March Madness has overtaken half the Thunder fanbase.
No, I’m not talking about the NCAA Tournament. The actual emotion of feeling anger has taken root this month for those of the OKC faithful hoping to pick the best bracket-busting prospects. A parade of Cade crusaders and a mob of Mobley admirers are quite literally getting mad in March.
While fans all across the state cheer Oral Roberts for the fit of their fifteenth seeded glass slippers, some of the biggest homegrown Thunder supporters jeered the Cinderella of the NBA season when Lu Dort denied John Wall entrance to the basket-Ball. With the Cunningham clock ticking towards midnight, time is running thin but hope is still alive to jump from the top ten into the top five.
So why are legions of OKC fans so upset? Because the Thunder just cannot seem to lose.
Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets have mastered the art.
On Sunday afternoon, the Thunder trotted out the second youngest starting lineup in NBA history. Theo Maledon is a 19 year old 2nd round rookie. Lu Dort is a 21 year old undrafted sophomore. Aleksej Pokusevski is the youngest player in the NBA. Moses Brown is a 21 year old two-way player. And Isaiah Roby was the elder statesman of the group at an ancient 23 years old.
The Oklahoma City starting lineup’s combined career games played was 190. John Wall was playing in his 600th career game.
Joining the multiple All-Star Wall in the Rockets’ starting lineup former All-Star Victor Oladipo and a player many consider to be a future All-Star in Christian Wood. On paper, Houston outclassed in OKC every way: talent, star power, experience and accolades.
But as they have done time and again this season, the Thunder overcame a talent disparity with intangibles that paper cannot measure: effort, energy, chemistry, unselfishness, playing a smart brand of basketball and generally just caring about trying to win. As a result–much to the dismay of both Thunder and Rockets fans and much to the delight of both Thunder and Rockets fans-OKC’s junior varsity NCAA aged lineup made NBA history.
The Thunder became the youngest starting lineup of all time to win a basketball game.
Meanwhile, the Rockets tied the third longest losing streak in NBA history with a 20 game skid.
And what is the Thunder’s reward and the Rockets’ punishment for these two sides of the Adam Silver coin? OKC plummeted to a 9th place slot in lottery percentage points while Houston continued to gain ground on the Timberwolves for the top (bottom?) overall spot.
In the month of March, the Thunder are 4-4. Despite playing lineups consisting of rookies and role players and resting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Al Horford, OKC just finds ways to win. It doesn’t matter who plays or who rests, a culture of winning has infected this Thunder team. At this point, it appears that Mark Daigneault has no vaccine to cure OKC of their successful ways.
The Thunder have 30 games remaining to up their odds in landing a blue chip talent, and the good news is that they can get that bad taste of a historic win out of their mouths with a loss tonight in Minnesota.
The bad news? They play the one team better at losing than the Houston Rockets.