With the Oklahoma City Thunder now a game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for sixth place in the Western Conference, one game behind the Houston Rockets for fifth and one-and-a-half games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth, the organization that was initially ‘replenishing and repositioning’ their team is now beginning to be a contender in the Western Conference.
As crazy and unlikely as that would have sounded four months ago, it’s the reality now. This team has proven to be one of the best in the West and one of the best in the league. Everyone, including reporters and surely some Thunder players, thought that the trade deadline would be the end of the road for this team’s dominance but it’s clear that Sam Presti had other intentions, at least until the offseason. Other than Justin Patton getting traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Isaiah Roby, this Thunder team will remain the same.
One thing that is and will be essential for the Thunder through the last 30 games of the season is getting wins. A team that’s trying to get to home-court advantage in the playoffs has to win games, no doubt. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing. They’ve won four-straight games, including nine of their last 10. In layman’s terms, they’re rollin’ right now with the lengthiest winning streak in the Western Conference.
While that’s all fine and dandy, their last two games weren’t the best. A 109-103 home victory over the (13-39) Cleveland Cavaliers and a 108-101 home victory over the (19-35) Detroit Pistons without key players isn’t acceptable for a team the caliber of the Thunder.
It’s time we adjust our mindsets from “we’re just happy to be here and winning,” to beating subpar teams decisively, as an elite basketball team should. Rewind to the last few seasons. When the Thunder would pull out tough wins against bad teams, we all had this mindset that I’m speaking of. Yes, everyone was pleased with the win but wasn’t satisfied with it, nor were we satisfied with the way the Thunder played.
Following the win on Friday night against the short-handed Pistons, amid my frustration about the caliber of basketball the Thunder were playing, fans reminded me that “last year’s team would have lost this game or barely found a way to win the game.” Previous teams are long gone and in the past. We’re dealing with the 2019-2020 Thunder now and while one lackluster game against a bottom-feeding Eastern Conference opponent may be acceptable, two in a row is not and that’s undebatable.
The Thunder will face the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon and they tend to play up to their competition and hopefully, they do because if they play the way they’ve played the last two nights, Jayson Tatum and Co. are going to run through the Thunder. Continue to cheer your team on, yes, but also see where consistency in their play is just as important.