Life goes on.
That was the message Kevin Durant tried his darndest to get across Thursday night, soon after the Thunder suffered its first loss since Nov. 23.
“It's not the end of the world, man,” Durant said. “It's not. A lot of people said the world was going to end tomorrow, but it's not the end of the world.”
Though the Thunder and the rest of mankind made it past 12-21-2012, Oklahoma City will not be taking its league-best 12-game winning streak with it past the alleged doomsday. Minnesota dealt OKC a 99-93 loss inside the Target Center, cooling off the league's hottest team with a mix of ball movement and balanced scoring on offense, and non-stop energy on defense.
“We lost to a good team,” Durant said. “They came out and played extremely hard. They beat us. We're 21-5. We just got to move forward. We're not going to…have a team meeting or argue with each other because we lost. We lost. We just got to learn from it and move on.”
Inside the Thunder's locker room after the game, the vibe was about what you would expect from a team coping with its first taste of defeat since the day after Thanksgiving. Players remained half-dressed at their lockers long after the final buzzer, staring into space appearing to wonder what went wrong. Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka spoke among themselves, in French but clearly fuming about what had just happened.
But even in a room full of unmistakable disappointment and dejection, the streak seemed to take a backseat. It wasn't that the winning streak ended. It was the way it ended.
“We're not concerned with the streak,” said forward Nick Collison. “It's a function of us playing good basketball, for sure, over a long stretch. But we would have liked to have played better. We're disappointed in how we played. But other than that, it's over. We've just got to move on and try to win the next one. That's the way we've been all year, though, and I think that's a mind-set that works for us; do what's in front of us today.”
Reggie Jackson, who was assigned to the Tulsa 66ers of the Developmental League on Friday, joked after the game that the streak didn't have to come to an end.
“I think we wish it would have held all the way to the Finals and (we'd) just win it all,” Jackson said before turning serious. “But we understand. It's the game. In 82 games you're going to win some and lose some. We definitely wanted to keep the streak alive. But we're going to start from square one again Just get back, watch some film, try to get healthy and just prepare for Miami.”
The mind-set Collison mentioned is one that makes Durant confident his teammates can put the shocking setback past them and focus on the highly-anticipated NBA Finals rematch with Miami on Christmas day.
“We had a nice winning streak going, and I think we did a great job of just staying down and never getting too high about it,” Durant said. “So with a loss we just got to be the same way and just keep improving.”
A slow start Thursday proved costly and, as much as anything else, contributed to the loss. OKC trailed by 14 in the first quarter, two points shy of matching its largest deficit this season. It was the latest in a long line of subpar stretches the Thunder had during its streak, as the team either started slow or finished poorly in several games.
The difference Thursday was the Thunder couldn't close.
“Sometimes you have nights like that,” said Russell Westbrook. “We had a few, I think, during the streak but we were able to get over the hump. But (Thursday) was one of those nights where they always got the extra rebound or made the extra shot. It caught up with us.
“But it's one game. We're still in a good position. As a team we're still playing good basketball.”