Energy has been a problem for the Thunder all season. Their lackadaisical play has been frustrating for most because, with their roster, energy shouldn’t be an issue and neither should defense.
After the Houston game where they lacked both despite a poor shooting night and a totally vulnerable Rockets team, they bounced back as they should have against darn near the worst team in the league, the Phoenix Suns.
The same thing the Thunder lacked just 48 hours prior to Thursday’s matchup is the same thing that won the game for them against Phoenix; energy. Usually, they play with that ‘too cool for school’ type of persona but Thursday they played like a team trying to not only remain in the NBA playoffs but to also elevate from the seventh seed, to potentially the third.
Things didn’t start like that for the Thunder, though. For 20 of the 24 first-half minutes, they struggled once again against a team they shouldn’t struggle against. Falling behind 14-8 early in the first quarter wasn’t in the gameplan and being up by only three points by the end of the first wasn’t either. It definitely wasn’t the quick start they’ve been desiring.
The second quarter began the same way; sluggish, lazy, tired and unconcerned. Note: At this point, the Thunder starters weren’t in the game. It was OKC’s bench vs. the bench of the Phoenix Suns.
The comeback all began with Westbrook, who checked back into the game with approximately eight minutes left to play in the first half. The Thunder led by two points. By halftime, they expanded that lead to 11 points, 49-38. Of course, that was after their starters checked back in.
From that moment on, the Thunder never looked back and that was all thanks to Westbrook, Brewer’s defensive (and offensive) contributions, and Steven Adams coming back to life after a careless performance against Houston the other night.
Still sitting at seventh place in the Western Conference with 15 games left before the playoffs start, the Thunder are now tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for sixth but they still have the tiebreaker over the Thunder. With that being said, every game counts. As of now, two losses could have them in ninth place and out of the playoffs. Contrarily two wins could also have them as high as third and in a very favorable position entering the postseason.
With OKC’s talent level, the two things that won Thursday night’s game; defense and intensity, will get them where they want to be. It’s just up to them to play consistent, high-intensity basketball from here on out.