The Peake wasn't packed at tipoff. There were more empty seats than normal when the game started, even though the vacant seats weren't necessarily easy to spot because they were draped in blue shirts.
Thunder senior vice president for sales and marketing Brian Byrnes said there were about 1,800 fewer fans at tip than were in their seats on average for the three playoff games against Houston. A noon start on a Sunday no doubt played into that.
“Those preachers need to finish up quicker,” Byrnes joked. “Noon's tough. We don't look at it as lack of interest … because they're here.”
True enough. By the start of the second quarter, most of those empty seats were filled.
“While we expect a full house at tip off, we know that our fans did their best to manage family obligations, church services and schedules with the short notice,” Byrnes said. “If 10 percent arrived after tipoff, they were all there when we needed them.”
Because so many Thunder fans wear the T-shirts provided by the team for each playoff game, it's easy to see who's not wearing one. Among those who usually don't — Kevin Durant's family and friends sitting across from the Thunder bench.
That changed Sunday.
Durant's younger brother Tony sported the team-provided T-shirt.
And KD hit what essentially became the game winner.
Brothers Chris and Grant Hall were among the first fans through the doors Sunday morning.
And they were proudly sporting their Grizzlies gear.
They drove from Memphis on Saturday night, pulling into their hotel around 2 a.m. Sunday.
“We had no plans on going” to Game 1, Grant said. “We joked about it after we won Game 6 — ‘Let's drive to OKC.'”
But they went on StubHub.com, found some tickets and turned the joke into reality. Season tickets holders in Memphis, the brothers splurged on their first road playoff game, buying seats in Section 101.
“We decided we were going to go all out on the road,” Grant said.
But there's no going to Game 2 on Tuesday.
“We've got to work in the morning,” Chris said.
SEEN AND HEARD
*Thunder fans were given plastic thunder sticks when they entered the arena — lighted thunder sticks. Flashing blue lights inside the sticks made for a cool effect during the arena-lights-out starting lineup introductions.
*NBA super fan Jimmy Goldstein made another appearance for a playoff game at The Peake. He was spied Saturday in Brooklyn for Game 7 between the Bulls and Nets.
*The T-shirts given to Thunder fans were blue with the word “COMMUNITY” on the front.