Maybe reality has set in for the Oklahoma City crowd.
It was undoubtedly the worst crowd the Ford Center has hosted all season, with rows of empty seats. Maybe it was a case of out of sight, out of mind (with the team on the road for over a week), or maybe it was the announcement of the BCS Championship game bid for the Oklahoma Sooners that made the OKC residents divert there attention away from the team.
Either way, what once was a packed house wasn’t for the Thunder’s matchup with the Warriors, Monday night. Maybe Thunder fans are starting to learn what it feels like to be a Knicks fan.
The Thunder (2-20) came in pretty confident. They caught the Warriors (6-15) in the middle of a nine-game losing streak, without Corey Maggette (strained right hamstring) and Stephen Jackson (sprained left hand). Interim coach Scott Brooks has gotten the Thunder to play more competitively in games since taking over for P.J. Carlesimo.
Despite all of that, Kevin Durant was the only Thunder player who came to play from the opening whistle. The Warriors were fine with letting Durant get his while they picked up the W.
SLAM: How different is this Warriors squad with Jamal Crawford in the lineup?
Scott Brooks: They’re a talented bunch. They can score a ton of points on you. We have to really focus on getting back on defense and making them take tough shots. They’re one of the best offensive teams in the league. We can’t let them just come down and play a pick-up game with us.
Crawford is a terrific scorer. He has nice handles for a guy his size, and he is an offensive-minded player. We can throw a quick guy at him or a long guy, and he’ll find a way to score. We have to continue to challenge him and not give him anything easy. He’s a very good offensive player.
SLAM: Your philosophy has been to get out and run. How much can you run when you play against an up-tempo team like the Warriors?
SB: That’s the tricky thing. We definitely want to run. We don’t want to run for a jacked-up shot. We feel that if we get defensive stops, then that puts us in position to score in transition. We want to run to get layups. We don’t want to run to get a quick isolation jumper. It’s important that we do run, but we want to run smart, and not let them run on us.
SLAM: Returning to play at home, how much do you guys need a win to put together a good stretch?
Kevin Durant: Coming home, we know the fans will be into it until the end. I think we are better than our record is showing, by far. We just have to learn to pull it out in the end. The last couple of games, teams have hit big shots on us to win games.
SLAM: Does Jamal Crawford have the sickest crossover in the League?
Kevin Durant: Hands down. I think he has the sickest crossover in the game.
(Russell Westbrook joins the conversation)
Russell Westbrook: Really? No, I don’t think so.
KD: I think he does. Hands down, he has the best crossover in the game.
– From the start, you could tell that it would be a long night for OKC. Durant would have to do it himself for most of the night. The crowd was completely quiet, and without them as a sixth man, there wasn’t a chance.
– Midway through the quarter it seemed as if K.D. was looking to will his team. He scored five of the team’s first 10 points, as the Warriors held a 16-10 lead behind seven quick from Anthony Morrow.
– Consecutive dunks by K.D. and Johan Petro closed the gap at the end of the first, but the quarter came to an end with the Warriors up 29-23.
– It got ugly in a hurry, when the Warriors pushed the lead to 18 (43-25), before a KD three stopped the bleeding.
– The Warriors led 47-28, when local Oklahoma City media members in the press box set the over-under at better than a 20-point loss. When the Thunder went into the half down 42-61, it looked like they were right on with their predictions.
– For your viewing enjoyment, teeny bopper cheerleaders! (Note: I checked out soon after their introduction to return to the sugar cookies in the press lounge. I don’t think I missed much.)
– If the Thunder hoped to feed off of the crowd, it wasn’t going to happen on this night. In fact, a lot people decided to beat the traffic and leave during the halftime break.
– The Warriors had a commanding lead, but I saw something that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before in my life. Golden State picked up their third defensive three seconds penalty of the game. The corresponding technical free throws were pretty much the only way the Thunder could score.
– Russell Westbrook may be the best offensive rebounder for the Thunder. His put-back score gave the Thunder life, cutting the Warriors lead to 11 (74-63).
– The Warriors responded by extending their lead to 86-68 to end the third. More people start to file out.
– The fourth quarter belonged to K.D., who is learning to finish with dunks and not layups now. K.D. made things interesting in the last few minutes, but a Thunder loss was all but inevitable.
– Durant had 19 of his 41 in the fourth, including 3-6 from behind the arch in the final minutes to keep extending the game. He was a one-man show, while the Warriors put in a balanced effort with seven players in double figures.
– Though Durant seemingly extended the inevitable with clutch threes in the final minute, the Warriors walked off of the court with the 112-102 victory.
Don Nelson: Well, it wasn’t the world championship, but it sure felt like it. We just needed something to break this spell.
SLAM: Around the League, a lot of people describe this crowd as a college-like atmosphere. How important was it to take the crowd out of it from the opening tip?
DN: Oh, I love the crowd. It’s always great to do that if you can, but we found a way of letting them back in it, and letting the crowd back in it, and they had an opportunity to beat us, and we hung on.
Ronny Turiaf: We’ve all seen it. We’ve all played in different types of atmospheres and arenas, and we just had to play our game and make sure we didn’t do anything crazy to let the crowd in it. We did a good job for about 43 minutes, and then toward the end of the game Kevin Durant got off some nice three-point shots and the crowd got back in it.
SLAM: What do you guys have to do now to turn a losing streak into a winning streak?
RT: Just keep playing together. Basketball is simple. If we play together, then we have the tools necessary to win.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on Kevin Durant’s 41?
Jamal Crawford: He’s a scorer. That’s what he does. He makes big shots. He makes tough shots. It’s pretty amazing for a guy that’s 6-10 and shooting like that. He’s matured a lot from last year to this year, and he’s continuing to get better.
SLAM: How big is it to break the losing streak without Maggette and Jackson in the lineup?
JC: It feels good, because with young guys they work so hard. It’s hard to keep them encouraged when they are not winning, but when you win they see the results of their hard work. Now we are going back home for a couple of games, and hopefully we can put something together.
SLAM: K.D. said you have the best crossover in the game. Would you agree?
JC: I’d say it’s up there. I don’t know if it’s the best, but I’d put it up there. Tell him thanks. He has a pretty good one, too.