Thunder Journal: Shai Shines and Roby Rumbles in Thunder Loss-Win to Magic
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“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and help them lead the way. – Whitney Houston” – Sam Presti
We know Sam Presti loves air drumming to some ’90s hip hop, but the Thunder boss chose an ’80s banger as the theme song for the OKC rebuild. And it’s become Mark Daigneault’s jam.
On Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic, Thunder U Part Deux was on full display.
When official word came down that Al Horford and George Hill would sit out against the Orlando Magic because they are putting the Thunder’s future in jeopardy by hitting too many shots, assisting on too many passes and making their teammates generally better overall, most assumed Mike Muscala would start and Darius Miller would make his season debut. Don’t cancel BINGO night just yet, old timers.
Muscala kept his bench role as the 7 foot Steph Curry and Miller kept his role of Invisible Man.
The Thunder’s starting lineup and their ages:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 22
Lu Dort: 21
Justin Jackson: 25
Darius Bazley: 20
Isaiah Roby: 22
That’s not an NBA starting lineup, that’s a seasoned NCAA tournament team. The bench unit was so young that they had to get permission slips from their parents to play and ask their Uncle Moose to chaperone:
Theo Maledon: 19
Hamidou Diallo: 22
Kenrich Williams: 26
Aleksej Pokusevski: 19
Mike Muscala: 29
Thunder fan reaction to the news that Justin Jackson and Isaiah Should’ve Cut Him Instead of Frank Jackson Roby would start in place of Hill and Horford included a mix of “eww” and “who?”, but mostly just a bunch of tank gifs.
Apparently Thunder U skipped class the day Professor Presti led a Zoom lecture on Tanking 101. These kids came to play like their lunch money depended on it.
Led by a star-in-the-making 23 point, 7 assist and 7 rebound performance from Shai and Isaiah I Personally Never Doubted Him Roby’s 19 points, this scrappy dappy doo AAU team only trailed the undefeated Magic by 4 at halftime. At the end of the third quarter, OKC was within 2. The Thunder tied the game 87-87 one possession into the final period. Could the Thunder’s young core, Muscala, a couple third stringers, and the random Kenrich Williams actually pull off what a healthy Heat and Westbrook Wizards team couldn’t and hand Or-ando their first L? Sammy was sweating socially distanced bullets in an abandoned Peake press box.
In the end, Presti and Daigneault’s commitment to Whitney’s wise words paid off. The Magic held on to their slim lead and only stretched it to double digits in the final moments. But for the third straight time, OKC’s infectious effort and energy resulted in a surprisingly competitive game.
Every game, the final point differential for the Thunder has gotten progressively worse. And every game, my final impression of the Thunder has gotten progressively better.
While a last second Shai game winner over the Hornets and a last second Shai game loser to the Jazz may seem to be a better result on paper than a double digit setback to the Magic, an already bottomed out OKC team without Horford and Hill had Thunder fans believing Isaiah Roby could delay tank plans by one more game. That’s a belated Christmas miracle.
The official record will count this as a loss, but the Thunder are now 3 for 3 in accomplishing their goals for this season. Every game has been close and entertaining, so the fourteen fans who can watch the games on Fox Sports Oklahoma are getting their money’s worth. The tank is picking up steam with two straight losses, so the Cade Cunningham dream is alive and well. Shai continues to grow into his future All Star jersey, Dort hit five 3s and has scored at least 15 in every game, Maledon looks better each game, and hey, Poku made a shot! OKC may have even discovered a young diamond in the rough with Roby. Bazley had an off night, but we’ll just chalk that up to his reading the room and realizing the rest of his graduating class were failing their tank tests.
The Thunder believe the children are the future. Daigneault, Billy Donovan, Chris Paul, Al Horford, and George Hill have been teaching them and now Shai is helping lead the way. The end game is that OKC will change the team theme song in a few years’ time from a 1985 Whitney ballad to a 1977 Queen rocker.
- Isaiah Roby, the third string center, hit the Thunder’s first 3 of the game. First decade of OKC basketball: no centers who can shoot. This decade of OKC basketball: only centers who can shoot.
- Thunder broadcaster Chris Fisher admitted on air that he’s never seen Airplane. He’s lucky nobody can watch Fox Sports Oklahoma anymore.
- I really wish Michael Cage would’ve hit Fisher with a: “Surely, you can’t be serious.”
- The Thunder could start Shai, Dort, Bazley, Jackie Moon, and the dude from Along Came Polly against the Lakers and OKC would find a way to make it close.
- OKC’s effort is a joy to watch. Without Horford or Hill, they had no business being in this game versus the 3-0 Magic. But every Thunder player goes 100% all the time so they make up talent discrepancy with pure will and hustle.
- OKC’s leading scorer at the half… SGA: 9 points Dort: 9 points Roby: 9 points Diallo: 9 points
- Shai didn’t miss a shot until several minutes into the third quarter. He started out with 14 points on 5-5 from the field, 1-1 from 3 and 3-3 from the free throw line.
- Poku’s first career points come off of a driving jumper, miss, rebound and putback. Or as I call it, the Hamidou Diallo.
- I was fully convinced this game was going to come down to a Shai game winner.
- You can complain about Diallo’s shooting ability and shot selection, but there’s no denying his effort. Hami scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.
- Up next: Steven Adams returns, yay! To an empty, fan-less stadium, boo!