“The season can get to you, especially this late in the year, if you let it,” Collison said. “The schedule can bring you down a little bit to where you're not coming in with the same edge. And that's what you really have to fight.
“If you really want to be a good team, you have to fight that and get up and get your mind ready to play from the tip every game; and then be able to hopefully keep that edge through 48 minutes. That's really hard to do.”
The Thunder at times has shown its ability to maintain a high level of focus. The team started the season on a five-game winning streak and bounced back from its only two-game losing streak of the year by stringing together seven straight wins. But blemishes and setbacks have dotted the schedule every three games or so dating to a stunning three-point road loss at Washington on Jan. 18.
If the monotony of the schedule or the mediocrity of recent opponents has contributed to the Thunder's inconsistency, then the current stretch should grab the team's full attention.
Starting with Tuesday's game against the Jazz, the Thunder's next 10 opponents are all battling for playoff spots. Only Utah, Minnesota and Portland are currently on the outside looking in.
The other seven games are against the L.A. Lakers, Clippers, Miami (twice), Chicago, Memphis and Indiana.
“We got a tough stretch of games coming up,” Brooks said. “We have a tough one in Utah, and that's always a tough place to play and they're playing good basketball.”
Will the Thunder show that it's now ready to doing the same?