Thunder coach Scott Brooks took the podium following his team’s wire-to-wire 127-108 win over Washington on Friday night at the Ford Center and promptly began talking about pride, about his rapidly maturing team’s sense of purpose when it comes to protecting its home court.
His stance was about as short-sighted as it gets.
The Thunder took a gigantic leap against Washington, passing a test it routinely failed last season and showing polish in a precious point of emphasis that holds value at home or away, against playoff-tested teams or lottery-bound bunches. Oklahoma City, for the first time, showed in-game resilience, clinching a victory after staving off an opponent that battled back from a double-digit deficit.
The Thunder routinely found ways to lose games like this a year ago. But Friday’s showing was the latest signal of where this squad is. Oklahoma City has proven it can win on the road, compete against the league’s best and bounce back after disappointing outings.
But against an offensively-potent Wizards team, the Thunder showed grit after building an early 12-point lead. Washington either tied the score or cut its deficit to two on four occasions.
But the Thunder coolly responded with a surge that swelled the lead back to eight points the first time, nine the second time and 11 points on the last two occasions.
The defining moment came on a sequence that followed the final Wizards spurt, one that cut a 17-point lead to 13. Thabo Sefolosha rejected a Gilbert Arenas layup, leading to a run out that ended with a one-handed dunk by Kevin Durant on an alley-oop from Russell Westbrook.