Not long ago, the Thunder frequently was just good enough to lose. Now it’s become a team that’s just good enough to win.
The latest example came the final night of 2009 with the Thunder’s 87-86 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
The Thunder didn’t exactly dazzle the sellout crowd of 18,203 inside the Ford Center, with 20 turnovers and 50-percent shooting from the free-throw line. Ironically, it was two converted free throws from Nick Collison with 4.5 seconds remaining that was the difference between winning and losing.
The Thunder remains a work in progress, but its rate of success has revved up considerably this season. Just goes to show what can happen with good talent and great chemistry.
The Thunder is 18-14 overall and riding its first five-game winning streak since relocation. Sure beats the heck out of last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before. The Sonics/Thunder hasn’t been four games above .500 since the 2004-05 season in Seattle.
The Thunder isn’t the most talented team in the league, but it might have the best chemistry. Coach Scott Brooks could make a strong argument he has the most close-knit team in the NBA, perhaps all of pro sports.
"You see it every day," Brooks said of his team’s magical mix. "You see it on our practice floor. You see it in our locker room. You see it on the bus. You see it on road trips. (The players) get along. They understand it’s going to take everybody to chip in for everybody to be successful."
The word "chemistry" can often become trite, but it unquestionably fits with this year’s Thunder. Future all-star Kevin Durant said chemistry "is the main reason why we’re doing better than last year at this point."
Makes you wonder what the Thunder’s record would be right now if the players couldn’t stand each another. If that were the case, it’s safe to assume nobody around here would be thinking playoffs.
Thunder point guard Kevin Ollie has played with 12 franchises in his 13 seasons and said the only team that compares to the Thunder’s cohesiveness is the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers, who advanced to the NBA Finals. Ollie said having the proper mix begins at the top.
"It comes from the organization," Ollie explained.