Though the sting of a three-game losing streak is still fresh, the 2010-11 Oklahoma City Thunder set lofty franchise standards with 55 regular-season victories, winning the Northwest Division title and advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
There also were impressive personal achievements. Kevin Durant became an All-Star starter, repeated as a first-team All-NBA choice and successfully defended his scoring title (27.7). Russell Westbrook was voted by Western coaches as an All-Star reserve and voted by media as second-team All-NBA. Serge Ibaka led the league in total blocked shots (198) and competed in the All-Star dunk contest. James Harden led all reserves in the league in scoring (15.8) after the All-Star Break. Reserve Daequan Cook ranked No. 11 in the league in 3-point percentage (.422), while Eric Maynor was among the league leaders in 3-point shooting percentage (.388) by a reserve.
Nick Collison earned $13.25 million this season thanks to a $6.5 million signing bonus while agreeing to a four-year extension. Kendrick Perkins joined the roster and quickly signed a four-year extension for roughly $34.8 million. Extensions for Westbrook, Ibaka and Harden are next on the checklist after a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
Until the team takes the court again — whenever that might be — here is a look at key Thunder moments this season:
THUNDER 106, CHICAGO 95
Oct. 27, 2010 at Oklahoma City Arena: No one knew it at the time, but this season-opener matched the teams who would end the season in their respective conference finals. The Thunder was led by pending All-Stars Kevin Durant (30 points, seven rebounds, three steals) and Russell Westbrook (28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists). Chicago point guard Derrick Rose kicked off his MVP season with 10 points and three assists in the first quarter alone while dashing through the OKC defense.
THUNDER 105, DETROIT 104
Oct. 29, 2010 at The Palace at Auburn Hills: On a broken play, Jeff Green converted a layup with 2.5 seconds left to win the game for the Thunder. “Broken plays like that make it even more special,” Durant said. “Of course, that wasn't the play (drawn up), but Jeff saw something and got to the rim. That made it an even better win for us.” It would not be the shape of things to come for OKC, which would fail to convert on numerous final possessions throughout the season.
L.A. CLIPPERS 107, THUNDER 92
Nov. 3, 2010 at Staples Center: The Thunder got drilled by the winless Clippers. Rookie of the Year and former Oklahoma great Blake Griffin was “held” to 18 points and nine rebounds and would go on to have 63 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on the season. The Clippers won one of their first 14 games, and this was it. OKC won in overtime at Portland the following night, something that would become the shape of things to come. Only six times during the regular season would the Thunder fail to win after a loss.
THUNDER 115, UTAH 108
Nov. 15, 2010 at EnergySolutions Arena: Two weeks after a humiliating 21-point loss to the Jazz in OKC, the Thunder responded with a victory in Salt Lake City against first-place Utah after falling behind 13-4 and 24-12. OKC coach Scott Brooks used the bench early to stabilize his team. Royal Ivey and D.J. White perform well and Eric Maynor has eight points and three assists in 16 minutes. It started a five-game winning streak for the Thunder.
THUNDER 89, BOSTON 84; THUNDER 82, MILWAUKEE 81
Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, 2010 at TD Garden and Bradley Center: Thunder general manager Sam Presti considered this perhaps the most significant road achievement of the regular season. The Thunder won back-to-back with Durant and Green both sidelined with ankle injuries. Defense was the key. OKC handed the Celtics their first home loss as Westbrook scored 31. Serge Ibaka and James Harden were replacement starters and both scored in double-digits. The next night against the Bucks, Harden went 6 for 8 on 3-pointers and also had nine rebounds and four assists.
THUNDER 123, NEW JERSEY 120 (3OT)
Dec. 1, 2010 at Prudential Center: In a game the Thunder won/lost about seven times, the victory became official after three overtimes and three hours, 21 minutes. Westbrook dominated the third overtime, scoring all 13 of OKC's points. He finished with 38 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Green, who had 37 points and was 4 for 5 on 3-pointers, was fouled on a 3-point attempt and converted all three free throws with 4.6 seconds left to force a third overtime. The Thunder's buzz was killed two nights later with an embarrassing loss at Toronto.
PHOENIX 113, THUNDER 110
Dec. 19, 2010 at Oklahoma City Arena: Against the short-handed, sub-.500 Suns, who completed a six-player trade the previous day with Orlando to get Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, the Thunder was done in by a pair of timeless wonders in point guard Steve Nash (20 points, 7 for 9 from the field, 10 assists) and forward Grant Hill (30 points, 11 rebounds, 37 minutes). Six OKC players scored in double-digits, but the stunning defeat at home snapped a five-game winning streak for the 19-8 Thunder. OKC dropped to 2-5 on Sundays.
