OGTW: Oklahoma City Thunder Trash Orlando, Create Magic


What if you only had One Game To Watch? After years of following the Oklahoma City Thunder – hundreds of wins, buzzer-beating shots and historic moments – and you could only re-watch one game in Thunder history…which would it be? This week, our writers will answer that difficult question and relive some of their favorite memories. Their responses might surprise you. 

So many different variables can go into deciding which game is the one I’d re-watch over and over again. With that in mind, I chose a game from just a few short months ago, a 127-99 blowout over the Orlando Magic that took place on January 18, 2015.

The game had a specific impact an me, making this an admittedly very personal choice. In my short tenure as editor of this site, it was the first major sporting event that I was able to cover as media, the first time I was ever granted credentials. There’s nothing that can quite compare to the experience.

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You sit in comfortable leather chairs in a coaches’s press conference, watching them deliver the responses you’ve seen on television a million times. You walk out onto the practice floor and see players go through their pre-game rituals, working up a sweat before they competition begins in earnest. You watch respected reporters from papers and other sites – now your peers – as they work to ask the right question, deliver the right story. After the game, you walk into the locker room and watch as superstars and role players alike walk the fine line between genuine and arrogant.

Aside from my own uniquely personal connection, the game itself was, surprisingly, historically great. The Oklahoma City Thunder were on a brief roll, clicking on offense following the return of Kevin Durant from injury and looking to make ground in the Western Conference. In the first quarter, OKC was absolutely smoldering, shooting 69.6 percent after starting the game on a 13-0 run. By the end of the first half, they’d racked up 79 points, a franchise record in scoring.

The game featured spectacular shots from Durant and the recently-acquired Dion Waiters, who seemed to fit in nicely after racking up 16 points. And Russell Westbrook electrified the crowd with this:


The team eventually cooled off (no where to go but down, really) but it didn’t really matter. Westbrook and Durant sat out the entire fourth quarter, leaving the game in the hands of Reggie Jackson, Waiters, Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins, in one of his last games as a member of the Thunder. Everyone played off OKC’s bench…the much-maligned Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb…even Ish Smith, who was with the team for just a short while.

The mood in the locker room afterward was jubilant yet there was an underlying current of tension that was palpable (at least to me). The issues with Jackson, squabbling for more playing time and more money in the midst of trying to reach the playoffs, seemed to bubble over. He sat quietly in a corner of the locker room, dressing quickly and leaving (perhaps escaping) to the team bus before anyone else. Nick Collison, the silent backbone of the team, followed suit, understanding instinctively after his long years in the NBA that the throng of reporters weren’t there to ask him about the game; that spotlight was reserved for others.

Durant was who everyone wanted to talk to or hear from and he did his best, answering questions despite the exhausting nature of playing at the sport’s highest level. He’s as impressive as you’d imagine in person, all spidery limbs and sinewy muscle, yet despite his superstar status he answers questions as shyly as any prep school athlete.

Waiters, the newcomer, was next. He was every bit as confident and charmingly cocky as advertised. He was imminently quotable, talking about how much fun he was having with his new teammates, and looking forward to contributing toward the team’s success.

But Westbrook, as explosive off the court as on it, was somehow the star of the show. His answers weren’t particularly enlightening; they were measured but with good reason. This was the game that followed his infamous interaction with The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel, a series of sound bites that were making the rounds on social media:

That certainly contributed to the tension, with a larger than normal group of reporters waiting for the other verbal shoe to drop. It never did – Russell stayed on his best behavior – but it didn’t fully erase the sense that something could happen at any moment.

Winning, though, does cure almost everything and so Russ and the rest of the Thunder players simply delivered their answers calmly, looking ahead to the next game, the next win. It might have been one of the few high points in the season, if not it’s highest point (you could argue that a win over the Warriors a few days later might fit the bill better). But it certainly was a glimpse of a team that was clicking on all cylinders before undergoing incredible changes a few weeks later.

Durant, of course, would be lost for the season due to nagging pain in his foot. The team, desperate to improve and unload Jackson at the same time, would trade the troubled point guard to Detroit. Perkins, a scowling, recognizable face on the sidelines for years, would be shipped to Utah to clear way for Enes Kanter. Of course, the changes didn’t help and the team failed to make the playoffs.

But none of that mattered on that one cool night in Orlando, when the team, at least superficially, was all smiles and success. There was hope that they could achieve, as the box score certainly proved, incredible levels of success. And I was there to watch it happen.

So if I had to choose just one game to watch, I’d chose this one, remaining ignorant of the strife and turmoil and injuries that would eventually sink this version of the team..

And I’d do it again, every time.

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