Thunder: Is an 18-5 record hiding the Thunder's flaws?
Some statistics are worrisome, but OKC is not ready to push the panic button just yet. Time might cure what ails the Thunder.
Kid Clutch isn't concerned.
But, then again, when is he ever?
“I think we've played well,” Kevin Durant declared.
Actually, no, the Oklahoma City Thunder has not. Not consistently at least. The team with the league's best winning percentage has merely done enough to skate by. No one legitimately can claim the Thunder is playing as well as it is capable of.
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The difference this year is the Thunder is so darned talented it still wins on most nights even in spite of some serious flaws. But, as always, the most pertinent question remains is the team getting better in its preparation for what many expect to be a deep playoff run, or is it simply piling up wins and plowing along?
Both are required approaches, each having its advantages throughout a marathon regular season. But at times, it surely has looked like the Thunder has done more of the latter.
Last week's four-game stretch, for example, illustrated the inconsistency. The Thunder was thoroughly outplayed by the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Memphis and San Antonio. Only the final two quarters against the Mavericks, and the last period against the Grizzlies, were quarters that the Thunder won.
That's subpar basketball in 13 of the past 16 quarters. That's subpar basketball in 13 of the past 16 quarters against playoff teams.
The Thunder survived last week and salvaged a 2-2 record. But this piece came that close to being about a four-game losing streak.
“You're going to have losses in this league,” Durant said. “Every loss we had, teams came out and got hot on us, especially from the 3-point line. It's stuff we can try to correct. We can't get down on ourselves because we lost. We got to try to stay positive, but we got to know what we got to do to get better.”
On one hand, you could say we're nitpicking.
The Thunder has won 13 of 16 and, at 18-5, still holds a three-game lead in the Western Conference standings. Oklahoma City also is third in the league in scoring at just under 100 points per game, and its plus-4.83 scoring differential still ranks in the top 10 (seventh overall). And the Thunder ranks second in blocked shots per game with 7.57 a night, in the top five in defensive field-goal percentage (42.2 percent), is 9-1 at home, 9-4 on the road and 9-3 against playoff teams.