OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — From the NBA Finals to the All-Star Game to the Olympics, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have proven themselves to be one of basketball's most dynamic duos.
To lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the league's best record, they've found even more ways to make an impact — primarily by putting their teammates in better positions to contribute.
Both Durant and Westbrook are averaging career highs in assists this season while cutting down on their turnovers, helping the Thunder become the NBA's highest-scoring team with an impressive line of statistics. Oklahoma City leads the league in 3-point accuracy and free throw percentage and ranks second in overall field-goal shooting.
"We're passing the ball so much better this year," said coach Scott Brooks, who has long harped on the need to improve the team's assist numbers and cut down on turnovers. "Our basketball knowledge has improved a lot the past few years just from all the experiences that we've had. Our passing and our spacing is really good. Our offense has been in a nice rhythm."
Somehow, Oklahoma City finished third in the league in scoring last season despite the dubious combination of passing out the fewest assists (18.5 per game) while committing the most turnovers (16 per game). Loaded with individual talent, the Thunder struggled to turn it all into something even better.
"In the past, I think we were more of an isolation team. We relied on our talent, probably too much at times," forward Nick Collison said. "So, we're trying to get away from that and get more to where we're executing, sharing the ball and getting easier shots."
Although they were unable to sustain it in the NBA Finals against Miami, the catalyst for change may have been the Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Down 2-0 in the series, Oklahoma City rallied for four straight wins with its best team basketball of the year.
Durant came back committed to improving his all-around game, proving it with his first career triple-double earlier this season. Westbrook, whose assist totals dropped off last season, is passing the ball better than ever. He's in the top 10 in scoring, assists and steals and is also among the top 10 guards in rebounding.