In a meaningless game, there's usually not much to cheer for. Fans of bad teams turn into vipers and just want to tank for a good pick, and fans of good teams usually just sit there hoping their star players don't get injured. The scrubs go out there, give it the old college try, and usually just draw ire. If you want to see an example of a bad game last night, just look at the box scores for Boston-Miami or Golden State-New Orleans. Those weren't good defensive games. They were just bad games, with wide open jumpers and layups consistently missed. Players were sitting, and nobody cared if they won or lost.
But this game....was different. The Kings are a bad team, but they decided to finish the season strong, playing their best players and actually trying to win games. The Thunder, on the other hand, had lost all hope of attaining the one seed, and the Lakers were too far behind to catch up. So they played their starters....for a while.
The effort was kind of there for our starters, and they played an up and down game. Kevin Durant was definitely his usual self, but Westbrook had a sub-par game. By the time the fourth rolled around, all of the Thunder's starters were out, and we were left with a lineup of Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey, and Derek Fisher.
And that lineup won the game against the Kings starters. Yep, guys like Cole Aldrich and Royal Ivey, who have been glued to the bench for the near entirety of the season, beat the Kings at their best. Daequan Cook dominated from three. Derek Fisher drove the ball and got fouled on a three point attempt. Nick Collison threw in a couple of shots. Royal Ivey threw in some great perimeter defense, and Cole Aldrich....well, he hit a few free throws. Regardless, it was one of the most entertaining end-season games of all time.
I don't wanna say the Kings starters are of a worse quality than the end of the Thunder's bench, because I have a feeling the Kings would have won this game 9 times out of 10. Our offense was limited to Cook Threes and Derek Fisher drives, and those types of plays can be on and off. The Kings offense was still pretty consistent, only coming up short on a couple of key plays. And some guys played kind of eh.
But the feeling you get from this type of game is amazing. On so many other teams, I saw teams of backups and scrubs and prospects and you name it. Most of the time, they were just out for themselves, throwing up impossible jumpers, trying to score the ball in the paint against three defenders, and going for steals on defense. In other words, it was a stat pad fest, in the hopes that these guys could show how good they play to prospective teams.
Last night, I saw the Thunder bench do a complete 180 from that mentality. They played as a TEAM. They knew their roles, and ran the types of plays we might need them to execute come playoff time. And instead of showing the crowd an ugly turnover-laden brick-fest, they managed to beat the best an NBA team could offer.
ONE TEAM, ONE LOVE
Thunder Wonder: Daequan Cook, for the clutch threes.
Thunder Down Under: Derek Fisher, for being a Garbage-Time All-Star.
Thunder Plunderer: DeMarcuse Cousins, for throwing up 32 points.
Next Game: Versus the Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, April 25th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.