“When our assists numbers are high we're tough to beat,” Collison said.
Improved ball movement has allowed everybody to become a factor and, as a result, made the Thunder tougher to defend. It's afforded role players more opportunities but created situations where they aren't being asked to play outside of themselves. As we remember from the Western Conference Finals, that's when the Thunder is at its very best.
More subtle intricacies have been important, too. Better spacing, screen-setting and cutting has all helped the Thunder transform into the league's best offensive machine.
“Those are the things that don't have stats on them,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Those have been better, but they've been better because we've been working on it for years.”
The question is whether this current success is sustainable?
The answer is probably not.
The 2006-07 Phoenix Suns — the most lethal version of those Steve Nash-led run-and-gun teams — were the only team to come close to matching the Thunder's current production. Those Suns averaged 110.2 points on 49.4 percent shooting but fell short on 3-point percentage (39.9 percent) and free throw percentage (80.8 percent). Still, they won 61 games.
The Thunder seems destined to regress to the means. Ibaka's production perhaps epitomizes how OKC might be playing over its head at the moment. Ibaka is shooting a career-best 59 percent despite nearly half of his field goal attempts coming on jump shots.
Generally, that's a clear sign of fool's gold.
At the same time, we've seen enough to know the Thunder also has figured out some pretty important aspects.
“With the team being together this long, I think you knew at some point we were going to click and be more mature and make better decisions,” Collison said. “It was just kind of a matter of when. But I think we're starting to see that some.
“But it's a long season. You can get into a funk real easily with one or two bad games. I think for us the key thing is to realize it's given us some success, passing, spacing, those things, and try to repeat it and know that that's how we're going to win games. That's how we're going to be a good team.”
Maybe even an historic team.
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