Saturday, November 8, 2008

Jekyll and Hyde -- Tale of Two Thunders

I will say this much for Oklahoma City's NBA team. The city should be damn proud to call the Thunder their own after last night's game at Utah.

With that out of the way, I should caution everyone that tonight's story isn't going to be a normal recap. It will give the score and all that pertinent info, but I will be foreshadowing for the most part. Carbert and I both agree that OKC is going to have ups and downs this season, but the Jazz exposed the true identity of the Thunder early and often in the 104-97 defeat.

The tale of two teams doesn't give the whole story. More to the point it is the play from quarter to quarter that is so unsettling. OKC came out hot, scoring the first eight points of the contest. Things turned ugly from there, as the Thunder managed only 21 more the rest of the HALF. Trailing 58-29 at halftime, the visiting club found a new gear and closed the gap back to single digits. The Jazz defended their turf, however, and they stayed undefeated while knocking OKC to 1-4 on the year.

Much like the game against Boston, my recap could have ended there because it doesn't look pretty for the Thunder. The big difference for me is that the team played with a fire in the second half last night that needs to come out more. Point guard Earl Watson played like a true floor general, and the leadership of Desmond Mason brought a new energy to OKC. Joe Smith showed the younger big men how to do it, leading the Thunder in blocked shots and tying for the high in rebounds.

My favorite stat of the night was the 3-3 shooting from 3-point range of Jeff Green. Notching a season-best 22 points, Green provided Kevin Durant the type of running mate that every superstar needs. Durant shot better as well, helping to overcome the dismal shooting of the opening half. Mason and Watson added double-digit scoring nights as well, leading the Thunder to a 69-46 scoring edge in the second half.

The key will be how the play carries over to tomorrow. Another tale of two halves won't cut it -- OKC needs to find a constant to stay competitive. Whether that means starting a smaller, faster team with Mason in the starting five or finding a balance with one of the power forwards/centers is something Coach P.J. Carlesimo will sort out this week. The Thunder face a brutal stretch of five games in the next seven days, and the road to a lottery selection could hang in the balance.

Why so dramatic you say? The blow-out losses are one thing. Fighting back just to lose close games is heartbreaking. My prediction is a 3-2 swing this week and a renewed life in Oklahoma City. My gut tells me that the Jekyll and Hyde routine will not be around much longer, something every fan can cheer for...

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