Some prognosticators picked the Thunder to win 60 games. Others had OKC meeting the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
But ESPN analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy on Monday said those predictions were unreasonable from the start.
â€œI think some of the expectations were so silly,â€ Van Gundy said during a teleconference discussing his network's Christmas Day lineup. â€œPeople were acting like it's easy to go from 50 to 60 wins. And that's like the hardest jump to make.â€
After a mediocre 5-4 start that was marred by dismal defense, the Thunder is now on pace for 56 wins. And Van Gundy said Oklahoma City is right where it should be.
â€œI don't think they're underachieving this year,â€ Van Gundy said. â€œI think they're achieving at a great rate. I think they're achieving to their talent level. I think people were expecting far too much from this team, and anybody saying they're underachieving was not probably objective from the start about where they should be.â€
KRSTIC CLOSE TO RETURNING
Thunder center Nenad Krstic could return from a five-game absence for tonight's game at Charlotte. Krstic hasn't played since a 111-103 win at Minnesota on Dec. 8 because of a back injury.
But Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Krstic has increased the rigor of his workouts and is close to returning to the lineup. Krstic has began doing more on-court workouts against teammates, and the team will determine whether Krstic can play tonight after evaluating him following the team's shootaround today.
The Thunder is 4-1 over the past five games without Krstic and 5-2 overall when he hasn't been in the lineup this season.
Can the Thunder handle zone defense?
Part of the reason the Thunder made just 12 of 43 shots (27.9 percent) in the first half against Phoenix was due to the Suns' use of a zone defense. Only Dallas, which defeated the Thunder, 111-103, on Nov. 24 inside Oklahoma City Arena, has employed as much zone as the Suns used Sunday night.
â€œWe're really not used to zone,â€ said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. â€œThey played it very well. Teams might watch this film and start playing zone against us, so we got to be ready.â€
After Sunday's 6-for-21 shooting from 3-point range, the Thunder fell to last in the league in the category at 32.2 percent. â€¦Against the Suns, the Thunder made 38 free throws and made 33 field goals. It was the fourth time this season that OKC made more foul shots than field goals. â€¦The Thunder is 8-3 against the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats are 4-5 against the West. â€¦Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace (ankle) has missed the past two games and is not expected to play tonight. â€¦The Thunder lost, 100-92, at Charlotte on March 17 last season.