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Team on the Rise
Oklahoma City — The Thunder entered this season as the darlings of the Western Conference. They were the cool pick to make the big jump from the eighth seed that went six games with the Lakers a season ago to possible conference title contenders in 2010-11.
Oklahoma City hit some bumps along the way. After winning their first two games, the Thunder went 3-4 over the next two weeks. The experts started to wonder: Have we predicted the Thunder to rise too quickly? They are still a very young team — average age on opening day was 24 years and 268 days for the third-youngest team in the NBA.
Well that young roster reeled off five straight wins over a seven-day span, finally falling Wednesday night to Dallas, 111-103. The only recent blemishes have been the late run Dallas went on to win the game Wednesday, and the late run Minneosta put together before falling to OKC on Monday.
But, for the most part, the Thunder are proving they know how to win.
They are 5-1 on the road, have given up a halftime lead just twice and a third-quarter lead once. Otherwise, OKC is 8-2 when leading at the break, 7-1 when leading after three quarters and have even thrown in a win after being tied after the third.
The trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green have scored at least 20 points apiece in the same game on nine occasions this year — the highest total for any three teammates all younger than 25 since Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill did so 11 times in the 1992-93 season for Charlotte.
Perhaps youth will rule the day before it's all said and done.
Team on the Decline
Golden State — Give them a lead and there's a good chance the Warriors are leaving the arena with a win. But jump ahead and they have done nothing this season to show they can score a comeback victory.
The numbers speaks for themselves. Golden State is 6-1 when ahead at the half, 7-1 when leading after three quarters. However, the Warriors are 1-7 when trailing at the half, and 0-7 when behind after the third.
Golden State has dropped its last four games and six of its last seven since center David Lee's exit from the lineup. Lee has not played since his elbow collided with Wilson Chandler's teeth in New York on Nov. 10. The center got an infection from the collision and is not expected to return for at least another week. With games at Memphis, at Minnesota, home against Houston and maybe without Lee at home against Phoenix, this streak could run to eight in a row.
The Warriors are allowing 107.8 points a game, while only scoring 94.4 during the seven-game span without Lee. Three of the seven losses have been by 30, 28 and 17.
Numbers to Know
19 & 21 — The Jazz made 19 of 19 free throws in a Wednesday victory over New Orleans. It followed a 21-of-21 performance against Portland on Nov. 20. Prior to the Portland perfection, the Jazz had only been perfect in one of its previous 470 games.
5 — Portland's Andre Miller needs five assists to pass Derek Harper (6,577) for 18th on the league's all-time assists list.
-19 — The Kings enter tonight's game against the Clippers on quite a shooting slump. They shot a season-low 35.8 percent on Monday in a loss to Utah. After starting the season 3-1 and scoring 108.8 points a game, Sacramento has lost eight of the last nine and is scoring just 89.8 a game during that stretch.
Beyond the Arc
Double the Love: Kevin Love scored 32 and had 22 rebounds in an OT loss to San Antonio Wednesday. It marked the second time (31 and 31) that Love had a game this season with more than 30 points and more than 20 rebounds. Only four other active players have accomplished this — Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Zach Randolph.
Rare win ... in more ways than one: When the Clippers, then 1-13, met the Hornets, then 11-1, Monday night it marked the 19th time in league history a team with a winning percentage of .900-plus team met a .100 or lower team at least five games into the season, according to Elias. That oddity was then followed by something even more rare when the Clippers won the game, 99-95. Only one of the other 19 meetings ended with the team that had the losing record coming out on top — Golden State (5-0) lost to Minnesota (0-6) on Nov. 15, 1994.
Perfect Pau: Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol scored 28 points on 10-of-10 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line in a Sunday win over Golden State. It was the highest point total for perfection in over 15 years, according to Elias. Gary Payton scored 32 on 14-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe for Seattle on Jan. 4, 1995.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter