A dozen was the Magic number for the Oklahoma City Thunder this week as they extended another long streak with back-to-back 12-point wins.
On Tuesday night, the Thunder went into Denver and defeated the Nuggets by 12. Two nights later , they won by the same margin at home against the Chicago Bulls. The victories extended OKC’s winning streak to eight games, improving their overall record for the season to 21-4.
That mark is not only the best in the NBA, but it ties a franchise record for best record through 25 games set by the Thunder just last season. Additionally, Thursday’s win over Chicago pushed OKC to 13-0 on their home floor, which also ties a franchise best mark set by the 1972-73 Seattle SuperSonics.
After enduring offseason questions about their ability to compete at a championship level following last year’s early playoff exit, the Thunder have shown that they remain one of the NBA’s very best teams. That’s no surprise to the players in the locker room.
“We were confident coming into the year, and we had a lot of faith in our guys,” said Nick Collison. “But it is nice to see us playing well this early with some new guys in there, particularly our second unit.”
On Tuesday in Denver, the Thunder jumped out to an early four-point lead at the end of the first quarter and never trailed again, gradually extending the advantage until it became too much for the Nuggets to overcome.
D-Fish played 10:44 of his nearly 20 minutes of game action in the fourth frame, and scored all six of his points during a two-minute span late midway through the final quarter that saw Denver nearly mount a comeback. The Nuggets had the lead down to nine when Fish drilled a three off a feed from Russell Westbrook with 7:49 remaining.
Nate Robinson answered with a pair of threes to pull Denver back within six. But Fish setup Durant for a shot on the next Thunder possession that pushed the lead back to eight. A Durant steal set up a Westbrook charity stripe trip that made it a nine-point game. Then D-Fish converted a driving layup while drawing a foul to make it 88-77 with 6:09 to go. His subsequent free throw once again made it a 12-point game, and OKC cruised from there.
After the game, coach Scott Brooks paid tribute to the defensive effort by Derek and his floormates after the Nuggets had pulled within three, which allowed OKC to pull away.
“We like to throw that out there every now and then in the game,” Brooks explained of playing a fourth quarter unit that included Fish, Westbrook, Durant, Jeremy Lamb and Serge Ibaka. “We feel our athletes can stay in front of the basketball. We want to take teams out of their offense. Our guys did a good job with our switches.”
“We feel as though that unit can guard everybody on the court,” Durant added. “We kept them in front most of the time and we contested shots… That unit, we have to continue to lock in and be ready when we switch.”
Defense was the name of the game once again two nights later when the Thunder returned home to face the Chicago Bulls. The teams battled back and forth in the first as Oklahoma City built a 13-point lead, only to see it cut to three by halftime. But the break allowed the Thunder to refocus, and they held the Bulls without a field goal for the first 4:17 of the third.
The defensive effort allowed OKC to establish a lead as high as 15 in the third. They led by after three, and held a double-digit for nearly the entirety of the fourth on the way to the win. Fish played just 11:36, but did pull down a pair of rebounds in the win.
The Thunder now sport the NBA’s best record through more than a quarter of the season for the second straight year, but Brooks acknowledges there is still much to be done and learned.
“I’m not going to sit up here and point my finger and say ‘I told you so,’” he said of his team’s success. “We knew we were a good team.”
The Thunder head back on the road this weekend to face another good team, the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday. Then it’s back home on Sunday for a game against the Toronto Raptors. Saturday’s game is slated to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. CT in San Antonio, and Sunday’s game in OKC will get underway at 7 p.m. CT. Both broadcasts can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
- Kevin Durant leads streaking Thunder past Bulls 107-95 (The Oklahoman, December 19, 2013)
- Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday’s win over the Bulls (The Oklahoman, December 19, 2013)
- Game in Review: Thunder at Nuggets (OKCThunder.com, December 17, 2013)
- Game in Review: Bulls at Thunder (OKCThunder.com, December 19, 2013)