SAN ANTONIO — With the Thunder's rise to league-wide relevance long past its infant stage, the franchise has moved well beyond midseason statement games.
January wins don't matter much in mid-May.
But for a week, that rule was tossed out the window. The Thunder won't admit it, but these past seven days were as “feel-good” and “told you so” a regular season stretch as it has ever had, capped by Wednesday night's 111-105 win in San Antonio.
It vaulted Oklahoma City into first place in the Western Conference.
“People were counting us out because we played last night,” Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said, noting OKC's victory Tuesday over the Portland Trail Blazers. “These were two big wins.”
Five big wins, actually, if you rewind the clock seven days.
Last Wednesday, OKC was sitting at 5-5 without Russell Westbrook, having lost three of four. A daunting schedule loomed. A rough patch seemed imminent.
Instead, the Thunder turned it into a proving ground, winning five tough games in seven days. Four of those came against Western Conference playoff teams: the Rockets, Warriors, Blazers and Spurs.
And Wednesday's win in San Antonio was the most impressive.
On the closing end of a grueling back-to-back, the Thunder was up against a rested Spurs team. San Antonio was favored by 6.5 points and eyed revenge, having lost both of its previous games against OKC.
But from the tip, the Thunder came ready.
Jackson set the tone, putting up seven points and three assists in the first quarter. And he added some finishing touches, scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter. Overall, he matched career-highs in both points, with 27, and assists, with eight.
But the headliner was, once again, Kevin Durant. Despite a career-high 11 turnovers (which Durant attributed to “dumb decisions”), he made amends with another efficient and easy 36 points on 22 shots.
It was his ninth consecutive 30-point game and, in the past four contests, Durant has accelerated his legendary hot streak: 166 points on 58-of-90 shooting (64 percent).
He had nine points in the last 3:11, planting two dagger 3s to put the Spurs to bed, just like he did a night before against Portland.
“The biggest difference (in the game) is we have Kevin Durant,” Jackson said. “You're always in the game when you have him.”
Beyond Durant and Jackson, minor contributions came from everywhere. Derek Fisher had eight points. Jeremy Lamb had six assists. Serge Ibaka was a rebound away from another double-double.
And all that combined for another big win over the Spurs, OKC's ninth in the past 11 tries against its conference foes (including playoffs) and third this season (clinching a potential tiebreaker).
“I'm proud of our guys,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “We showed a lot of composure tonight.”
And a lot of composure in the seven days, righting the ship without Westbrook and once again putting the league on notice.
What a week it was for OKC.