Thirty-two games into the season, the Thunder are (17-15) and only three games behind the Utah Jazz for sixth in the Western Conference. Their climate around this organization and their record through 32 games are nearly identical to 2009-2010 when the Thunder started (18-15) and began to realize how special they were.
While as of now, the Thunder don’t have a clearly defined star-studded monster as they did 10 seasons ago, but they have young pieces with raw talent and a budding star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He tied his career-high on Sunday night in his home town of Toronto with 32 points, which is his third 30-point game of this season.
Through the first 25 games, Shai’s skill was never in doubt. It seemed to be the confidence in his ability and his willingness to be the No. 1 option for the Thunder that was holding him back. He was being too passive. Chris Paul has taken a backseat role to lead and mentor this young team. Sometimes it seemed like Shai was too busy looking over his back as most second-year players would do, instead of taking control of the team himself.
I even ranted about it.
After that 25th game, Shai has become an offensive juggernaut where he’s not only putting up big numbers but efficiently, and even better, in an aggressive manner.
Shai through the last six games: 27.3 points per game on 53.4 percent shooting and 45 percent shooting from three.
During this time, his defense has flown under the radar a bit. Against Toronto, Shai was disruptive on the perimeter and added 3 steals for proof of his activeness. He also pulled down seven rebounds and led the Thunder to a big win over the defending champion Raptors.
The supporting cast may have played a bigger role in this Thunder victory. Yes, Shai scored the go-ahead bucket to help secure the win, but players like Darius Bazley and Nerlens Noel helped keep the Thunder afloat, as they combined for 25 points on 9-12 shooting.
Did I say supporting cast, or dynamic duo? Because that’s what this game was. With Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schröder out with injuries, the Thunder had to make up for their productivity. It was an opportune time for the former all-star with a quarter of gas left in his tank to step it up and play a Robin role to Shai’s Batman. Paul put together a well-rounded stat-line with 25 points on 50 percent shooting, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 57 points in OKC’s 17th victory of the season.
Another interesting fact: OKC’s (17-15) record is the same through 32 games as the 2016-2017 season with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.
This is proof that less talent with more team basketball tends to do better than an abundance of talent with no chemistry.