SALT LAKE CITY — What a week it was for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Four games. Four wins. Four drama-free fourth quarters.
That's just the way the Thunder wanted the schedule to play out in the final days leading up to All-Star Weekend.
“When you get close to the All-Star break teams tend to relax, and I think we're just trying to speed it up a little bit,” said Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder enters Tuesday's game at Utah rolling, having won its past four games by an average margin of 25.3 points. None of those four wins were by less than 21 points. As a result of its recent dominance, the Thunder hasn't had to call on Westbrook, Kevin Durant or Kendrick Perkins for a single second in any of the previous four fourth quarters.
“Hopefully we can get a nice little streak going here,” Durant said, half-jokingly, of sitting out the entire fourth. “It feels good to cheer on my teammates in the fourth quarters and play so well that we don't have to play the fourth quarters. I'm sure it's not going to be like that for a long time. But we got to continue to keep playing well, and when the fourth quarter comes around I try to do my thing.”
In many ways, this past week has epitomized how effective the Thunder has been most of the season. Durant has sat out all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter 10 times this season. Westbrook hasn't had to check in for the final frame 11 times this year.
Oklahoma City owns a league-best 9.6-point scoring differential and has seen 28 of its 39 wins come by at least 10 points.
“You don't go into games thinking that you will win by a big margin,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “You go into games thinking that if you play well and play the right way you'll have a chance to win. And we've done a good job with that all year.”
Over the past four games, the Thunder has averaged 113.8 points, which only boosted its league-leading average to 106.4 points. OKC also averaged 26.5 assists during its last four games, continuing a trend that has seen the Thunder improve from the worst passing team statistically a year ago to the 16th ranked squad this season.
“We've been playing an all-around game as far as everybody contributing on the offensive end,” Durant said. “On the defensive end, we always did it as a unit. On the offensive end, we're doing a better job of just playing together. Everybody's getting touches. Everybody's feeling good about themselves. It's good to do that as the season goes along.”
In the last week, Thabo Sefolosha has scored his season high in back-to-back games, Perkins has pumped in 17 points — the most he's ever had in a Thunder uniform — all 13 active OKC players scored in a game and the Thunder netted a season-high 127 points.
The Thunder also connected on a combined 50.1 percent of its shots in the past four games.
“We know the formula to winning for us is to move the ball on offense, play together, rebound the ball, on the defensive end use our length … and get out and get some easy points,” Durant said.
“Everybody's playing well. We got to continue to keep doing that. We just can't get too satisfied. We just got to always kick it in full drive every single game.”