The Spurs rode into the OKC Corral on Wednesday night as hot as any team in the NBA. Once beaten in their first 14 games. Unbeaten in their last 11 games.
But the Thunder served notice.
Just because it has gotten off to an up-and-down start to the season doesn't mean this is a team to be taken lightly.
Thunder 94, Spurs 88.
It runs the Thunder's winning streak to five, including an undefeated run through the first four games of an extended but difficult six-game homestand.
“I like how we're playing,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We're playing tough. We're playing physical.”
They had to against the Spurs.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Co. have a team that can slice and dice you to death. They pick and roll. They drive and dish.
They make a living on easy shots.
Coming into Wednesday night's game, the Spurs had shot better than 50 percent from the floor in seven games. That's half of their games. Only once had they shot under 40 percent.
Their shooting percentage against the Thunder: 39.1.
The Thunder made the Spurs take a bunch of tough shots Wednesday night. Sure, there were some that were more open than anyone in Thunder blue would've liked, but more often than not, there was a hand in the face or a defender close at hand.
“I thought our defensive effort was outstanding,” Brooks said.
Really, defense has been the biggest bugaboo holding the Thunder back in the early part of the season.
Of course, Russell Westbrook's return from two offseason knee surgeries has been a work in progress. He hasn't been 100 percent. He has struggled to find his shot, his rhythm, his flow.
But the biggest inconsistency has been the Thunder's defense. Sometimes, it's been great. Sometimes, it's been anything but.
It wasn't all that long ago that defense was a half-the-time prospect. Against the Nuggets in the first game of this homestand, the Thunder allowed 39 points in the first quarter, but then in the fourth quarter, it played defense like a bunch of Dobermans.
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