The Thunder fell 101-89 in New Orleans on Monday night, and if you logged on to the internet after the game, you might have thought that Oklahoma City's season was over.
Fans were in disgust. The Thunder's effort, heart, focus and determination were all criticized and for good reason. The Pelicans played without six of their top seven scorers, yet a team that entered just 32-48 took down the mighty Thunder by double digits. Equally concerning was the fact that OKC allowed the Pelicans' only remaining threat (Tyreke Evans) to have his way to the tune of 41 points.
Was the Thunder's effort stellar? No.
Was their performance inspiring? Of course not.
Does this mean that the Thunder isn't ready for the playoffs? Not one little bit.
That's right; as bad as Monday's game was, it really doesn't matter.
Some fans have an expectation that the players will perform to the best of their abilities in all 82 games. They believe that the players should always give 100 percent, especially considering the money that they make. It's not an unreasonable request, but it is unrealistic.
These guys get disinterested in work sometimes, just the way you or I do. Sometimes they don't bring their A game to the job site. But the great thing about the Thunder is that when the games really matter, these guys typically show up.
Oklahoma City played Monday without the heartbeat of the team, Russell Westbrook. Needing one win to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the West, OKC knew that they had the embarrassingly pitiful Detroit Pistons coming to town on Wednesday night, so a win in New Orleans wasn't necessary.
Think back to the end of the 2011-12 season when the Thunder lost seven of its final 14 games. Many people questioned whether that team was playoff ready. What happened next? OKC then won 13 of its next 16 en route to the NBA Finals.
A sense of urgency kicked in and they flipped the switch.
Now think back again to that season, when the San Antonio Spurs won 31 of 33 games prior to the Thunder eliminating them with four straight wins in the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder's scuffles didn't matter then, nor did the Spurs' hot streak.
Speaking of those scuffles – is OKC really actually even struggling?
The Thunder is 15-3 since March 11 with Russell Westbrook in the lineup. That's good for an 83.3 winning percentage. The Thunder's overall season winning percentage is just 71.6.
The Thunder team we saw last night likely wouldn't escape the first round of the playoffs, but that doesn't matter. The Thunder team we'll see in the playoffs will have Westbrook at the point and very likely a renewed sense of urgency throughout.
Game No. 81 was ugly, but let's wait ‘til game No. 83 to judge this team.