It seems fitting that the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night opened its most favorable home stretch this season with its largest margin of victory ever at home.
And a 106-77 thrashing of the suddenly starless Cleveland Cavaliers could set the stage for what's to come the rest of this calendar year.
Starting with Sunday's win, which moved the Thunder to 17-8, eight of Oklahoma City's final 10 games in 2010 will come inside Oklahoma City Arena.
No other NBA team ends the year with as many home games.
Three teams, Dallas, Sacramento and San Antonio, play seven of their final 10 games at home. Philadelphia got stuck with the worst slate before the New Year, one that has the Sixers playing eight of 10 games away from home. The Sixers have an eight-game road trip that starts Dec. 21 and stretches into Jan. 3.
Three teams are scheduled to play seven of the final 10 games in 2010 away from home, including Western Conference heavyweights Utah and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
For the Thunder, these final nine games present a chance to both build a cushion in the Western Conference standings and discover the dominance at home that had eluded the team earlier this season.
â€œI think that's big for us right now,â€ said Thunder reserve guard Eric Maynor. â€œWe were on the road for a while. so just to be able to come in here and play at home with our great fans, I think it's going to be good for us.â€
The Thunder moved to 8-4 at home after crushing the Cavs â€” the 29-point win surpassing the 28-point margin of victory OKC defeated Orlando by on Nov. 8, 2009. It was the Thunder's third straight home win, which suggests this team might finally be ready to really protect its home court. The Thunder started the season 3-3 at home and saw all four of its home defeats come by a combined 51 points.
â€œI know we've lost some games at home, but we've played against some difficult teams,â€ said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. â€œNot that we should lose against all the best teams at home. But sometimes you've got to give your opponent credit. And they did a better job than us in those four games that we lost.â€
To Brooks' point, the Thunder had played the fifth toughest schedule going into Sunday night. Utah and New Orleans were the only Western Conference playoff threats to have played tougher schedules.
The final seven home games of 2010, however, are against teams with a combined record of 80-82. Only three of those teams have winning records, with 19-4 Dallas making the combined mark look better. Atlanta (16-9) and Denver (14-9) are the only other teams with winning records.
â€œIt's easy to look at them and relax,â€ Brooks said. â€œBut our team doesn't look at the schedule that way, and I don't look at the schedule that way. If you don't focus on the game at hand, then the games are going to come up and you're not going to like the results.â€
If the Thunder plays with passion and purpose like it did against the Cavs, resulting in only its fourth win by double digits, surely it will lead to similar results.
â€œWhen you win games, that definitely helps the momentum,â€ Brooks said. â€œBut I just like the way we've played. Our competitive spirit has been very high.â€