Berry Tramel

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Thunder: Embarrassing defeat in Washington

by Berry Tramel Published: January 19, 2012

The Thunder’s loss at the Wizards on Wednesday night was embarrassing. There can be no other word for it.

I’m no NBA expert, but I know what I see. And the Wizards are the worst team I’ve seen in the six seasons that we’ve had NBA basketball in Oklahoma City. The Wizards are totally clueless. Their attitude stinks. Their effort stinks. Their knowledge stinks. This is a team that has no idea how to win basketball games. Has no idea how basketball games are won. John Wall is a really good point guard who is going to get sucked into the abyss as long as he’s mired in this cesspool of a situation.

The Thunder, without extra effort or playing above its head, just playing anywhere close to normal, would beat the Wizards even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook riding the pine. And yet Wednesday night, Washington beat the Thunder 105-102, because Oklahoma City played with no focus. No concentration. No determination. Just willy-nilly. Often, that blame goes to Westbrook. But this time, Durant was the problem. He opened the game like he was playing in a rec center. He acted like possessions were limitless.

Y0u’ve got to prize possessions. Every time you have the ball, it’s an opportunity to score. Sort of like baseball, with 27 outs. Every out you make is less opportunity to score. Every empty possession in the NBA is an opportunity squandered. Durant shot well in Washington, 11-of-24. But he committed seven turnovers and did not prize possessions.

The Thunder was hammered on rebounds — 19 offensive rebounds for the Wizards. The Thunder was careless with the ball. Maybe the worst moment of the game came when the Thunder inbounded the ball from the side. Durant was inbounding, and rather than anyone move toward Durant, everyone stood still. Kendrick Perkins stood with his arm up, covered by the Wizards’ Andray Blatche. Durant just lobbed the ball to Perkins, as if Perkins was some kind of jumping jack who can sky above anyone for the ball, as if Perkins is cat-quick and dart to the ball before a defender can close. Lazy, lazy, lazy, by everyone concerned. Blatche grabbed the ball and turned into a layup.

That would have been a good time for Scotty Brooks to turn from Mr. Rogers to Mr. Hyde. Light into this team. Call timeout and reem out the guys who generally have been treated with a soothing hand.

This was just a ridiculous performance. Here is Washington’s home games this season: 90-84 loss to hapless New Jersey, 94-86 loss to Boston, 99-96 loss to the dysfunctional Knickerbockers, 93-72 loss to Minnesota (a 21-point loss to the T-Wolves!), a 93-78 win over Toronto, a 103-90 loss to Philadelphia, a 114-106 loss to Houston. This is a bad, bad team. This is a team that its own fans don’t like. A team that its own coach doesn’t like.

Yet rather than playing a solid basketball game, which would mean the Wizards would quit caring by halftime, the Thunder tried life on the other side of the street.

This kind of game is why national pundits wonder if the Thunder has the mettle to win the West.

Maybe it will be a learning experience for the Thunder. The distance between an elite team and a joke is very short. It resides in your mind.

 

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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