Anatomy of the worst loss in NBA history

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The Oklahoma City Thunder made history Thursday night.

There have been roughly 50,000 NBA games played since the association’s formation in 1949. Yet in all of those games no team has ever suffered a greater loss than OKC’s 152-79 massacre in Memphis. I’ll spare you the math: it’s a 73-point plaster cast.

So how did this already infamous thunderclap come about? Let’s break the beat-down.

  1. This is a reconstruction. First of all, this OKC team is already built with eyes on the future. It is intentionally the youngest roster of the NBA. The objective is to develop and recruit young talents. So the losses will come. But most of those L’s are competitive because the Thunder has a few rings most nights… but not on Thursdays.
  2. No Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Josh Giddey. OKC’s top two players didn’t play (all due respect to Luguetz Dort). It’s simple stuff. The NBA is a all-star-focused league and SGA and Giddey are the two rising stars for the Thunder. The Warriors are sad without Steph Curry, the Bucks are bad without Giannis, and the Thunder were historically heinous without SGA and Giddey.
  3. No favors from Kenrich Williams or Derrick. Kenny Hustle is a box-scoring superstar and has a huge impact every time he’s on the pitch. Favors is the only big physical OKC veteran. Both are high IQ players who help stabilize a ship sailed by young people. Their absence was massive.
  4. Rookies, G Leaguers and 3e Stringers, oh my god! So, with their top two players and four of their top six players missing, who was left? Lu Dort, who did an admirable job scoring 15 effective points in just 25 minutes. Mike Muscala, who scored 12 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. But after those two, the level of talent and experience drops dramatically. Rookie Tre Mann got his second career start with struggling Darius Bazley, Ty Jerome in his first start of the season and 2nd round rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl completed the starting five. Two-way player Paul Watson played 32 minutes, the team’s second most. The rare Gabriel Deck, Isaiah Roby and Poku Experience completed the rotation. The backups of a rebuilding team and the backups of their saves playing long minutes are not a recipe for success.
  5. Second night of a back-to-back route. OKC had played at home 24 hours ago, probably spent time with Drake, hopped on a plane to Memphis, landed in the middle of the night, slept a few hours, and was back on set by noon. These tired legs were especially evident at the end of the match.
  6. 4th Quarter Snowball. Make no mistake, OKC missed the first frame. But before the last 12 minutes, that was just your typical 50 point deficit. Because the game was so out of control, the Thunder decided to leave Dort and Bazley to rest, their two best defenders. And the players who remained were exhausted from playing the night before, lighting up with Drake and his two new parents from Oklahoma and flying to Graceland. The Grizz edged the Thunder by 22 in the final frame.
  7. Grizzly bears of the Golden State. We explained why the Thunder have suffered so much, but historic losses require a perfect storm of one team having their worst game while the other team can’t miss. And Memphis was happy to oblige. Even without Ja Morant, the Grizz shot 62.5 percent from the ground and made a ridiculous 19 of 36 attempts beyond the arc. It wasn’t your father’s Grit N Grind Grizz, the Thunder had to face the Memphis Warriors.

“It’s important to note that this isn’t what we’ve been all season,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said after the game.

He is right. OKC has been competitive in most games. And as stated above, there are more than a handful of legitimate reasons that resulted in a perfect and tragic thunder storm. But they’re falling on deaf ears because talking heads and social media like Hot take more than context.

In the end, this match will only count as a loss in the standings. And the Thunder are racking up losses this season with visions of Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren playing alongside SGA, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort dancing through their heads.

Rinse the movie on this one, move on and cross your foam fingers that Shai and Josh are ready to go Monday night against the, oh wait, too bad, it’s just the Pistons.


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