Thunder loss to Clippers just as bad as loss to Warriors was good

What’s most concerning about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 0-2 start isn’t the 0-2. It’s that without Russell Westbrook for a second consecutive game, they couldn’t find a way to attack the rim.

It’s understandable to lose to Golden State. A lot of folks will this season.

But the Thunder had a 9-point lead on the Los Angeles Clippers in the third period and at least a six-point lead in the final quarter.

The Clippers won by 16.

They shot over 40 percent from both 2 and 3. Oklahoma City went 7 for 33 from beyond the arc.

Against the Warriors, I can understand that.

But against the Clippers, I don’t.

Sure, they used the behemoth Boban Marjanovic to clog the lane in the fourth quarter.

It’s almost like they had a strategy.

Hmm.

Oklahoma City’s loss to Golden State was a good one. Lots of encouraging signs.

The loss to L.A. Friday night was a bad one, not just for the size of the loss or letting a winnable game slip away – but because the Thunder got completely out-strategized in the fourth quarter.

NBA 2018-19 predictions: How many wins for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

When you live in a city with an NBA team and only an NBA team on the professional sports level, you get excited the night before the regular season — and we’re excited in Oklahoma City because we have the Thunder.

And of course, when you have Russell Westbrook, it’s hard not to be excited about your ball club.

Except that he just had knee surgery.

And his isn’t the only injury. Andre Roberson is recovering up to two more months after knee surgery following recovery from a patellar tendon tear.

Heck, we just learned today that Steven Adams is questionable for the season opener Tuesday night against Golden State. Ugh.

This isn’t what we were hoping for in Loud City. While I’m an optimist, I have a formula for how many wins I think the Thunder will get this season. They’ll win 70% of the games in which Westbrook and Roberson are healthy, 60% in which at least one of them is healthy (especially Russ) and only 50% or less without. It’s hard for me to give a number, but 46 feels right because it’s in between my hunch (48) and what I think it might actually be if the team struggles through injuries all year (44).

The good news is that I think a lower number might get the Thunder into the playoffs.

Give me Golden State, Utah, Houston, Minnesota, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City, Denver and New Orleans in the West with the Warriors and Jazz battling it out not only for the Western Conference crown but possibly also as a passing of the torch to Donovan Mitchell, a dark horse for MVP in just his second year. He’s that good.

Don’t forget, however, that LeBron plays in the West now. I guarantee you they’ll be in the playoffs if LBJ has to do it himself.

In the East, I think it’s a three-team race between Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia, and I like Philly. I trust the process, if you will. The combo of Simmons-Embiid-Fultz with J.J. Redick off the bench makes Philly a very interesting team, a squad that isn’t being given much of a shot to make the Finals just yet. One X factor for the 76ers, in my opinion, is former Wichita State Shockers star Landry Shamet. Love those Shockers, and reports indicate he’s looked really, really good.

Eastern Conference playoff teams will be Boston, Toronto, Philly, Indiana, Milwaukee, Washington, Detroit, Miami.

Give me Philly-Boston for the Eastern Conference title and a Golden State-Philly match-up in the Finals, in what also could be a passing of the NBA torch to a younger team, not that the Warriors are going to lose. I’d be shocked if anybody besides Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and company won the title.

So ready for tip-off.

Thunder up!