At some point this week, the Thunder is likely to take home its fourth consecutive Northwest Division championship.
In its final divisional game this season, Oklahoma City moved a step closer after Sunday’s wire-to-wire 116-96 victory over Utah inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The win cut the Thunder’s magic number to two before Portland’s showdown with Memphis on Sunday night.
Any combination of two Thunder wins or Portland losses will ensure that Oklahoma City hangs a banner for the fourth time in as many years.
The coronation is only a matter of time, and when the newest banner is unveiled it’ll speak mostly to the consistency of the Thunder and the franchise entering into the level of sustained success that has always been its well-documented desire.
“We don’t take it for granted,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We know it’s hard to win in this league night in night out, let alone year in year out. We take pride in how we prepare and how we play. There’s no question that if you get an opportunity to put up a banner for being division champs, if we can get four in a row, it would be a great accomplishment. Our guys take pride in it.”
Fans should, too.
When the latest division crown becomes official, the Thunder will move into a tie with Detroit for fourth on the list of the most division championships over the last 10 seasons. Oklahoma City also will be tied with Miami and San Antonio for the longest current streak of division titles.
“The organization and the coaching staff have done a great job of putting us a team together to have an opportunity to win games,” said Russell Westbrook. “So it’s a good opportunity for us. Hopefully we can take care of it.”
To fully appreciate the accomplishment, take a look around the league.
Dallas, for all its success in the Dirk Nowitzki era, has as many division titles as the Thunder. Same with Sacramento, a power in the 2000s, and Cleveland, which had a string of success in the late 70s and 80s and again throughout the 90s.
The Thunder, in just six seasons of existence, already owns more division titles than Charlotte, Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, New Orleans, Toronto and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Grizzlies and Bobcats have never won their respective divisions. The Atlanta Hawks franchise has been around since the beginning of NBA time and still has just four division championships.
Sunday’s opponent even served as a shining example of how difficult pacing a division can be.
The Jazz have been a model of consistency since the early 80s. Utah has won eight division championships. But with the last one coming in 2008, not a single Jazz player on the current roster was around the last time Utah earned a division championship.
It’s a reminder to Oklahoma City fans to enjoy this run while it lasts.
“You can’t never look past (a division championship),” Westbrook said. “If it’s something to win, we want to win it...Obviously we want to win a championship, but you’ve got to go step by step to win it.”
But it’s that winning mentality that has put the Thunder on the right track.
And whenever this next banner is unveiled, it’ll be another step toward the ultimate goal.
“We have other goals that we want to accomplish,” Brooks said. “But this is definitely a goal that we want to accomplish every year is win your division.”