It was a good run.
But the Thunder’s streak improving its winning percentage in five consecutive seasons will not extend to a sixth year. Oklahoma City’s 102-97 loss at Indiana on Sunday made sure of it.
The best the Thunder can do now is match last season’s 60-22 record. To do so, OKC must win its final two games.
Had the Thunder finished with 61 wins, it would have tied the NBA record for consecutive years of a franchise improving its winning percentage. The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the record.
Oklahoma City joins nine other franchises that improved their winning percentages in five straight seasons.
“Give our guys a lot of credit. They come back every year,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The expectations are high, but ours are higher. We don’t rest on what we’ve done. We focus on what we’re going to do. That’s been our mentality. That’s why we’ve improved over the years every year.
“We don’t listen to a lot of the things that are said about us. If you do, one day you’re good, one day you’re bad. And then you get confused and you’re on a roller-coaster ride. If you stay solid on what you do and what you believe in, and you’ve got good players and they’re going to continue to work hard together and for each other, you’re going to have success. And that’s been our model for six seasons now and that’s not going to change.”
In its inaugural season, the Thunder went 23-59, which was a three-game improvement over the franchise’s final year in Seattle. Oklahoma City then went 50-32, 55-27, 47-19 in the lockout-shortened, 66-game 2011-12 season and 60-22 last year.
BRUISED AND BATTERED
Nick Collison and Reggie Jackson both had to leave Sunday’s game due to injuries.
Collison returned. Jackson didn’t.
And it was Indiana center Ian Mahinmi who was to blame for both.
Collison was taken to the locker room with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter after getting elbowed in the nose by Mahinmi as he attacked the rim. The hit resulted in blood gushing down Collison’s face for the second time in seven games. He also had to leave the April 3 home game against San Antonio after an elbow to his head required staples. This time, Collison needed eight stitches in his nose to sew up the wound. But he returned to the game late in the third quarter.
Jackson, on the other hand, was knocked out of the game when he ran into what he called “an unexpected screen” by Mahinmi with 9:20 left to play. Jackson fell to the court holding his head and was removed from the game when the Thunder called timeout 10 seconds later.
Jackson had what a team official called precautionary X-rays on his neck, and he passed all the medical tests administered.
“It’s not too much pain,” Jackson said. “A little stiffness. But I’ll be all right.”
Jackson isn’t as certain about his availability for Monday’s game at New Orleans, however.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how I wake up (Monday),” he said. “I’m kind of happy (Sunday) was an early game. I’m going to try to steal as much time as I can and hopefully wake up feeling great. So we’ll just see how things are going (Monday).”
If Jackson can’t go against the Pelicans, it could mean Derek Fisher must start at point guard. Russell Westbrook will not play Monday while continuing to rest his surgically repaired right knee in one game of back-to-backs.
Kevin Durant on what he learned after facing the Spurs, Clippers and Pacers in the past 10 days — “We can beat anybody.”
The Thunder had just nine turnovers, which marked the third time in the past four games that OKC finished with less than 10 turnovers. Over the past four games, the Thunder is averaging just 8.5 turnovers...Pacers guard Lance Stephenson recorded his NBA-leading fifth triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Stephenson’s five triple-doubles also marked a Pacers franchise record...Former Pacers Rick Smits, Metta World Peace and Derrick McKey were in attendance Sunday...The Thunder went 0-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half and 7-for-19 from that distance in the second half...Indiana moved a half a game ahead of Miami in the race for first in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers will clinch home-court advantage through the East Finals if Miami loses one of its final two games, or if they win their season finale at Orlando on Wednesday...With a win Monday at New Orleans, the Thunder can clinch the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs.