Kevin Durant was asked after Tuesday's game at Brooklyn how he felt about his Thunder team.
“I feel really good about our team,” he said before rattling off a string of reasons why.
“We're 19 games into a long season. But right now I like the group we have. Kevin Martin has come in and played well for us. Russell (Westbrook) is stepping his game up. (Kendrick Perkins) is doing a great job. Everybody is just filling in for what James (Harden) left off. And we have a great group of guys here, and we're just doing a great job of just playing together and playing defense. That's the key formula.”
The winning formula, one very few probably saw coming following Harden's trade to Houston.
But the Thunder is 15-4 and rolling despite its infamous shake-up. Oklahoma City is on a season-high six-game winning streak and is now preparing to open a five-game home stand that could bump the Thunder to 20-4 if all goes according to plan.
“You want them all,” said Eric Maynor. “But we're not looking at the streak. We're just looking to try to play good basketball every night and that's what we're doing right now.”
It's clear that the Thunder currently is playing its best ball of the season. The offense is the best in the league, no matter how you slice it, be it efficiency or points per game. The defense is improving and even after a slow start the Thunder ranks second in opponent field goal percentage, limiting teams to 42.4 percent.
“I think we're meshing great,” said Westbrook. “I think we're doing a great job of just passing the basketball and playing off each other and making each other better.”
After ranking last in the league in assists last season, the Thunder continues to display better ball movement this year. Oklahoma City is tied for seventh in assists per game with a 22.6 average. It's an improvement that has made the Thunder a tougher team to defend, as more players have become threats on the offensive end.
A byproduct of the ball movement is the Thunder's 42.1 percent 3-point shooting, which also leads the league. Oklahoma City connected on 35.8 percent from beyond the arc a year ago.
“We're just moving the basketball really well,” Durant said. “And once you do that, combined with playing solid defense, then you always give yourself a chance to win.”
The five-game home stand starts Friday with the rival Los Angeles Lakers. It will be followed by visits from Indiana, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio. The Thunder defeated four of those five inside Chesapeake Energy Arena last season. The Pacers did not play in Oklahoma City last year as a result of the lockout-shortened season.
“It gives us a chance to focus in, take it one day at a time and try to get some good wins,” Westbrook said.
And, of course, keep the fun going.
“Guys are coming through for us making big plays,” Durant said. “It's like we're just having fun out there. That's what it's all about for us. No matter what … we're never rattled. We just keep playing. That shows signs of a team that's growing up.
“We've just got to keep working every day. It's going to be tough times. But it's just how we get through them.”