The last couple of games have been less than spectacular, to say the least, for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Things look a little brighter when you look at who they are playing tonight, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are the team that the Thunder have knocked off twice in the past month, both considered big upsets. To continue to make matters better for the Thunder, the Spurs aren't playing all that well heading into tonight's game. They got blown out on the road in Cleveland (granted it was against the leagues top team), and managed just one win in their previous 3 games before that, a win, in Indiana, against the Pacers. That's where we get back to the bad news. Despite not playing all that well lately, they still managed to get a solid road win in Indiana. Yes, the same Indiana that just shellacked the Thunder on Sunday in the Ford Center. But was also can't forget that in that group of 3 losses mentioned above, one of those was to this very Thunder team.
Over the past few days, a lot has been mentioned about this teams effort and intensity. For the first time all year, it looks like, perhaps, all this losing, is getting to this young team. Its been so bad that even Scott Brooks has been calling his team out, in public, which you can read about in our post from yesterday. Widely regarded as a "players coach," you know things are getting pretty bad when he's calling out his players to the media. Honestly, I can't disagree with him, I've been quite frustrated with this team, not just over the past two games, but over the past few weeks. The intensity level just isn't there, at least not consistently. I thought we were finally seeing some improvement on Sunday, but that all kind of fizzled out after a few quarters. This is the 2nd to last home game for the Thunder, so they'd better things figured out, and quickly, if they want to go out on a good note at home.
Over at Pounding the Rock, I read earlier today that Manu Ginobili is out for the rest of the season. While nobody ever likes to hear about people having injuries, especially season ending injuries, it does make things a bit easier for the Thunder. In the Thunder win last week, Manu scored 17 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, and had a few assists. This is really a big blow to the Spurs, as Manu is really like an ignition switch for this team, and when that switch is turned on, the Spurs become a team that is incredibly hard to beat. In the two Thunder wins, during the last month, against the Spurs (Read our game recaps here and here [Both are worth the read]), one game included Manu, and one did not, so either way, you really can't say that the Thunder wouldn't have a chance to win.
Tim Duncan, another guy you worry about when playing the Spurs, is coming off of a dreadful performance, one in which he didn't score any points after the first quarter. He was so steamed after the game, he bolted out of the arena, without talking to reporters. I've personally never been a big fan of the so-called "big fundamental," so I think its quite funny. I'm hoping for a similar performance tonight. I really want to see Nick Collison come off the bench and harass the crap out of Duncan all night long. Seriously, I hope Brooks just tells Nick to get in there and bang Duncan around, until he fouls out. Duncan is already pissed off, so lets just aggravate him even more, to the point where he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a basketball from 10 feet away because he's so steaming mad. Yeah, that sounds like a fantastic plan!
More than anything, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Shaun Livingston and D.J. White. These two guys were the only bright spots in an otherwise awful game against the Pacers on Sunday, and Livingston was the only bright spot against the Blazers on Friday. Both players were recent call ups from the D-League and both players are shooting quite a bit better than either of them did in Tulsa for the 66ers. D.J. White has only played in one game so far since getting called up, but so far so good, and Livingston has exhibited a high level of play in several games since signing a contract out of Tulsa. Shaun got his first action running the point on Sunday (previous play time was at shooting guard and small forward), and at times, even did so with Westbrook at the 2 guard. He's showed superior court vision, crisp, clean passing, and the ability to create for himself and others in the minutes he's gotten thus far. He's been nothing but impressive since joining the Thunder.
All that said, if nothing else, lets see some intensity out there tonight! You can't get much worse than being called out by your coach for being "soft," especially when your coach is a guy who is very rarely negative about the team in the public. Behind closed doors may be another story, but he hasn't very often been so critical of this team to the media, and definitely not as critical as he's had to be after recent games. It's time to get out there and get after it, no excuses, win or lose, just give us some effort for our 2nd to last home game. The fans in Loud City deserve nothing less than this teams very best efforts.