OKC Thunder have lessons to learn from National TV loss

Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder returned to National TV for the first time since 2020 as the OKC Thunder were flexed to TNT against the Miami Heat on Tuesday. The youngest team in the NBA and second youngest team in NBA history only trailing last year’s Thunder squad, gave the Miami Heat a fight down to the wire, falling by one point on the road.

The Miami Heat were without a few key pieces namely Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry in this contest as the OKC Thunder slogged through another game without a true big man as Aleksej Pokusevski, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Chet Holmgren all remain on the shelf.

This was a big moment for the young Thunder pups who headed into the contest just a game and a half out of the NBA Play-In tournament and got to display their young core on a national stage for the first time with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing at an All-NBA level, Josh Giddey posting his best month yet, and Jalen Williams showing himself as one of the steals in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fall on National TV to the Miami Heat as Jimmy Butler goes 23-for-23 at the free throw line, but the OKC Thunder have lessons to learn from this loss

The OKC Thunder saw the Miami Heat shoot and make an NBA record 40 free throws. While some of them of course is ticky-tack fouls, the vast majority of them were a mix of lazy fouls, bad positioning, and the Heat setting the tone of physicality.

This young Thunder team struggled to handle the Miami Heat zone which induced an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers from the Bricktown boys. OKC only made 66 percent of their free throws, 25 percent of their threes, and 48 percent of their shots from the floor.

Josh Giddey posted a triple-double in his first Nationally Televised game, going for 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists as well as a block. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did not have a crazy game by his high standards but still scrapped his way to 26 points on 50 percent from the floor as the two young guards played well off of each other.

Between the clunky end of the game that saw OKC miss two free throws, turn over the rebound off of those missed pair of freebies, and just missed a step-back three at the buzzer, there are plenty of lessons for Mark Daigneault to instill into this young team.

Everyone felt like this game was a war when the final buzzer sounded, and while the OKC Thunder ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, this is an incredible learning experience in a game environment the team had never been in before.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this loss is to their NBA Play-in Chance, losing a game in the final seconds during the first leg of a tough east coast swing. Now, OKC heads to Philly for the front end of a road 76ers/Bulls back-to-back and ends the road trip in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Though the schedule does not get any lighter in January, the team returns home for a pitstop against the Indiana Pacers before jetting back out to go to Sacramento and Denver as they then close the month with a three-game home stand against the Hawks, Cavs, and Warriors.

Next. Chet Holmgren is still earning respect from the National Media. dark