Coach Scott Brooks and his players no doubt have grown weary of the incessant comparisons between this year’s Thunder team and last year’s. Then again, it’s the franchise’s second season of existence, which leaves only one point of reference. This year’s Thunder vs. last year’s Thunder. There’s no other way to compare. Considering what has transpired so far in 2009-10, there actually is no comparison. Further proof came with Monday night’s 106-88 demolition of the New York Knickerbockers, who incidentally bear no resemblance to the 1970 world champion Knicks. Thunder locals have compared last season to this season at least 1,000 times. Make it 1,001. Last season, the Thunder’s 21st victory didn’t come until March 31, when only eight games remained on the schedule. That Thunder team was 21-53 at the time. This Thunder team is now 21-16. That’s the same victory total with 37 fewer losses. If you’re not impressed, you should be. If you’re not amazed, you should be. If you’re not somewhat shocked, you should be. The only people not impressed, amazed or somewhat shocked by all this evidently are the players and coaches. Before Monday’s mismatch, big-time New York media asked the exact same questions we’ve been asking Thunder personnel all season long, and Brooks provided the exact same answers. "I don’t know if ’surprised’ is the right word," Brooks said, trying to explain his team’s turnaround. "I know the guys worked hard all summer long, and the work is paying off. We’ve got a lot of basketball left. We still have to keep working, keep improving. I like the way the guys are meshing with one another. They believe in the style of play and how we win basketball games. We have to defend. We have to rebound and score off our defense." Yada, yada, yada. We’ve heard this all before, probably because it happens to be true. Against the Knicks, the Thunder worked hard, meshed well, defended, rebounded (for the most part) and scored off its defense, just like Brooks said his players should. The Thunder trailed for a total of 24 seconds Monday night. Its biggest lead was 29 (100-71). Visiting reporters also had several questions about pending all-star Kevin Durant, who responded with 30 points before a crowd of 17,152 inside the Ford Center. Brooks went 10 deep on his roster against the Knicks, which included six minutes from rookie center Byron Mullens. The Thunder bench combined for 37 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. The Knicks (15-22), meanwhile, were held to their second-lowest point total of the season. "I like what we’re doing defensively," Brooks said afterward. "I’m not going to say we’re satisfied, because we gave up 11 offensive rebounds in the first half. We just keep taking little steps on the defensive end. We’re improving. We’re going to have to keep improving. We want to continue to get better, because that’s where we’re staying in games and winning games is on the defensive end." Yada, yada, yada. Hey, as long as the Thunder keeps winning, Brooks and Co. can yada all they want. "I thought it was a solid game,” Brooks said. "In the third quarter, three or four times offensively in transition we tried to get too cute and that wasn’t good basketball. I called a timeout and made sure I told our guys to keep playing good basketball — solid and respectful basketball — and we got back on track.” Respectful basketball? Hmmm, I’ve never heard that phrase before, but it allows another comparison between this season and last season. So far, this year has been respectful basketball. Last year was not.
Win No. 21
|2008-09||Mar. 31||San Antonio||96-95||Durant scores 31 on road|
|2009-10||Jan. 11||New York||106-88||Durant scores 30|