On the march to matching last year’s sensational mark through the season’s first 25 games, the Oklahoma City Thunder has accomplished plenty.
But no singular feat thus far has been as impressive as how the team has quietly quashed any and all questions surrounding its squad coming into the year.
From the health concerns of star point guard Russell Westbrook to how exactly the second unit would score, the Thunder has sufficiently supplied answers to every spec of preseason speculation about what would hold this bunch back.
And, for now, the Thunder just keeps on rolling.
Oklahoma City cruised to a 107-95 win over the injury-plagued Chicago Bulls on Thursday night, leading from start to finish before bumping its league-best record to 21-4. The Thunder also tied the franchise record for the best home start, its 13-0 record now matching the 1972-73 Seattle SuperSonics.
“I’m not going to sit up here and point my finger and say ‘I told you so,’” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of his team’s success. “We knew we were a good team.”
The rest of the country, it seemed, had doubts.
Westbrook was expected to miss four to six weeks after a second offseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the Thunder had to rebuild its bench for the second straight season following the departure of former sixth man Kevin Martin.
But for another 48 minutes Thursday, the Thunder displayed dominance that has quickly become commonplace.
It started with Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting to go with a team-high nine rebounds and six assists. But that’s nothing new. No one doubted Durant.
Westbrook, on the other hand, continued to have his way and prove that his surgically repaired knee is healed. He scored 20 points with a game-high 10 assists, marking his fifth double-double this month and eighth of the season.
The bench, meanwhile, was again brilliant, scoring 40 points with Reggie Jackson leading the way. The all-reserve second unit stretched an eight-point lead in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the first quarter into a 13-point margin by the time regulars began re-entering midway through the second period.
Jackson poured in 12 of his 18 points during that stretch, scoring on an array of pullups, floaters and finger rolls. He netted eight straight in a 3 1/2-minute stretch.
“We were confident coming into the year, and we had a lot of faith in our guys,” said Nick Collison. “But it is nice to see us playing well this early with some new guys in there, particularly our second unit.”
Collison said the key to the team’s success in spite of injuries and roster turnover has been having faith in new players to step in and expecting them to produce.
“Those guys have really worked hard and filled in nicely,” Collison said. “And our guys who have been here for a while, we’ve seen growth with them, too. We’re making better decisions … We’re just a little bit more mature, and I think you see that with our mindset coming into games.”