The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the middle of a season quite unlike any they’ve had, since moving from Seattle in 2008.
Burdened with title expectations for the third year in a row — a premature Finals appearance in 2012 will do that to you — OKC started the year with a litany of crucial injuries, limping to a 5-13 record without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Now, the championship hopefuls have a deadly sprint before them just to get into the playoffs. The Western Conference is just that good; at 20-20, the Thunder are currently three games behind the Phoenix Suns for the eigth and final conference postseason slot.
If the past two games are any indication, though, then the Thunder are trending in the right direction. OKC handled the Golden State Warriors, the best team in basketball, 127-115 on Friday night, behind a triple-double from Westbrook. And last night, they nearly set a record for the current season by dropping a whopping 79 points in the first half against the Orlando Magic.
Part of the success in their recent play is the emergence of Dion Waiters, a recent acquisition via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the past two contests, the feast-or-famine Waiters is shooting 60 percent from the floor, thriving and confident in the free-roaming Oklahoma offense. He’s also been a surprising source of defensive steel, grabbing five steals over the weekend.
If the Thunder want a chance at our hearts again this Spring, they’ll have to keep it up. Phoenix is for real, and stealing the Suns' spot will likely require a 50-win season, at the minimum. That means OKC has to play .710 ball to give themselves a chance. It’s a tall order, but they look like they’re on the way to fulfilling it.
— John Wilmes