DALLAS 103, THUNDER 93
Dec. 27, 2010 at Oklahoma City Arena: In a preview of the Western Conference Finals, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 13 points in 11½ minutes before injuring his right knee and ankle while landing awkwardly in the second quarter. Despite his absence, Dallas went on to win by outscoring the Thunder 24-12 in the final period when OKC shot just 4 for 18 from the field. (Talk about foreshadowing.) Nowitzki would miss a career-long nine straight games and the 24-5 Mavs would lose nine of their next 11, including six straight.
SAN ANTONIO 101, THUNDER 74
Jan. 1, 2011 at AT&T Center: The Thunder welcomed a new year with its most pitiful performance of the season. Durant scored just 16 points, yet it was still enough to lead OKC, which shot 32.9 percent from the field. The dazzling Spurs improved to 29-4 with the victory, by far the best record in the NBA.
THUNDER 99, DALLAS 95
Jan. 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center: After back-to-back losses at San Antonio and Memphis, the Thunder took advantage of the Mavericks still being without Nowitzki and also Caron Butler, who went down with a knee injury on Jan. 1. OKC avoided a regular-season sweep, improved to 11-2 after a loss and started a four-game winning streak. The teams would not meet again until the Western Conference Finals.
THUNDER 101, NEW YORK 98
Jan. 22, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: After back-to-back losses at the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver, the Thunder won a thriller at home thanks to Durant's fade-away 28-footer in front of the Knicks bench at the buzzer. After making the shot, Durant simple turned and calmly walked toward midcourt before being swarmed by jubilant teammates. OKC shot just 38.6 percent from the field for the game and trailed 60-53 at halftime, but held the Knicks to just 38 second-half points. With a Utah loss the night before, the Thunder moved into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division and would remain there the rest of the season.
THUNDER 126, SACRAMENTO 96
Feb. 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: The Thunder dismantled the woeful Kings by 30 to push its record to 35-19 at the All-Star Break. Durant was an All-Star starter. Westbrook was a reserve. Ibaka was in the slam-dunk contest. Harden was tabbed as a replacement for the sophomores in the Rookie Challenge. The OKC contingent got ridiculous exposure in Los Angeles.
THUNDER 111, L.A. CLIPPERS 88
Feb. 22, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: In the first game after All-Star Weekend, Griffin made his pro debut in Oklahoma City. He had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and got booed heartily all game. Green led OKC with 22 points. Though no one realized it at the time, it would be the last home game for Green, center Nenad Krstic, White and Morris Peterson, who would all be traded away roughly 40 hours later.
SPURS 109, THUNDER 105
Feb. 23, 2011 at AT&T Center: In his last field-goal attempt with the Thunder, Green air-balled a 25-footer that would have tied the score at 108 with 6.5 seconds left. Rather than fly that night to Orlando, the Thunder stayed in San Antonio until 2:30 p.m. the next day. When they departed, Green, Krstic, White and Peterson would not be on the team plane. In return, OKC acquired center Kendrick Perkins and reserve guard Nate Robinson from Boston, plus Nazr Mohammed from Charlotte.
L.A. LAKERS 90, THUNDER 87
Feb. 27, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: Stalled by a 13-point third quarter and a 31-point second-half, the Thunder closed out a 6-5 February with a loss at home to the Lakers. It would be OKC's only three-game losing streak of the regular season, but March brought six straight home games and Perkins.
14 WINS, 2 LOSSES
March 2011: The most successful month in franchise history included five straight road victories, with one in Miami. Perkins made his debut on March 14 in Washington. The month would have been even better had Toronto not completed an inexplicable season sweep with a 95-93 victory in Oklahoma City Arena on March 20. The only other loss came March 7 at Memphis, which beat OKC 3-1 during the regular season.
THUNDER 101, DENVER 94
April 5, 2011 at Pepsi Center: Riding a two-game road losing streak after yet another loss to the Clippers, the Thunder ended a seven-game losing streak at Denver with a victory that stretched OKC's lead in the Northwest Division to 3½ games. Perkins and Nuggets center Nene literally went face to face and got slapped with a double-technical. Afterward, Denver officials heard celebratory comments from inside the Thunder locker room, which would come to light in the first round of the playoffs. Three days later in Oklahoma City, the Thunder beat the Nuggets again.
