A stretch like these next four games would come around every so often on the Oklahoma City Thunder's schedule last season, and players knew the odds of winning wouldn't be very good.
"When you're 20 games under like we've been in the past, you look at the Lakers and it doesn't look like you've got a shot. That's just reality," said Oklahoma City's Nick Collison.
But the attitude has shifted. The Thunder will enter this four-game homestand against San Antonio, Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland with confidence.
"It's a much different feel," Collison said. "We feel like if we play well we've got a shot. So that's a good feeling, to come to the arena knowing you've got a shot to win if you do your job."
Tonight's game against the Spurs marks the beginning of a treacherous final 14 for the Thunder. They could be the difference between winning home-court advantage in the first round, falling to the eighth spot or, worst, out of the playoffs altogether.
The Thunder is just 2-9 against the Spurs, Rockets, Lakers and Blazers.
"They're four of the best teams in the West, four teams that play a physical brand of basketball," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "We have to bring our hard hat every game. We can't have a soft performance and expect to make it a game. All four teams bring toughness and energy to the game."
Brooks, however, said he doesn't view these first four as a pivotal pack that will signify how far the Thunder has come.
"That's going to be a tough stretch, but I don't think it will make or break us as a team," Brooks said. "Our guys are resilient. And if we do have a bad game we usually bounce back."
The difference now is the Thunder would have just 11 games remaining to get back on track if it stumbles over the next four. And of the final 11 games, six will be played on the road and six are against playoff teams.
"Teams are all looking at the standings, and most teams are playing with a sense of urgency," Collison said. "So I anticipate from here on out every game is going to be a hard-fought game. Every team is going to bring everything they have."