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. You wondered if they would ever lead. Milwaukee led wire-to-wire last week, then Sunday night the T-Wolves led most of the first half. Then Collison made a steal with help from Jeff Green, and Earl Watson fed Green for a dunk that gave OKC a 44-43 lead with 2:02 left in the second quarter. And suddenly, it seemed like old times at the Ford Center, like one of those Chris Paul-fueled Hornet runs. "I don’t think anyone in this locker room can say enough about our fans,” Desmond Mason said. This win was for the crowd, which was disappointing in number but not in decibel level. The Thunder’s sellout streak ended at one, with a crowd of 18,163, but apparently that is no big deal to the Boomer brass, else they would have kept selling season tickets instead of creating a waiting list. But the crowd still was energetic. Watson said the crazies made him "want to get a technical,” just to see how loud they might go. They can go louder. We know that. The Thunder will have to provide motivation, of course, and it might not happen against the Celtics. OKC’s biggest lead against Minnesota was the final margin. If OKC takes the lead against Boston, snap a photo of the scoreboard and treasure it. And treasure this historic victory over Minnesota. It most definitely was needed. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080. Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.