THUNDER 120, L.A. LAKERS 106
April 10, 2011 at Staples Center: With the No. 4 playoff seed secured, the Thunder carried some momentum into the playoffs with a road victory against the Lakers, who dropped their fifth straight game for their longest losing streak in five seasons. OKC outscored the Lakers 32-16 in the fourth quarter. Durant finished with 31 points in 35 minutes and shot 11 for 15 from the field. Westbrook had 26 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and went 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
THUNDER 107, DENVER 103 (GAME 1)
April 17, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: In OKC's first playoff series opener at home, the Thunder fell behind 23-10 after seven minutes. Durant erupted for 41 points and added nine rebounds. Westbrook had 31 points and seven assists. Maynor was the only other player to score double-digits, but it was good enough for the Thunder, who also won Game 2 at home for a 2-0 lead.
THUNDER 97, DENVER 94 (GAME 3)
April 23, 2011 at Pepsi Center: The Thunder posted its fifth straight victory over the Nuggets in an 18-day span by hanging on for a victory in front of stunned and angry Denver crowd. Durant (26), Westbrook (23) and Ibaka (22) combined for 71 points, 29 rebounds and 14 assists. The Nuggets would end their losing streak against the Thunder with a 104-101 victory two days later, during which the public address announcer implored Denver fans to purchase tickets for Game 6.
THUNDER 100, DENVER 97 (GAME 5)
April 27, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: The Thunder posts its first close-out victory in the playoffs and once again is led by Durant with 41 points. OKC gets a break when it advances to play No. 8-seeded Memphis, which beat No. 1 San Antonio in the opening round. Or was it a break?
THUNDER 111, MEMPHIS 102 (GAME 2)
May 3, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: After getting thoroughly beaten in Game 1, the Thunder returned the favor to even the second-round series at 1. Durant (26), Westbrook (24), Harden (21) and Maynor (15) led OKC in scoring while reserve Nick Collison put the clamps on Zach Randolph, who shot 2 for 13 and had 15 points after having 34 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1.
MEMPHIS 101, THUNDER 93 (OT) (GAME 3)
May 7, 2011 at FedExForum: Leading 82-71 with 7:43 left in the game, the Thunder closed out regulation by getting outscored 15-4 and then lost convincingly in overtime. What appeared to be a 2-1 series lead suddenly became a 2-1 deficit with another game in Memphis and flood waters of the Mississippi River rising.
THUNDER 133, MEMPHIS 123 (3OT) (GAME 4)
May 9, 2011 at FedExForum: The Thunder evened the series, overcoming an 18-point deficit in the second quarter. OKC once again wilted late, blowing a 10-point lead in the final five minutes and then blowing a six-point lead in the final 73 seconds of the first overtime. Westbrook finished with 40 points, but got heavily criticized for taking 33 shots. Durant had 35 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
THUNDER 105, MEMPHIS 90 (GAME 7)
May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: In its first Game 7 ever, the Thunder got 39 points and nine rebounds from Durant to eliminate the pesky Grizzlies and advance to the Western Conference Finals against Dallas, which was coming off nine days rest. Harden added 17 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists off the bench, while Collison had 12 rebounds, eight points and three blocked shots.
THUNDER 106, DALLAS 100 (GAME 2)
May 19, 2011 at American Airlines Center: The Thunder captured homecourt against the Mavericks with an impressive road victory. Durant had 24 points, while Harden finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, which was just one point shy of leading OKC in all those categories. Westbrook sat the entire fourth quarter when Brooks opted instead for Maynor, who had 13 points.
DALLAS 112, THUNDER 105 (OT) (GAME 4)
May 23, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena: Leading 99-84 with less than five minutes left, the Thunder appeared to be headed back to Dallas with the series tied a 2 and a guaranteed Game 6 in Oklahoma City Arena. In one of the most colossal collapses in NBA playoff history, the Thunder was outscored 17-2 in the final 4:49 and was too shell-shocked to hang tough in overtime.
DALLAS 100, THUNDER 96 (GAME 5)
May 25, 2011 at American Airlines Center: This time, Dallas ended regulation by outscoring the Thunder 17-6 in the final 5:28 to clinch the series and end the season for OKC. The Thunder was done in by seven turnovers in the final quarter. OKC lost its third straight game, something it did only once the entire regular season.