BREAKING NEWS: THE THUNDER ARE BETTER AT HOME
The Golden State Warriors of Oakland, California went over the 100-point mark and kept the Oklahoma City Thunder under triple digits in the point column, on Monday, putting a halt to the Thunder’s five game winning streak.
The energy level was high in Chesapeake Energy Arena as the Thunder fans cheered on their recently on-a-roll representatives. When Kevin Durant was pronounced likely out for the remainder of the regular season because of an injury, which occurred at the end of February, the Western Conference took a collective sigh of relief. The 25 points per game scorer would be taken off the books for a while with an MCL sprain. The Thunder-faithful had their time to relentlessly boo Durant earlier in the season, when the Warriors were victorious and looked more comfortable visiting than in years past.
On Monday, Durant was not introduced during the starting lineup festivities. This did not allow the Thunder fans to be a thunderous crowd of hatred and casted humiliation attempts. However, the organization was not reluctant to allow a cupcake mascot to hobble around the arena on crutches while donning a Golden State Warriors logo and the number 35 (Durant’s infamous number).
Before Monday, the Thunder were riding a three-game home winning streak and an overall home record of 26-9. The Warriors bumped the loss column up to double digits, while raising some questions of the playoff longevity of the Thunder.
The Thunder currently sit 16 games back of the top spot as the six seed in the Western Conference with 12 remaining games in the 2016-2017 NBA regular season. At 26-10 at home, Chesapeake Energy Arena has provided a place of epic denouement, with eight games having ended within a one possession difference and three games going into overtime.
As Russell Westbrook continues towards the NBA record for triple doubles in a season (41) set by Oscar Robertson in the 1961-1962 season, the Thunder attempt to fend off rumors that their short-lived head coach, Billy Donovan, is being lured back into the college ranks. Donovan has pledged his loyalty.
Per report from Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman, Donovan remarked, “I love it here. I love the guys I work with every day. I love our staff, the organization. As far as I’m concerned, my commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I’m here.”
Even though he addressed the concerns of his pending departure, tension has certainly been created for the upcoming championship title run. The Oklahoma City Thunder finished with a 7-5 record during the last 12 games of the 2015-2016 NBA regular season, and an overall record of 55-27, which placed them as the third seed in the Western conference. While not being able to hit the win mark of last year’s team, the Thunder seem equipped to compete all the way through the playoffs’ seven game structure system. Where the Thunder play home games could be a determining factor of how long they will last into the summer months.
According to the Chesapeake Energy Arena website, seating capacity is at 18,203. That is a lot of people creating noise when prompted. With that at their disposal, the Thunder can make any game at home difficult for the opposing team.
In a 2015 report by ESPN Staff Writer Tom Haberstroh, a graphic provided showed the decline of NBA teams winning percentage on their respective home floors. Citing an increase of closer games and theorizing the increased use of the three-point field goal. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Thunder shoot 32.9 percent from behind the arc. On their roster, they have three players who shoot in the 37-38 range.
The Oklahoma City Thunder undoubtedly show a relentless, fight-response energy when they are on the floor. During Monday’s game against the Warriors, Semaj Christon of the Thunder didn’t back down from Stephen Curry as the two got into a shoving match over the position on a jump right before halftime. Curry would eventually get possession of the tip and hit a three before the buzzer sounded.
Even though Curry hit the shot and the Warriors rode out of Oklahoma City with a victory, the Thunder stood their ground and showed scrappiness throughout. With both shooters and rebounders, they look to win in the opponent's arena to send it back to their home court, where they certainly have an advantage.