Before tonight, no 10 seed had ever won their Play In game. After tonight, both 10 seeds went on the road and made history. The night started with the huge comeback by the Bulls and Zach LaVine & Co, proving just how weird their season has been. Tons of talent on that team, and now they head to South Beach for a chance to play a healthy and rested Giannis. Good luck!
The Thunder entered tonight playing with house money. Their season was already way more successful than anyone anticipated to start the year, so even if they fell short tonight I think most would agree they showed the world just how bright their future is. SGA took a massive leap, the internal growth of Josh Giddey is for real, and their young draft picks all look pretty damn solid and we haven't even seen Chet yet. They've had a great season.
And now that season is still alive
Given that Lu Dort is an ASU guy, OKC's head coach is from Leominster, MA, Sam Presti is from Concord, MA, and the Thunder rested Al Horford and then traded him back to the Celts, I'll always root for the Thunder. I hope everything about their rebuild works and wish them nothing but the best.
It also should be stated that what we witnessed tonight was not a fluke. The Thunder have beaten good teams all season, and while the Pelicans may have only been 42-40, their season was weird. They were great when healthy to start the year, then they sort of went into a coma for a few months once the injuries piled up, but then they found a way to close the season strong. If these Play In games have taught us anything, it's that none of that shit matters. It's about 48 mintues of beautiful yet terrible basketball, and these 48 minutes did not disappoint.
We knew right from the opening tip that the Thunder were going to put up a fight, and after the first 12 minutes they actually led 32-29. Lu Dort decided to go nuts with 14 first quarter points which was definitely house money since he's out there mostly for defense and toughness. Getting a 4-5 shooting start from him is how you win these big road games, and when it's coming off stepbacks?
it might just be your night. Considering Dort finished with 27 points and some huge FTs late, I'd say it was
Love to see that from a fellow Sun Devil.
In the second quarter though, it was Tre Murphy III's turn to respond, and respond he did with 15 points of his own
Being the young team they are, the Thunder went cold in that second quarter to the tune of 33/30% splits. SGA/Giddey combined for a brutal 2-10, and the Pelicans went into the half with a 6 point lead (63-57). Not great, but if they could continue to tighten up defensively, they'd be moving on.
Unfortunately for them, SGA's 3rd quarter happened
What a ridiculous player SGA is developing into. Offensively, defensively, late in games, he's the complete package at his position and I'll remind you he's 24 years old. He finished that 3rd quarter with 17 points on 6-9 shooting and it completely changed the momentum of the night. Now the Thunder weren't just hanging around, they were throwing haymakers. A 39-24 quarter, suddenly they were the ones who were one strong quarter away from pulling off the upset.
Naturally, the Pelicans immediately ripped off a run to start the 4th. In a blink of an eye they went from down 9 to start the quarter to within 2. We suddenly had another crazy finish on our hands, further proving that Adam Silver nailed this idea. All four of these games were wildly entertaining even if some of the basketball was downright disgusting to watch. It was beautiful chaos.
What made this game so good is both franchise guys are absolutely nails in the clutch. Both Brandon Ingram and SGA went play for play and shot for shot down the stretch in what was tremendous theatre
In the final minute, the Thunder had the ball with a 2 for 1 opportunity down by one. This was essentially the game right here. If the Thunder come up empty, they have to start playing the foul game and pray. If they come through, all the pressure shifts to the Pelicans. So what did we get? One of the most impressive 2 for 1 shots you can ask for from guess who
What a fucking shot. In that moment, with the season on the line, fading away like that? Nasty. More of the same for SGA, but impressive nonetheless.
After Ingram missed a midrange jumper in response, now all the Thunder had to do was make their FTs and this one was over. Josh Giddey, who also had himself a night
stepped right up to the line and knocked both his FTs down with 12 seconds to put the Thunder up 3. Brandon Ingram was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, and now the Pelicans best player had his chane to cut it to 1 with plenty of time left.
He went 1 for 2.
Just like we saw in the MIN loss and the TOR loss, free throws are important. Especially when you're season is on the line.
The fact that he went on to make THIS shot just a few possessions later
makes that missed FT sting a litte more I imagine. But that's why you gotta make your FTs kids. They're important.
In the end, the Thunder did the exact thing they've done all season. They've shocked the world. I'll tell you what, I wouldn't rule them out against the Wolves. That's a team that's ready to implode and the Thunder look hungry and ready for the moment. Getting these type of reps this early in your rebuild is how you smash fast forward into contention. If Presti gets creative and cashes in on those picks for some win now talent to mix in with this young core? And they add Chet?
This might be the last time we see OKC in the Play In because they'll be too busy locking up a top 4 seed.