3 Thunder Takeaways: Jazz Beat Thunder In Return To Scene Of NBA Shutdown


Monday, December 28th 2020, 10:18 pm
By: Nate Kotisso


OKLAHOMA CITY -

It was supposed to be another regular season game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but it isn’t what happened back on March 11.

We all know what happened that night. The trajectory of the NBA changed as we knew it. In Bricktown, of all places.

Related: 2020: A Look Back At COVID-19 Pandemic In Oklahoma

Who could have been a more appropriate opponent to open OKC’s regular season home schedule than the Utah Jazz? Perhaps the once-and-potentially-future Seattle-SuperSonics? (Side note: Let’s seriously make this happen if/when the time comes.)

Utah’s late surge was enough to knock off the Thunder from the ranks of the unbeaten 110-109 on Monday night.

 

First Takeaway: Defending Donovan

During Oklahoma City’s first game in the Orlando bubble this summer, the Thunder defense held Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell to 13 points on 15 shot attempts.

OKC appeared heading in the direction of victory with Mitchell scuffling from the floor. He missed 12 of his first 15 shot attempts of the game.

But Mitchell found his scoring touch against Lu Dort in the fourth quarter. When the Jazz trailed by two, the Louisville alum made back-to-back jumpshots and a layup to put Utah up 104-100.

Mitchell sealed the deal when he banked in a floater with seven seconds to play for the eventual game-winner.

A player who plays until the final buzzer like Mitchell will always be a ton to handle whether he can’t hit the broad side of a barn or if he’s on his way to a 50-point game.

 

Second Takeaway: Alone At The Top

If you woke up Monday morning and looked at the Western Conference standings, perhaps your jaw dropped as mine did.

Western Conference Standings 12-28-2020

You guys, this was it. The shortest rebuild in NBA history was complete. Sam Presti worked his tail off to win the just-created Executive of the Millennium award.

If the regular season were one game long and not 72, the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the top seed in the West. Let’s pour some bubbly and let the celebration begin!

The totally normal part of these super-early standings are the inevitable massive ties. Check out the seven-way tie for second place between New Orleans, both Los Angeles teams, Phoenix, Minnesota, Sacramento and San Antonio at 2-1.

What are league protocols for playoff seeding between seven teams with the same record? America deserves to know.

If the Thunder was to be so lucky and defeat Orlando on Tuesday, OKC would join the Jazz and the rest of the conference traffic jam at 2-1.

 

Third Takeaway: A Mixed Bag

Rookies Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon have both seen quite a bit of playing time during OKC’s first two games.

Maledon is a capable ballhandler as the team’s backup point guard while Pokusevski serves a tall body that isn’t really a big body at all.

Whenever Pokusevski rises up for a jumper, I know I’m not the only person yelling, “No! No! No!” at the television screen.

But it hasn’t been all bad for the seven-footer, who recorded his first NBA block on Monday night.

What is clear: both players’ games aren’t fully formed. This is a perfectly understandable conclusion to reach while watching nineteen-year-olds play basketball.

Let’s hope they put in the work, fill into their bodies and become unstoppable forces on this team for many years to come.