The Collapse of the OKC Thunder

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 with No comments
This was not in the script, a collapse of such magnitude was not supposed to happen to the Thunder, not this year.  All season I've heard from the so called experts  how the following teams had the best chance to come out of the West, The Lakers, Spurs, and Nuggets......the same thing you're thinking right now about Denver was the same thing I thought but some people who get paid a lot more than me to voice their opinion had Denver coming out of their first round series with OKC.  A few of them picked the Mavs but only a small segment.  I've watched the Thunder closely all season due to the fact that I was captivated by their epic 6 game series with the Lakers last post season.  I dubbed them the team of destiny, the team that would bleed new blood into the NBA as long as their management could keep them together.  After their heart breaking loss to the Lakers I felt as if the OKC Thunder had felt enough pain and that they would grow and that this season they would take that huge leap.  I ignored my critics as I tauted my team of Destiny to anyone who could listen and I had them facing the Miami Heat in the 10/11 NBA Finals.  Now it seems as if my team of Destiny has dug itself into a hole that it may be too young to dig out of.

Last evening, game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Basketball Gods ruled that it was not the Thunder's time, not their destiny to defeat the Mavericks in a game that despite the greatness of Dirk, the Thunder dominated.  For those who didn't see the game, words can't explain the stunning events of last night but I will try with the help of hoopdata.com.  The collapse began in the most unlikely fashion, Russell Westbrook raised up for a three point shot which he missed, Thunder big man Nick Collision snatched the board swung around and passed the ball to Kevin Durant who drilled a three pointer to put the Thunder up 99-84 with 5 minutes to go......and then it happened.

Below is courtesy of Hoopdata.com

5:00 to go: Oklahoma City leads 99-84

4:48: Shawn Marion is fouled by James Harden and makes 2 FT's.

4:33: Dirk Nowitzki is fouled by James Harden after a Dallas defensive rebound. This is notable because it was the SIXTH FOUL ON HARDEN, and because Dallas was in the bonus. DUMB! John Hollinger of ESPN was on top of things with poor OKC foul choices in his fourth quarter tweets (which made up for him tweeting "I think we're done here" just before the rally started...jinx city!). Dirk only made one free throw, so it's 99-87.

4:20: Russell Westbrook misses a 17-foot jumper just 13 seconds into the shot clock. The whole arena still thinks this is going to be an OKC win (and I was preparing an entirely different lead!)

3:48: Russell Westbrook tries to drive through the Dallas trees, and loses the ball to Jason Kidd. He pulls Kidd down afterward...resulting in two free throws that Jason mKes. It's 99-89 OKC...and I'm thinking, "wouldn't it be something if OKC blows this game and I can point to those last two plays from Westbrook as the turning point?" Of course, it's Harden fouling out is the better turning point. In fact, Westbrook getting into trouble on offense is one of the dominos that started to fall because a key weapon was off the floor.

3:32: Kevin Durant misses a 22-footer 16 seconds into the shot clock. Durant seems to shy away from driving to the basket late in tight situations.

3:15: Dirk Nowitzki makes a 13-foot jumper...with the play-by-play listings not able to do justice to the acrobatics involved in Dirk's late scores. Dallas has cut it to 99-91 with 3:15 to go. And, it still seems unlikely that a full comeback is in the cards. Scott Brooks calls a timeout to remind his players that they haven't won yet.

2:49: Kevin Durant misses a 3-pointer late in the shot clock. Nick Collison gets the rebound. Russell Westbrook makes a free throw line jumper with 2:32 to go, and poses for the cameras like he's in a music video...rather than humbly remembering that he's hitting about 30% of his shots outside of 2 feet over the past few weeks.

2:21: Dirk Nowitzki hits a trey to make it 101-94

2:11: Jason Terry fouls Westbrook when Westbrook was a bit out of control bringing the ball up. But, Westbrook is great at drawing contact, so he may have been more in control than I was giving him credit for. Westbrook misses BOTH free throws, which was a shocker given how well he'd been hitting them in the playoffs.

2:00: Dirk Nowitzki makes a 14-foot jumper to make it 101-96, and it starts to dawn on Thunder nation that they're on the verge of a major choke job.

1:30: Russell Westbrook misses a 15-foot jumper. Obviously it was late in the shot clock. Harden isn't on the floor. Given what they've seen in the series, Dallas wants Westbrook taking that shot.

1:25: Dirk Nowitzki makes a 5-footer and it's 101-98 with 1:25 to go.

1:07: Kevin Durant gets picked by Shawn Marion...Jason Terry's subsequent layup attempt gets blocked by Thabo Sefolosha...Russell Westbrook misses a 16-foot jump shot...then fouls Shawn Marion right afterward in the backcourt. Marion makes one of two...meaning OKC gave Dallas four points on fouls a mile away from the basket during th is stretch. It's 101-99 Oklahoma City with 39 seconds left. All of those "Dirk makes" and "Westbrook misses" notations and the Thunder are still ahead...WITH THE BALL...with 39 seconds left.

0:20: Thabo Sefolosha misses a three-pointer, and Dallas gets the rebound.

0:06: Dirk is grabbed from behind by Nick Collison and gets two free throws. I could see why some OKC fans would be mad about this call. Collison definitely had his hands on Dirk and impeded his movement. We've all seen it NOT called late in close games. We've also seen it called often when the scoring star of the team with the ball is the guy getting grabbed. Dirk makes his free throws, and we're tied.

Kevin Durant has a very long trey attempt blocked by Shawn Marion, and we're going overtime.

Overtime saw Jason Kidd and Jason Terry help Dirk with the scoring (a trey from Kidd broke a 105-all tie with 40 seconds left). OKC got buckets from Sefolosha and Ibaka, but misses from Durant and Westbrook. Four late Mavs free throws extended the margin to 112-105



I was stunned at what I was seeing and no one person was to blame for what took place last night; it was a collective effort at failure highlighted by an ungodly performance by Dirk down the stretch as he finished the game with 40 points scored.  It was the first time in 15 years that a team collapsed in such a manner and also the first team since 1986 to lose a playoff game with a rebounding advantage of +22.  The Thunder, my team of Destiny now find themselves in a 1-3 series deficit and a 94% chance of losing said series.  With that said the Thunder have a 6% chance of completing the Destiny that I have bestowed onto them but it is not my will, it's the will of the Basketball Gods and no one knows the depth of their decision making.  The NBA, where an Epic performance and an Epic fail can happen.....in the same game!