There is rarely any such thing as a “good” defeat, but what you can do is take away a number of positives from a performance that saw you lose. The Oklahoma City Thunder have plenty of positives to reflect on after their narrow defeat to the Houston Rockets.
Playing to the wire
Heading in to the playoffs, there is one thing you need to be able to do – play with intensity from wire to wire for the full 48 minutes. Against the best teams in the league (and let’s face it, they are the ones in the playoffs) you cannot afford “lapses” and the Thunder didn’t do that last night. They played with energy and intensity on both ends of the floor from the opening tip until the final horn. That type of performance has to be pleasing to the coaching staff. It also meant that in a game of runs, the Thunder were never out of it and game themselves every chance to win even if they couldn’t get across the line.
Production from the reserves
In order to be able to remain competitive for the full 48 minutes, you need to rely on your bench to keep the momentum up and your team in the game when the starters rest. The Thunder started the season like this and the Houston game reinforced the strength of the OKC bench. Caron Butler, Derek Fisher, Jeremy Lamb, Nick Collison – all solid contributors and you can add Reggie Jackson to that list when Russ in in uniform. If they continue to play hard, share the ball and provide an offensive spark, the Thunder are going to put themselves in a position to win any game.
Kevin Durant is a Superstar
Forget the 25+ point game streak. While there is no denying that it is a tremendous feat and testament to just how good of a season Durant is having, it means little if your team doesn’t win. It was clear from this game that Durant isn’t focused on scoring titles, MVP’s or equaling Michael Jordan’s stream – he wants to win. It was probably the toughest 28 points KD has scored all season long, but his overall game spoke volumes. The rebounding, the defense, the playmaking with Russ out and the clutch plays almost willing his team across the line – that is what makes Durant a superstar. There is a saying in the playoffs – the team with the best player generally wins – and he is trying to ensure he is the best player on any court.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have sewn up the Northwest Division title and will most likely end up as the #2 seed out West after this loss, but don’t feel bad for the Thunder, the signs are all there that this team might just be the best and most balanced yet.