Then, against a Wizards team that had previously won just four games, the Thunder laid an egg. Worse of all, Washington was decimated by injuries, playing without its best three players and two key reserves.
Did those circumstances play a factor in the forgettable trip to the nation’s capital?
“I think that it can be depending on what your mindset is,” said Nick Collison. “We want to be a team that isn’t affected by that, though. We want to be a team that’s worried about how we’re playing and where we’re trying to go. And it wasn’t a good night for us.”
With the Minnesota Timberwolves coming to town Wednesday without the services of star forward Kevin Love because of a broken hand, the Thunder has another chance to show the proper level of focus against a short-handed team. If Monday taught us anything, it was that the first quarter will be pivotal.
Oklahoma City prides itself on being a defensive-minded team yet yielded 30 points in the opening period at Washington, the league’s lowest scoring team. Breakdowns, lapses and all-around bad energy filled the quarter, and that level of play carried on throughout the final three periods.
“Defensively, we talked about it a few games back, giving up a large number in the first quarter. And we gave up 30. … That put us in the wrong mindset,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We win by defense. We score by our defense. We do everything by our defense.”
Brooks then broke it down much more briefly.
“We just got to play better,” he said.