If you could have anything for Christmas what would it be?
Oh.. you want the Thunder to win on Christmas?
maybe I should of clarified what were the available wishes.. what about a new bike? No? You’re stuck on that Thunder Holiday win.
I have some bad news.
The Oklahoma City Thunder had 2 games this holiday weekend and managed to split the games. The first, a Christmas day game against the Chicago Bulls. The second, a too close for comfort win against a bad and beat up Denver team. Lets not get too far ahead of ourselves though, lets unwrap each of the presents individually.
Oklahoma City lost to Chicago on Christmas in what was a game that seemed out of reach for most of the holiday. Chicago jumped on OKC early with an 11-0 start. These 11 points highlighted by a Taj Gibson slam and few Pau Gasol post moves inside. We saw an early substitution of Enes Kanter for Steven Adams just within 2 minutes from tip off. Kanter not exexactly known for his defense so this was exploited by the patient Bulls early in often the the tune of Gasol having 11 points in the first quarter and Gibson have 9.
The Thunder played catch up for most of the night and never led in this game. Late in the 4th Oklahoma City closed the gap to 6 but Derrick Rose scored 3 straight buckets and jumped the lead back up to 12. Oklahoma City would never narrow the margin that close again. A lot of blame to be thrown around by the Thunder on Christmas but most needs to be on the Oklahoma City interior defense. The Thunder game up 48 points in the paint through 3 quarters and that ended up being the death of their chances.
Jimmy Butler had a good game not only of offense but also guarding Kevin Durant which is no small feat. Butler was able to move Durant from his spots and force tough long jumpers. Durant ended with 29 points but it was not easy going getting those. Durant was 1 of 6 from deep and 11-21 overall, which is uncharacteristic of the efficient scorer. Rose also had a nice game with 19 points 9 of those in the fourth.
Needless to say, there was no Christmas miracle in Oklahoma City Friday night.
Here is what Billy Donovan summed up that game with.
Billy spoke also about the slow starts to each half.
After the tough holiday loss you would assume the Thunder would come out ready to play Sunday against a team that was missing 3 of its starters and its 6th man. You would be wrong. Oklahoma City was forced to play an uptempo game with no defense. Which normally would be in OKC’s favor, but the Nuggets have been one of the best running teams in the league over the past 10 years. The Thunder end up pulling away in the final few minutes and sneak by an inspired performance by Denver. The few nuggets (it was on purpose) we need to take from this game are as follows.
Oklahoma City again got kicked in the teeth by the big men of Denver. This now makes two games in a row that the interior defense has been awful. Kenneth Farried had 25 points and Joffrey Lauvergne (yeah, that is spelled right) had 18. The Nuggets had a staggering 66 points in the paint.
Another take away? Cameron Payne may start seeing minutes as the back up point guard. He played the first 8 minutes of the second quarter followed by 4 minutes in the 4th. Those minutes are
generally Augistin’s rotational minutes. Payne highlighted his playing time with a flashy pass to Nick Collison inside, 2 corner three point shots, and a few rebounds. He made some mistakes on the defensive end guarding Jameer Nelson and committed way too many fouls but he showed he belongs on the floor. Good news Thunder fans, looks to be another solid draft pick to put into Sam Presti’s already long list of successful draft selections.
It is unclear is Payne will see minutes going forward but it is clear that he has the talent and it is nice to have something to talk about instead of that ugly win.
I know I didn’t grant all your Christmas wishes but drink some egg nog you’ll be fine Thunder nation.
Unrelated clips? Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler speaking about the state of the Bulls organization and the win against Oklahoma City