The Thunder lost to the Mavericks 117-116 in Dallas on Saturday to advance to the Western Conference Finals. 

“It sucks losing the last game of the season,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “Coaching this team has been a pleasure. I love coaching this team. I’d love nothing more than going to practice tomorrow.” 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, tremendous all night, fouled his old college teammate, P.J. Washington, on a 3-point play with 2.5 seconds left. Washington made his first two free throws, turning a one-point deficit into a one-point win. 

The Thunder built a 16-point halftime lead, but the Mavericks rallied. Their role players made huge baskets at the most critical times, a common theme in the series and a massive factor in why they moved on. To put into context just how close this series was, the overall score was Dallas 636 and Oklahoma City 636, reiterating that you have the thinnest of margins in the playoffs.

A New Era Of Thunder Basketball Begins

In his exit interview in May 2021, Sam Presti stated, “When we do get back to the postseason, we want it to be an arrival, not an appearance.” It’s safe to say that the Thunder announced their arrival to the rest of the league. The Thunder were overachieved this season as this year they were looked at as a growing team with a high ceiling. Next season will be a year to prove this was not a fluke.

An Essential Summer For The Front Office

Presti repeatedly said they needed to get THIS group to the playoffs and stress-test them. You have to do that before you make decisions on the roster. They’ve done their test, got their data, and now have $35M in cap space, plus four roster spots and 17 first-round picks.

Questions will need to be answered; moves will need to be made. The Thunder’s deficiencies were exposed in this series. But this was this particular group’s first of many playoff runs together. But changes will be made. The lack of accurate volume shooting, screen setters, and current limitations from your non-Shai creators have all popped off the screen in this series. It will provide some exciting information for the team in the long term.

Another clear takeaway from this series: It makes no sense for Josh Giddey and the Thunder to go forward. It makes no sense not from the team’s perspective but from the player’s agents. Work must be done on the fringes, but all things considered, this was a wildly successful Thunder season. The future is bright for this team.

Make sure you check out all the other sports coverage at Area 51 Sports Network