OKLAHOMA CITY — The only thing more disappointing than the Oklahoma City Thunder’s showing against the Miami Heat on Thursday night was the comments made by the team’s leaders after the game.
If there was one word to describe how Scotty Brooks, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed to feel after the game, it certainly wasn’t “upset.”
It wasn’t “annoyed,” and it wasn’t “disappointed,” either.
Surprisingly, they each sounded more relieved than anything else.
Perhaps they already figured out what it took the world six games to realize: as currently constructed, the Thunder will have no shot at defeating the Heat in a seven game series, and often, they’ll even struggle to be competitive against them.
“Going into the game, we knew that they are one of the best teams. They’re the defending champions and they play good basketball,” coach Brooks said after the game.
Kendrick Perkins reminded everyone that championships are not won in February, but he didn’t follow that revelation up with anything that suggests the Thunder expect to walk away victorious if they do happen to play the Heat for all of the marbles, once again.
“They’ve been dominating us for the last six games, so if we do meet again, it’s just a problem we gotta deal with and figure it out,” he said.
Meanwhile, all Durant wanted to talk about after the game was getting some rest during All-Star Weekend and the second half of the season. Westbrook, on the other hand, scoffed at the notion that the Thunder and Heat have a budding rivalry.
“We’re in the East and the West,” Westbrook said. “We only see them twice a year, so I don’t think you can make a rivalry of that.”
You also can’t make a rivalry if things continue to be one-sided. On the surface, the Thunder seemed to not be putting too much stock into a regular season matchup with the Heat, and that’s to be expected.
But the fact that they couldn’t even compete with the Heat and then immediately wanted to sweep the game under the rug like it never happened, without anyone so much as expressing a shred of frustration?
That’s alarming, and it doesn’t necessarily ring of championship expectations.
With Durant and Westbrook leading the charge, the Thunder are one of the NBA’s top teams.
What they are not, though, is a match for the Miami Heat, and it’s about time we stopped pretending that they are.
With Thursday night’s 110-100 victory over the Thunder, including last year’s NBA Finals, the Heat have not only defeated the Thunder six consecutive times, but also eight of the last 11.
In other words, the Thunder are 3-8 against the Heat since James took his talents to South Beach.
Even worse is that unlike the Heat, the Thunder haven’t seemed to grow up much since losing in the NBA Finals.
The last time these two teams squared off at Chesapeake Arena was Game 2 of last year’s championship series. The Thunder, after winning Game 1, opened up Game 2 by missing 11 of their first 12 shots. The Heat jumped out to an 18-2 lead and, thanks in part to a no-call down the stretch, were able to survive a late run by the Thunder.
The rest is history.
But on Thursday night, we sorta relived it, down to the part where the Thunder trail by double digits for most of the game and make a late push, only to be rebuffed by timely shot making from the Heat.
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Call it just another regular season game if you will, but in their own building, against the Heat, the Thunder should have had all the incentive they needed to show up. But after falling behind by 15 in the first quarter, Brooks’ team could never get closer than 10.
The Thunder never led but trailed by as many as 23.
Now, moving forward, the question should no longer be whether or not the Thunder are a match for the Heat, it’s whether or not they ever will be.