Game 3 between the Thunder and Lakers is tonight, and the pressure is mounting. It’s not mounting on the Thunder, despite being halfway to elimination in the opening round.
The pressure certainly isn’t on the Lakers, who no doubt are thrilled to lead 2-0 against an infantry that’s in its infancy. Instead, tonight’s pressure rests squarely on Thunder fans. Some locals are still numb from an unexpected 50-win season, but it’s time to snap out of their trance. An opportunity to face the world champions should not be viewed as nothing more than a victory lap after a magical season. Thunder players and coaches certainly are not viewing this playoff series as such, so neither should their fans. Last season, NBA visitors habitually asked about the Thunder’s home crowd. They marveled at how so many people cheered for a 23-59 team. This season, visitors inquired about the Thunder. They marveled at the team’s 27-win improvement and 28 home sellouts. Kevin Durant became an all-star and scoring king. Scott Brooks was named coach of the year. General manager Sam Presti presumably will be selected as executive of the year. The team’s top nine players are under age 30, with six of those age 23 or younger. The Thunder’s future is so bright, we gotta wear shades. NBA commissioner David Stern is scheduled to attend tonight’s game. Last time he was here, Stern received a standing ovation, and rare is the time a crowd comes to its feet for any commissioner. Stern deserves another standing O tonight. He was the man who had our backs when so many others spewed venom our way during the franchise’s transition from Seattle to Oklahoma City. Time to spread some local hospitality. If you see the TNT broadcast crew of Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins, tell them how much you love their work. Compliment Craig Sager on his wardrobe. Have someone tell Charles Barkley back in studio those people from the "vast wasteland” of Oklahoma send their best regards. Thunder fans are making their postseason debut, which is no time rest on their regular-season laurels. In order to reach full-decibel level, perhaps some locals need to be provoked, need to be shoved, need to be taunted.