Two things could have been predicted heading into Sunday’s matinee against the Golden State Warriors: the Thunder would get it together after a poor performance against the Washington Wizards on Friday and the Warriors wouldn’t be as good as we’re used to seeing. Both of those predictions were true but on extreme levels. The Thunder defeated the Warriors 120-92.
As frustrating as the first two games were for the Thunder, they were learning opportunities.
In their first loss against the Utah Jazz, they started extremely slowly but went on a run at the end of the game, only to fall by five points against a playoff team. The Thunder faithful left optimistic. Then came opening night in Oklahoma City, where a matchup against the John Wall-less Washington Wizards seemed like a sure win. The Thunder started that game strong. While the game was competitive, they started well but ended the game being outscored 14-2 and looking as bad as ever. The faithful left that game not so optimistic.
OKC, in their third game of the season, put together a blowout throughout. It was an impressive win despite Kevin Durant not being a member of the team anymore and Klay Thompson being sidelined for the season with a torn ACL. Stephen Curry is an MVP candidate, and Draymond Green is always a candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year. Neither looked the part in Oklahoma City, but the Thunder looked confident for the first time.
It’s a good sign that the Thunder got to see the good, the bad and the ugly in their first three games. This has been a morale-building start to a new era in Oklahoma City where only five of the 10 rotational players were on last year’s team.
We played at a way faster pace and it led to so many more open shots in the game. It was easier for the rest of us.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the pace of Sunday’s game.
Other than Danilo Gallinari, who we know isn’t known for defense, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been an all-star through three games, all the key players have faced tough questions this early in the season.
Everything isn’t fixed. Steven Adams still isn’t as assertive as one may prefer. He only attempted eight shots and scored eight points against a Warriors team that’s very slim in the frontcourt. Chris Paul isn’t as assertive as he’s known to be through his 14-year career. Contrarily, Terrance Ferguson and Dennis Schröder had their best outing of the season with a combined 35 points. Whether it was against a faulty defensive scheme by the Warriors or not, the NBA is all about confidence and that’s one thing that’s been in question for Ferg. Hopefully, for he and Schröder, this was a game that can jump-start the season for them.
Sunday’s win, despite the state of the Warriors, was monumental for a youthful, uncertain Thunder team that’s searching for a new identity. Correcting themselves after trials and tribulations and winning against big-named franchises and out-playing big-named players can boost the confidence of a team like the Thunder, serving them beneficially through the season.
Let’s see how the Thunder respond against Russell Westbrook and the Rockets (sounds weird, huh?) on Monday night.