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OKC Thunder: First win a big relief

by Berry Tramel Modified: November 3, 2008 at 8:34 am •  Published: November 3, 2008
For a team going nowhere except into the hearts of Oklahomans, the Thunder certainly needed a victory Sunday night.

The NBA doesn’t exactly produce must-win games in November. This isn’t college football.

And it’s not like this death match against the T-Wolves will affect the playoff race. These Boomers won’t get within 20 games of the postseason.

But after a dudsville opener against Milwaukee, a home loss to Minnesota would have made everyone — players, fans, Thundershirt vendors — wonder exactly who this team could beat.

Iowa State and Texas Tech aren’t on the schedule.

But then Russell Westbrook ignited a rally late in the third quarter, and Nick Collison made a left-handed shot that would make Phog Allen proud, and Minnesota’s Ryan Gomes missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Oklahoma City had its first NBA win under the Thunder flag, 88-85.

Two emotions erupted.

Celebration in the Ford Center. "Feels like an NBA Finals in here,” said one fan, who before the game predicted an 18-win season.

Relief. One big sigh of relief.

"Everybody wanted to win this game bad,” said Chris Wilcox. "It was a home game. This is a team we were supposed to beat.”

I know, I know. Players aren’t supposed to talk like that. But they’re as clued in as the rest of us. You circle Minnesota at the Thunderdome as a victory, and if you don’t get it, it’s opportunity lost.

Lose this game, with the Celtics coming to town Wednesday, and you’re starting off el stinko.

Heck, there for a while Sunday night, you didn’t wonder if the Thunder would ever win at the Ford Center.

by Berry Tramel
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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