The Oklahoma City Thunder have won two games in a row, and have done so in rather forceful fashion. They scored 130 points in their last game against the Boston Celtics, and before that, put 128 points up on the board against the Portland Trail Blazers. Their post All-Star record is still below .500 (6-8), but decisive wins against a pair of well-coached teams were the exactly the kind of pick-me-up the Thunder needed after their slump.
So the Philadelphia 76ers are an opportunity for the Thunder to keep that momentum going. This is hardly a significant matchup in the NBA landscape and other games may be more compelling, but the Thunder are simply trying to get over the hangover. Against a team of Who He Play For All-Stars, they should look at this game as a chance to keep moving forward – and in that sense, it's a must-win, because if the Thunder lose this game now at this particular point in their season, there are going to be so many bad opinions on the Internet. So. Many.
We know what the Thunder are, or at least, we've beaten that conversation into the ground. There's no new information to be gleaned from discussing it at a low point in the season. I've been sour on the Thunder's title hopes before and I stand by that, but that sort of critical examination is a much more fruitful endeavor when the team is actually winning. At a low point like this, when they're clearly a more competitive team than their recent level of play indicates, I find that nitpicking the issues leads to an outsized sense of pessimism.
And don't get me wrong. There are issues, some of which have become more apparent during this stretch of basketball. I'm concerned about Randy Foye – we're all likely in agreement that he shouldn't be playing over Cameron Payne – and I'm concerned about Payne, who probably isn't as good as you think at this stage of his career. I'm concerned about the no-frills late-game offense, and I'm concerned about Billy Donovan.
But right now isn't the time to worry about that. First, the Thunder should get back on their feet and reaffirm that they're a team that we should be talking about relative to the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. Even if this post All-Star stretch of basketball makes it seem like they maybe don't belong, that's who they are. Remind us of that, those happy times.
All together now! Let's share a laugh as Isaiah Canaan chucks nonsense from 26 feet while the Thunder drop 150 in Philly.
And here's to hoping that some better times are also coming for Dion Waiters, who returns to his hometown for what must surely be an emotional game. Godspeed, Dion.
|2015-16 NBA Season Game 69|
|March 18th, 2016|
|Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA|
|6:00 PM CST|
|TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, NBA League Pass|
|Injury Report: Robert Covington (Out), Joel Embiid (Out), Richaun Holmes (Out)|
|This Season's Matchups: Nov 13 (W, 102-85)|
|Ish Smith||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Isaiah Canaan||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Hollis Thompson||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Jerami Grant||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Nerlens Noel||C||Steven Adams|