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News » SUNS 99, THUNDER 98 2008-11-28

SUNS 99, THUNDER 98 2008-11-28

SUNS 99, THUNDER 98 2008-11-28
Felt like old times at the Ford Center on Tuesday night.

Home squad scrapping. Sellout crowd yelling and dancing and smiling. Everyone having a good time.

Then Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns handed the Thunder its 12th straight loss, 99-98, in a season not yet a month old.

But make no mistake. This was different. This was not the Thunder we had been watching.

Fans left disappointed, not disgusted.

The Suns left grateful to get out alive, not guilty for taking a fourth-grader's lunch money.

The Boomers left believing they've turned a corner, not down Victory Lane just yet, but at least they're suddenly competitive, which is major improvement.

Mark it down. NBA Basketball returned to the Ford Center not in July, with the Seattle settlement; not in September, when the team was named; not in October, when the Bucks arrived for the season opener.

The NBA returned Tuesday night, when the Thunder started giving fans their money's worth. That's when the Ford Center finally became the Boomtown it was in the Hornet days.

This was the first game all season that felt like OKC's first NBA experience, when the Ford Center rippled with energy on the court and in the stands.

And overwhelming circumstantial evidence credits Scott Brooks. Two games into his head-coaching career, he's got the same old players looking like a brand new team.

"We've come a long way in a couple of days," said old pro Joe Smith, in his 14th NBA season. "I'm really proud of how we've played the last two games."

Yes, the Boomers are 1-14. But the two losses under Brooks - at New Orleans and this one - were marked with energy, not embarrassment. Marked with aggression, not aggravation. Marked with hope, not with despair.

"Tonight was a heck of a game," Brooks said, a quote echoed in every SUV that drove away from downtown Tuesday night. "Incredible environment."

The Thunder played with more spirit, but also with more smarts. Better ball movement on offense - Smith said Brooks has been preaching that since his inaugural breakfast Saturday morning - and better decision-making and better passion.

The Thunder also learned a valuable lesson. This team doesn't have to win to captivate the crowd. It just has to try hard and be competitive.

Phoenix won because it has Nash and Amare Stoudemire and a bunch of buck privates who have played huge games at the league's highest level.

Oklahoma City lost not because it loafed or didn't care, but simply because it didn't quite have the horses, even with Shaq sitting courtside in a quadruple-digit suit.

Fans left the Ford Center feeling pretty good about their team and their coach and maybe even their future. Just like old times.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080. Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

Thunder at Cavaliers

→When: 6 tonight

→Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland

→TV: FSOK (Cox 37)

→Radio: WWLS-AM 640, 98.1 FM

→Live blog: Visit the Thunder blog at and join in on the discussion.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: November 28, 2008


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