that had just met before tipoff.
It cannot be stated strongly enough – the Clippers are one of the most historically inept teams in the history of the NBA, and the Thunder’s play made them look like playoff contenders. Something isn’t just wrong. Something is broken.
We could discuss the listless play, the dribbles off of the leg, the horrible 3 point shooting (4-26), and the refusal to put a body on young Griffin.
All of those critiques would be valid. But addressing them won’t put a W on their record, especially facing a vastly superior Portland team tonight. Rather, the team seems to have lost its own identity.
This is what I think is in play: the Thunder bought into their own hype. I hate to say it, but that is what I see. I see a team that does not seem to have any sense of taking the game seriously. I’m sure if you asked them to a man if they took it seriously, to a man they would say, “yes.” However, when you drop two games back to back by double digit scores, the latter to a team that has no history of a winning identity, and you look bad doing it, a message is being sent that the Thunder took themselves too seriously and their opponents not seriously enough.
Allow me to quote the great Crash Davis:
Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.
Sure, it’s fiction, and yeah, it’s baseball. But I think this sentiment highlights something that younger athletes don’t quite grasp; that is, that everything matters. Take a look at the 2010 Dallas Cowboys. After 7 games, many of them ending with key players saying things like, “we can fix that,” “We’ll do that better next time,” and “We just need to right the ship and stop making so many mistakes,” you look up and their season is effectively over. The Cowboys were predicted to be the first team in NFL history to host the Superbowl in their home stadium. They believed the hype, didn’t take any aspect of their performance seriously, and now that Superbowl is gone with less than half the season expended.
I know that it is easy to go crazy living game to game over the course of an 82 game season, and the mistakes being made are correctable. But are they being corrected? Has their atrocious interior defense gotten better since game 1? Has their shooting percentage gone up? Have the coaching decisions improved? Not yet. Of course, there is time. There is plenty of time. But that is the great narcotic to complacent teams (just ask Jerry Jones).
Like Crash Davis said, the difference between being an also-ran and a contender is the smallest of things extrapolated across the vast sea of endless back to back games in February and March. Everything matters.
Games against the likes of the Clippers make the difference between a 42 win 8th seed and a 52 win 4th seed. Tonight they’re in Portland. It is time to get their head on right.