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It’s a testament to how well the Thunder have been playing lately that fans were genuinely shocked that they lost a road game to a solid Kings team. It was even more surprising that OKC let a late game double digit lead go in the closing minutes. And maybe most surprising they let the Kings get off a great look (granted, after playing very good defense most of the possession) for the game winning shot.
OKC has been playing with such steady, high IQ and doing all the little things that win games in the clutch over the past couple of weeks that a performance like tonight’s felt like a bit of regression. The team has been exceeding expectations all season long, so a Sacramento slip up after controlling the game for nearly the entirety failed to meet newer, higher expectations.
Despite the Thunder hitting 13 of 33 shots from downtown, six players scoring in double figures and Abdel Nader doing his best Anthony Morrow impression, the Kings rallied behind the still Oklahoma beloved Buddy Hield. The former Sooner scored 23 points and hit 5 timely 3 pointers.
The game winner by Bogdan Bogdanovic was very much due to the Thunder committing Chris Paul and Steven Adams both to Buddy, which led to Dennis Schroder sagging off Bogdanovic to guard the center, which led to an open side stepped 3 after a hurried Schroder close out. Hield’s gravity was what set it all in motion.
Maybe tonight was a good reality check. Thunder fans have had visions of playoff plums dancing in our heads since the calendar flipped to December. And those dreams may become a reality. But there’s also a very real possibility that this team will end up looking much different very soon and some of these league leading close losses will end up feeling like a blessing in disguise in retrospect.
As with most losses this season, the Thunder played hard, entertaining and competitive ball. And after the Thunder had won three straight and five of six coming into the game, the Kings finally gave Team Tank a much needed win.
- Even with a loss, the Thunder remain tied for the 7 seed in the West. It’s a three way tie between OKC, Phoenix and Sacramento.
- The Thunder could play the 1990s Bulls, the Process 76ers, the 1972 Dolphins, the 2017 Browns, or the Flint Tropics and every game would come down to the final possession.
- Nerlens Noel slammed down the best Thunder dunk since Diallo got hurt. Crap, now I made myself miss Hamidou.
- Diallo and Terrance Ferguson being out, though, has led to Abdel Nader and Lou Dort receiving quite a bit of playing time, which has led to a ton of high quality memes, so it’s not all bad.
- Nader scored 15 points while hitting 5 of 6 shots from beyond the arc. His shooting splits for the season are now an incredulous 48.9/46.7/83.3. Small sample size, yeah, but maybe Nerlens Noel’s preseason Nader hype wasn’t as crazy as we originally thought.
- Dennis Schroder has increased his trade value, if the Thunder decide to go that route, by leaps and bounds this season. He led OKC in scoring tonight with 17, the second straight game he’s been the Thunder’s top man and 7th time out of 24 games.
- Next up: at Denver on Saturday. This game will be a true win win. If the Thunder wins, the Nuggets loss helps the draft pick OKC got in the Jerami Grant trade. If the Nuggets win, it helps the Thunder’s own draft pick.