OKLAHOMA CITY — As the Wizards got ready for Sunday night's game against the Thunder in the expansive visitors locker room at Chesapeake Arena, Bradley Beal pulled his teammates together shortly before tip-off. He had a stat to share.
The Wizards had never won a game in Oklahoma City, not one in nine tries. Three times they took the Thunder to overtime on the road and once to double-OT. But each game they lost.
Beal was sick of it. He wanted it to end.
"It's just something I wanted everyone to keep on their mind. We have a great opportunity in front of us. We've gotta take advantage of it," he said.
That, they did. The Wizards pulled off a stunning upset of a Thunder team that entered the game No. 2 in the Western Conference with eight wins in their previous 11 games.
And the Wizards didn't just beat them. They smashed the Thunder by 18 points, at one point leading by 23. They held both Russell Westbrook and Paul George below 40 percent shooting. Westbrook had eight turnovers.
The Wizards have beaten the Thunder six times at home since they moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City before the 2008-09 season. But winning in OKC had proven an arduous task. The Thunder have often featured one of the best rosters in basketball and the place is jam-packed with fans, noise and energy.
Just before tip-off, their mascot 'Rumble the Bison' beats a drum at center court. Westbrook sprints from the Thunder bench diagonally across the court and into the corner. He screams into the crowd and they scream back. Westbrook is a hurricane of energy and the fans in OKC are a perfect match.
But all streaks are meant to end and it was fitting the first win came with Scott Brooks as the Wizards' head coach. He coached the Thunder from 2008 through the 2014-15 season before he was let go.
This wasn't his first win against his former team, but it was his first win in that building as an opposing coach. Though he wouldn't admit it meant more than the average game afterwards, Beal could sense that it was different.
"You know one thing I noticed? He was dressed really early today before the game. I was like 'damn,'" Beal said. "He had his suit on real early today. That's not like him."
Brooks, true to form, left with some classy parting words after the victory.
"It was a good win. It's always nice coming back here. I've got a lot of respect for [owner Clayton] Bennett and [general manager] Sam [Presti] and the organization... I've got a lot of love for the community and a lot of respect," he said.
That's nice. But he had to get at least some extra satisfaction out of the victory. He's only human.
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