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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.