Oklahoma City's James Harden (13) celebrates a three-point basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 18, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman.
Sunday's victory upped the Thunder's record to 10-1 in games after a loss this season. Only Chicago is better at 10-0.
Those are awfully impressive numbers for a team that's been struggling lately.
“They're the best team in the West for a reason,” Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales said.
Before Sunday's game even tipped off, an air of confidence still surrounded OKC. Despite being 4-4 in the last eight starts, there would be no change in game plans.
“You always have to do the things you do every day,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks explained. “You can't change up things. When we win, we come back and figure out ways to get better. When we lose, we figure what we did wrong and get better. Our beliefs are the same.
“Every team goes through a (tough) stretch. You don't walk through this league. The league is really good. I would love to win eight out of every 10 games … but you can't change things that are important to you.”
Asked how his team would avoid a lack of confidence after its 29-7 (.806) start to the season, point guard Russell Westbrook shrugged and said: “I don't think there's a loss of confidence, we're just losing some games. It happens during a stretch every year. You just have to find a way to get out of it.”
Westbrook then went out and had a game-high 28 points despite going 2 for 6 at the free-throw line, along with five assists and zero turnovers.
Kevin Durant had 26 points and shot 4 for 5 from the 3-point range. He also had seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Thabo Sefolosha, in his third game back from a sore right foot, had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in just 15 minutes. He shot 3 for 3 from 3-point range.
The Thunder never trailed and led 31-15 after the first quarter. The remainder of the game was played to an 80-80 draw.
Brooks correctly predicted the new-look Blazers essentially would do the same things under Canales and would simply be using different pieces.
Brooks also correctly projected Portland would try to pick up the pace and force tempo rather than drain the clock.
The Thunder travels to Utah for an 8 p.m. Tuesday game and then returns home for a 7 p.m. Wednesday game against the Los Angeles Clippers and former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin.