Start time - 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
Oklahoma City have won four straight games and will match up with the Brooklyn Nets tonight. Brooklyn are a team expected to contend for an NBA championship and boast a roster full of stars. James Harden and Kevin Durant are the headlining acts but there are few teams across the league who have the sort of depth that the Nets do.
Paul Millsap was an integral two-way force for the Denver Nuggets and he is currently coming off the bench to play 10.7 minutes per night. The Nets are laden with talent and Oklahoma City will need to be at their sharpest to win the game.
The Thunder are on a good run of form at the moment as a result of good, smart team basketball. Everybody chipped in as the Thunder closed the Kings down and stole the win from right under their nose. The reserves scored 37 points and outscored their Kings’ counterparts by nine points.
Jeremiah-Robinson Earl shot rather poorly from the field but his willingness to battle and play with intensity set a tone for the Thunder. Oklahoma City did not lose spirit after a wretched first half; the team continued to play with grit and focus as they set about dismantling the Kings.
That energy, that defiance was clearly evident among the crowd. You could see and feel the support even through your television screens. The Thunder fans still believe in their team, that hope has not diminished or faded as some pundits predicted. If anything, the support seems even stronger.
Professional basketball has found a home in Oklahoma City and that sense of belonging has not been shaken by the Thunder’s period of abysmal basketball. The last play of the game against the Kings sums up that unity perfectly.
Crowd reaction to Dort’s steal and finish to give the Thunder the 105-103 lead with 1.7 seconds left: pic.twitter.com/JZyG95T8Ep— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) November 13, 2021
All we have heard about the Thunder over the last few months from various writers is that the team will be terrible and Thunder fans will not turn up to games. That is what happens when teams go through rebuilding phases. Look at Houston or New Orleans this season, that trend is evident.
The Thunder are defying those conventions; the fans are still turning out in their droves to watch Shai or Giddey or Dort. The players have seemingly adopted the same defiant attitude. They are not resigned to losing 60 games and are still fighting to play competitive basketball on a nightly basis.
Luguentz Dort more than anybody else is the greatest success story in this new era of Thunder basketball. He has grown into being a quality starting guard through sheer bloody-minded determination and relentlessness. It is only fitting that he won the game with those same qualities. He stole the ball away from De’Aaron Fox and landed the final blow which KO’d the Kings.
All of that being said, the Thunder still lack consistency. There is no reason to be in such a huge hole at halftime. Oklahoma City did really well to fight back and earn the victory but this does not always work. If you give the Brooklyn Nets a 10-point lead after two stanzas of basketball, it will be very difficult to win the game.
Brooklyn’s offense is determined by James Harden and Kevin Durant, it is imperative that the Thunder slow one of these stars down. Luguentz Dort will have produce another masterclass to keep Harden quiet as he did in the playoffs last year. The responsibility of guarding Durant falls on Darius Bazley’s shoulders.
Bazley has played really well over the last four games and his defense has been generally very good. Matching up with Durant will be a necessary challenge for Darius. Durant is one of the greatest scorers of his generation and will push Bazley to the absolute limit of his talent. That test will only result in growth for Darius; it is a good thing.
Oklahoma City can put themselves in a playoff berth on Sunday evening if they play consistently, productive basketball over 48 minutes. There can be no lulls, puzzling errors or awful shots if the Thunder want to keep this win streak rolling.