Emotions run high in Thunder loss to Rockets
OKLAHOMA CITY – With superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out, this Thunder season has manifested itself into a series of never-seen-before events.
New faces. New lineups. Lots of injuries. Lots of close games and lots of losses. Eight so far.
But in a season of "Can you believe that just happened," Sunday's loss against Houston, a team Oklahoma City has a chippy, bitter relationship with over the past few years, was hand-slap-to-the-side-of-the-face," strange.
And that's saying something with this team, this season. The loss wasn't the strange part. That's happened plenty as the Thunder fell to 3-8, it was the way it happened.
Playoff atmosphere inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, but a clunker of a performance as Houston shot 28.8 percent, missed 14 free throws and won 69-65.
Playoff feel to the game as Houston guard and Oklahoma City's Most Wanted, Patrick Beverley got a technical foul, got in a referee's face and maybe should have been tossed from the game. Thunder coach Scott Brooks charged the court and got in between Beverley and referee Bill Kennedy, showing off a bit of anger and frustration, too.
"Emotions happen," said Brooks.
Playoff excitement as Beverley upgraded his status as OKC's Most Wanted. There were four technical fouls in all. There were multiple and lengthy replay reviews. Beverley played pest and played up to the crowd, even contributing a bit of dialogue to a foul-mouthed Oklahoma City fan.
"I embrace it," Beverley said. "I'm just having a lot of fun out there."
"If he gets under your skin, then so be it," OKC's Reggie Jackson said.
Everyone else did, though.
Durant and Westbrook talked ill at Dwight Howard and Francisco Garcia and neither Durant or Westbrook was wearing a Thunder uniform.
The only thing that was missing was two great teams. Houston is 9-1. OKC isn't. The reason why are obvious and Sunday's result made it clear.
By the middle of the third quarter the Thunder's Lance Thomas had more shot attempts than notable gunner James Harden, and Thunder shooter Reggie Jackson didn't make a shot until 5:54 was left in the third quarter.
The Thunder shot 29 percent, were 3-of-19 from the 3-point line and still had a chance to pull closer or tie the game with 16 seconds to play, but once again something odd.
Jackson took/settled for a 28-footer with 10.9 seconds left and the Thunder found a new way to lose.
"These are experiences he's learning on the fly," Brooks said of Jackson. "A kick-out 3 would have been better."
A lot of things would have been better, like figuring out how to limit Houston's 22 offensive rebounds or improving on Anthony Morrow's one-of-nine shooting.
Oklahoma City has definitely junked it up this season, mixing in players and different defenses. Finding lineups and finding ways to stay in games. Sunday was no different. OKC has also figured out new and interesting ways to lose games, like getting to the free throw line just six times against Detroit and making only one, and like choosing a shot like Jackson's with the game in the balance.
And in a season that has degenerated into one wildly interesting situation after the next, one thing the Thunder aren't talking about is having fun. They're 3-8 after all.
"We're getting opportunities," Brooks said. "Guys are getting great experience. We're not looking at the playoffs. We're focused on today. That's all we can do right now."
Sunday the Thunder found a new way to lose. Maybe Tuesday in Utah we'll see something else we haven't seen before.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK
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